The Charlotte Hornets’ early-season injury woes continued Friday, with the team announcing backup center Cody Zeller will miss the home opener against the Atlanta Hawks with a bone bruise in his right knee.
Coach Steve Clifford said at morning shootaround there is no timetable established yet regarding Zeller’s return. Clifford anticipates the team will have a better gauge of the injury’s seriousness Saturday.
Zeller, a starter last season now coming off the bench behind Dwight Howard, suffered the injury in the first half of Wednesday’s road loss to the Detroit Pistons. Despite the bruise, Zeller played in the second half of that game.
Clifford said in Zeller’s absence Johnny O’Bryant will play, possibly at both center and power forward. O’Bryant was the only available Hornet not to play Wednesday.
Zeller missed 20 games last season, and the Hornets went 3-17 in those games.
The Hornets are already without two projected starters: shooting guard Nic Batum (torn ligament in his left elbow) and small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (excused personal absence). In addition, backup point guard Michael Carter-Williams (knee soreness) has yet to be cleared to play.
Kidd-Gilchrist has been away from the team for more than a week, following the death of his grandmother. Clifford said he anticipates Kidd-Gilchrist rejoining the team over the weekend.
The Hornets acquired Howard in a June trade with the Hawks. Zeller is expected to be a big upgrade to the Hornets’ second unit, which was a weakness last season when the Hornets went 36-46 and missed the playoffs.
Clifford said rookie Dwayne Bacon, the Hornets’ second-round pick, will again start Friday against the Hawks. The Hawks are rebuilding this season around point guard Dennis Schroder, and are extremely perimeter-oriented. They beat the Mavericks in Dallas Wednesday in their season opener.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell