Coaches don’t usually greet foul trouble as a good thing. But for Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, it was an excuse to give rookie Cody Zeller a break Thursday.
Zeller, the fourth overall pick in June, played just 14 minutes in the 110-84 blowout of the Philadephia 76ers. Clifford wasn’t displeased with Zeller’s performance. He just knew the guy needs rest.
Veteran power forward Josh McRoberts missed much of training camp with a chronically sore big toe. That has meant extra reps for Zeller.
“He’s played in practice many, many more minutes than anyone else,” Clifford said of Zeller. “When he got his third foul (against the 76ers), I said, ‘Fine, play him less tonight.’
“In practice he and (fellow power forward Anthony) Tolliver have been on the floor all the time.”
Clifford has started McRoberts the past two exhibitions, experimenting with different front-court combinations while center Al Jefferson is sidelined by an ankle sprain. Zeller is playing some center, as well as power forward, with Jefferson and Brendan Haywood (stress fracture) out.
Cool School theme: Thursday was the annual “Cool School” exhibition, when thousands of middle-school students get to attend a game at Time Warner Cable Arena. This year the theme of presentations during timeouts was an anti-bullying message.
Reserve point guard Ramon Sessions recorded a cute skit that played on the video board when he told the kids to crumple and stomp on a piece of paper. Then he told them to uncrumple it, look at the creases and remind themselves that bullying leaves scars even after the apologies come.
“Nobody should bully anybody. It’s just not right,” point guard Kemba Walker said. “For us to support that (theme) is cool.”
Notes: Reserve shooting guard Ben Gordon led the Bobcats in scoring with 22 points, off nine field-goal attempts. He was one of four Bobcats in double figures… The 76ers were pretty shorthanded, playing without Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. But that doesn’t explain away their apparent lack of effort. They didn’t seem particularly interested in getting back on defense, a factor in Charlotte’s 110 points and 47percent shooting…
• Haywood had successful surgery on his left foot Wednesday, to place two screws to stabilize a stress fracture. Doctors expect him to miss at least 12 weeks in recovery… In three starts this preseason, center Bismack Biyombo has totaled 39 rebounds.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell
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