Center Cody Zeller’s season is over, as the Charlotte Hornets scrambled for bodies Sunday in a home game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Zeller had missed the previous 11 games with soreness and swelling in his left knee. He told the Observer last week he’d been advised he’d need several weeks of rest for optimum healing, but didn’t dismiss the possibility of playing in one or more of the final handful of games this season.
Sunday morning, Clifford said it seems pointless to try to have Zeller play with five games left and the team eliminated from playoff contention.
“I would say we’re at the stage now where it almost becomes, ‘Why?’” ask him to play, Clifford said. “It’s so hard to not play for long stretches off the season. Why, with five games left, would we even play him? It makes more sense to me to let him get back to 100 percent and then just start again next (season).”
Zeller, the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Indiana, will play in 33 of a possible 82 games this season. He missed the first four games of the season with a right knee bruise, then 27 with the surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee. He’d been warned by the surgeon who did that procedure he might have additional swelling the rest of the season.
The Hornets had a number of injuries following Sunday’s road loss to the Washington Wizards, particularly at small forward. Treveon Graham is now in the NBA’s concussion protocol, which could potentially end his season. Rookie Dwayne Bacon suffered a right ankle sprain in that same game, and sat out Sunday. Jeremy Lamb missed the Wizards game with a sore left foot, but will play versus the Sixers.
The Sixers are also depleted, as they jockey for playoff seeding. Center Joel Embiid is out following surgery to repair and orbital bone fracture, a collision that also caused a concussion. Also, forward Dario Saric is sitting out Sunday’s game with a right elbow injury.
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