Charlotte Hornets

Hornets’ Al Jefferson: Test revealed no structural damage to calf

Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson, who injured his calf Wednesday night against Sacramento, doesn’t expect to miss extended playing time.
Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson, who injured his calf Wednesday night against Sacramento, doesn’t expect to miss extended playing time. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

By his own description Thursday, Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson was in “panic mode” late Wednesday night.

His right calf was full of pain and he faced a magnetic resonance imaging Thursday morning that might determine the rest of his season.

The test came back as well as it could have under the circumstances: The MRI showed no structural damage after Jefferson hobbled out of Wednesday’s home loss to the Sacramento Kings.

While he will obviously miss some time before returning to the lineup, it doesn’t look like an extended period.

“No damage. They couldn’t tell what was going on with it. Just a lot of pain,” Jefferson said in a brief interview before a doctor’s appointment.

“MRI came back great. So the quicker we can get the pain out, the quicker I’ll be back. This isn’t a long-term thing,” he said.

While the Hornets described this as a sore right calf, Jefferson said the pain was at the very top of his calf, almost behind his knee. That particularly worried him.

“When you start messing with knees, you’re on panic mode,” he said. “So it was good to see that MRI come back like that.”

Jefferson suffered the injury trying to intercept a pass. He said the pain was sudden and severe when he landed.

“They tried to throw an outlet pass to (DeMarcus) Cousins,” he said. “I jumped up and tapped it and that’s when I felt it – just instant pain right above my calf, in the back of my knee. I never experienced something like that. I couldn’t run.”

Coach Steve Clifford feared the worst after Jefferson said he felt a pop in his leg when he suffered the injury. It was reminiscent of the playoffs last season when Jefferson suffered a debilitating tear of his plantar fascia.

“When I left here last night I was thinking two weeks or that’s it” for the season, Clifford said. “You never know. I think he felt that way, too …

“That’s a tough area – your calf is such a big muscle that that can be a long time.”

The Hornets will enter Friday’s home game against the Chicago Bulls without either of their starting big men – Jefferson and power forward Cody Zeller.

Zeller will miss a second straight game with a right shoulder sprain.

Clifford said the short-term plan will be to start Bismack Biyombo at center and Marvin Williams at power forward. Jason Maxiell will back up Biyombo at center.

The alternatives behind Williams at power forward are rookie Noah Vonleh or play small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist somewhat out of position, should the Bulls go to their small frontcourt.

Clifford said while the injury situation has been tough all season, he’s focused on the shaky defense his team has played of late.

“The bigger thing is we’ve got to play the way we need to play. If we do, then we can win,” Clifford said.

“It’s stuff you have to commit to: Our transition defense (against the Kings) was misleading – they only had 12 fast-break points, but there were 15 or 18 other points that, while they wouldn’t be under the category of fast-break points, we just never got organized.”

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

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