It doesn’t sound likely that Spanish center Willy Hernangomez – the Charlotte Hornets’ acquisition at the trade deadline – will see his minutes go up significantly the rest of this season.
Hernangomez didn’t play in Saturday’s home victory over the Phoenix Suns, despite center Cody Zeller sitting out that game with a sore left knee. Hernangomez’s minutes have been sporadic since the trade last month from the New York Knicks.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford said Monday that Hernangomez is still adjusting to his new team, which Clifford said he anticipated.
“(He) will play some, but it’s hard for the other guys (to function well) when he’s not up to speed,” Clifford said. “With younger players, you don’t just throw guys in there just to watch them. It’s not fair for them, and it’s not fair for other guys on the floor. The team has to be organized, and we’re not as organized with him” because of his newness.
Hernangomez asked for a trade out of New York this season because his minutes weren’t steady, playing behind Enes Kanter and some behind Kristaps Porzingis. The situation is similar in Charlotte; Dwight Howard and Zeller make center the Hornets’ deepest position, and power forward Frank Kaminsky plays some center, as he did against the Suns.
The other issue, as far as playing Hernangomez, is Clifford wants to get Zeller back up to speed following mid-season knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Clifford said it’s a priority to get Zeller back to optimum playing rhythm, to set up a productive offseason.
Zeller couldn’t practice Monday, so his status for Tuesday’s game in New Orleans is iffy. Zeller has said the surgeon who operated on him prepared him for the possibility of swelling and soreness in the joint the rest of this season.