For once this Charlotte Hornets season, the injury news out of practice Saturday was all positive.
Backup center Cody Zeller, who has missed the last four games with a bruised right knee, plans to play Sunday at home against the Orlando Magic. The Hornets list Zeller as probable, after he fully participated in practice.
Also, the Hornets list small forward Treveon Graham (right quad contusion) as questionable for the Magic game. Graham suited up for Friday’s loss to the Houston Rockets, but coach Steve Clifford said pregame he’d use Graham only in an emergency. Clifford said Saturday he anticipates Graham playing against the 4-1 Magic.
While Zeller is a backup to Dwight Howard this season, he’s a key part of the rotation, particularly since the second unit was such a weakness for the Hornets last season. The Hornets were 3-17 last season in games Zeller missed.
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“I had a pretty good workout (Friday) and I feel good today, so yeah,” Zeller said of playing Sunday. “I did sprinting and jumping and it all felt good.”
Zeller’s return could be important in Sunday’s matchup, because the Magic is also deep at center. Starter Nic Vucevic is backed up up by former Charlotte Bobcat Bismack Biyombo.
Zeller is encouraged by the Hornets’ initial defensive results. They are sixth in defensive efficiency, allowing 97.6 points per 100 opponent possessions.
“There are still too many mistakes, but we have shown flashes of things to come; that we can be one of the better defensive teams in the league,” Zeller said.
Graham was kicked in his right quad in the road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, then again in the home victory over the Denver Nuggets. The Hornets play on back-to-back nights, with a road game against the Memphis Grizzlies Monday.
Nic Batum (left elbow), Michael Carter-Williams (sore knees) and Julyan Stone (left hamstring strain) are all still out.