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Charlotte Bobcats’ Kemba Walker says he’s ’close’ to return

SPORTS BKN-RAPTORS-BOBCATS 5 CH
Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
Injured Charlotte Bobcats Jeffery Taylor (44) and Kemba Walker (15) sit on the team's bench during a game against the Toronto Raptors at Time Warner Cable Arena.

LOS ANGELES Charlotte Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker practiced Thursday for the first time since spraining his left ankle Jan. 18 against the Miami Heat.

He was able to go through all activity in a 1 1/2-hour session at Southern Cal’s Galen Center. So if there’s no setback, it looks like Walker might play either Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers or Saturday against the Phoenix Suns.

“I’m definitely close,” Walker told the Observer, while icing down his ankle. “I’ve been working extensively on my ankle to get back. I’m just ready to play, tired of sitting on sidelines.

“I don’t want to rush anything but I’ll definitely get back out there.”

The Bobcats have done surprisingly well in his absence, going 3-2 including victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets. But center Al Jefferson has been carrying a heavy scoring load of late and needs the support Walker can provide.

Walker is second on the Bobcats in scoring at 18.7 points per game and second on assists at five per game.

The Bobcats didn’t do any contact drills in practice Thursday, but Walker did sprint and cut to test the joint.

“It was better than I expected,” Walker said. “There are a few things (still not there yet), like curling.”

Coach Steve Clifford said Walker’s availability for the Lakers game won’t be settled until shootaround Friday morning or before gametime. But he saw nothing at practice Thursday that concerned him about Walker’s recovery.

“He’ll either play (against the Lakers) or he’s close,” Clifford said.

Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell
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