The injuries are piling up for the Charlotte Hornets.
Shooting guard Lance Stephenson missed Wednesday’s practice to see a doctor about his groin strain. Power forwards Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh sat out contact drills Wednesday. Zeller has a hand contusion and Vonleh a sprained ankle.
And in what might be the biggest concern, shooting guard Gerald Henderson won’t be available for Thursday’s final exhibition against the Indiana Pacers. Henderson has missed all seven previous exhibitions because of a hamstring strain.
“I didn’t do any contact and I wanted to get some in before playing,” Henderson said. “I wanted to play, but that’s all right. I’ll get some good practice days in” before the season opener Oct. 29 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Henderson said he “absolutely” plans to play in the opener and that his hamstring is fine. He just wasn’t ready for a game Thursday.
“Obviously I wanted to get into a couple of games. I had a setback early last week,” Henderson said. “I’ve been paying attention to everything we’ve been doing – defensively, offensively and conditioning. I’ll get my game in rhythm at some point.”
Clifford plans to have an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday with referees to help the injured players work back into playing rhythm and to start evaluating players’ readiness for the opener.
The idea of treating the exhibition against the Pacers as a dress rehearsal for the opener no longer appears viable.
“We’re beat up. We had a good practice, but we didn’t have a lot of bodies out there,” Clifford said. “It hasn’t been the preseason we wanted. Next Monday and Tuesday we’ll evaluate who is healthy and how ready” they are.
Clifford said Tuesday at a media luncheon that Henderson is important to continuity, having been a big piece last season. Henderson said once he’s ready physically, there won’t be any concern about him being up to speed with the system.
“We don’t have any new plays, no new defensive concepts,” Henderson said. “In terms of what we want to do as a team, I’m comfortable with it and I feel like (Clifford’s) comfortable with my game and how it fits with what we’re doing. So there’s not going to be an issue.”