The Charlotte Hornets got through four days of training camp in Asheville without suffering a single injury.
Then it changed.
The Hornets could be without three core players Friday when they play a road exhibition against the Washington Wizards. Gerald Henderson (hamstring strain) and Kemba Walker (knee contusion) were already hurt. Then, Thursday, shooting guard Lance Stephenson suffered a groin strain that caused him to miss part of practice.
It’s the preseason, so the Hornets haven’t lost anything tangible due to these injuries. But with all the roster turnover from the offseason and a busy first month of the regular season (18 games in 32 days), this team needs every chance to create synergy.
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“When you coach in this league you get used to, ‘You have what you have.’ ” coach Steve Clifford said. “If they’re injured, they’re injured, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
The Hornets started with an apparent glut at shooting guard. For now, they’re down to Gary Neal and rookie P.J. Hairston.
“P.J. has taken good advantage of having a chance to play more than he would have otherwise,” Clifford said. “You get the chance to learn about other guys.”
The Hornets play their last four preseason exhibitions in a span of seven days starting Friday. Clifford thought Henderson would be available Friday or Sunday at Chicago, but he had a setback when he tested the injury Wednesday and was not at Thursday’s practice.
Walker, who banged knees with Orlando’s Elfrid Payton on Monday, participated in noncontact portions of practice. Walker said he’ll be cautious about this injury since it’s the preseason.
Stephenson, who signed with the Hornets over the summer, missed the last half hour of practice. Sitting him Friday would seem a logical precaution so that the injury doesn’t worsen.
The Hornets’ injury that predated training camp was rookie Noah Vonleh’s sports hernia, which required surgery in September. Vonleh has begun doing some 5-on-5 work in practice, but Clifford said it’s unlikely Vonleh would play in any of the remaining exhibitions.
“I don’t think so. He’s missed so much – all of September,” Clifford said of Vonleh. “He’s been great about being in here, paying attention, but he’s just so far behind. So it will be hard for him to play a lot.”