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Charlotte Bobcats’ Al Jefferson suffers soreness in ankle; still questionable to play opener

Center Al Jefferson experienced some pain and stiffness in his sprained right ankle at practice Tuesday, so the Charlotte Bobcats will continue to list him as questionable for the opener Wednesday in Houston against the Rockets.

“I think I can play,” Jefferson said, his ankle wrapped in ice. “I’m not going to be 100 percent pain-free. But I can tolerate a little pain.”

Jefferson sprained his ankle Oct. 11 in an exhibition against the Miami Heat. He missed the remaining six exhibitions and just started practicing Sunday.

The Bobcats could obviously use Jefferson, one of the NBA’s top low-post scorers, in a matchup with new Rockets center Dwight Howard, a three-time defensive player of the year. Howard signed with Houston over the summer, as Jefferson did with the Bobcats.

Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said it’s too soon to tell if Jefferson would play Wednesday, and if he does, whether he’d start or how many minutes he could handle. Clifford will consult with head athletic trainer Steve Stricker on the best course medically after Jefferson is reevaluated pregame.

“If not tomorrow, then definitely soon because he’s doing better,” Clifford said of Jefferson playing.

The Bobcats play three games in the first four nights of their season. After Houston they’re at home Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, then play Saturday at the New Orleans Pelicans.

Jefferson increased his activity each day from Sunday through Tuesday until the soreness started late in Tuesday’s practice.

Clifford happy with Biyombo’s progress: Bismack Biyombo started six of eight exhibitions after Jefferson was hurt. He grabbed 20 or more rebounds in two of those exhibitions (Milwaukee and New York).

Biyombo played poorly in the Las Vegas Summer League. Clifford said Tuesday that Biyombo has bounced back nicely.

“The last six games he’s been a totally different player from the guy I saw on film last year and different from summer league,” Clifford said.

Clifford said Biyombo’s rebounding numbers are obvious, but the subtler improvement has been in Biyombo’s team defense.

“Now it’s about him doing that over 40 to 60 games a year,” Clifford said.

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell
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