Front-court depth – considered a strength for the Charlotte Hornets this season – took two hits Thursday.
Backup center Cody Zeller was diagnosed with a torn medial meniscus in his left knee. Zeller will be out indefinitely, the team announced. It has not yet been decided whether Zeller will need surgery to repair the meniscus.
Also, backup power forward Frank Kaminsky will miss at least Friday’s home game against the Chicago Bulls, and probably more games, with a sprained right ankle.
Both those injuries were suffered in Wednesday’s home loss to the Golden State Warriors. Kaminsky left the game early in the second quarter, clearly hobbling on his right foot. He left Spectrum Center following the game in a walking boot.
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Zeller (averaging 7.3 points and 5.4 rebounds) was injured in the last minute of the third quarter. He landed awkwardly under the basket, and bent over in pain. Zeller dunked in transition a few seconds later, but did not play in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets didn’t provide a timetable for either injury.
With Zeller and Kaminsky out, the Hornets will be stretched for backups to starters Dwight Howard at center and Marvin Williams at power forward. Johnny O’Bryant, the Hornets’ fifth big man, can play center and power forward and will undoubtedly move into the rotation.
A 6-foot-9 player in his third NBA season, O’Bryant has played in only four of the Hornets’ past 13 games. Associate head coach Stephen Silas (filling in for an ailing Steve Clifford) might also use 6-5 Treveon Graham as a power forward.
One other possibility would be moving 6-10 Mangok Mathiang from the G-League Greensboro Swarm to the Hornets’ active roster. Mathiang and guard Marcus Paige are playing on the NBA’s new two-way contracts.
Silas said post-game Wednesday that O’Bryant and Graham are conscientious about staying ready to play, regardless of minutes.
“Johnny is the next guy to play some,” Silas said. “He’s always ready, and he might get his chance.
“Frank went down, and Tre stepped in there. He was able to guard (Warriors star Kevin) Durant and Klay Thompson some. The thing about Tre is he always stays ready, always stays in his routine. A great worker and super smart.”
One of the Hornets’ major offseason concerns was how unreliable the second unit was last season. Adding Howard, and moving Zeller to the second unit, was considered a significant upgrade. Kaminsky (11.1 points per game) is one of five Hornets averaging double-figures scoring, but his play has been inconsisent .
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell