Nearly a month after suffering a pelvic sprain against the Phoenix Suns, shooting guard Lance Stephenson is ready to return to the Charlotte Hornets.
Stephenson fully participated in practice Monday and Tuesday. Barring some setback Wednesday, he expects to be available when the Hornets play the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs at Time Warner Cable Arena.
"Right now it feels good. It’s a little sore, but I think I’ll be ready for the game tomorrow," Stephenson said after practice Tuesday.
The Hornets enter Wednesday’s game on a five-game winning streak. They were 9-5 in Stephenson’s absence. Stephenson said Tuesday he doesn’t want to do anything to disrupt what’s been going right for his team.
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"I’ll probably come off the bench and I won’t be mad over that. I’ll just try to feel everybody out," Stephenson said. "Right now we’re on a five-game winning streak and I don’t want to do anything to break that... I don’t expect to just come back and do everything."
In Stephenson’s absence, the Hornets started Gerald Henderson and he’s played well, including a 31-point game in a road victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Stephenson isn’t the only rotation player out of late; center Al Jefferson has missed the past six games with a left groin strain and is expected to miss at least another two weeks. The Hornets are 5-1 since Jefferson was sidelined.
"Obviously Kemba (Walker) has been terrific," coach Steve Clifford said of compensating for a short-handed roster. Walker was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week Monday after averaging 30.3 points in four victories last week.
"Beyond that it’s been ball-movement – more five-man basketball, more pick-and-rolls, more dribble-handoffs. And the other two guys who have helped so much on offense are Gerald and Marvin (Williams)."
Stephenson just recently healed enough to start running at full speed and changing directions. Clifford frequently said in Stephenson’s absence that this was the sort of injury that only time could heal.
"I couldn’t sprint or cut; everything hurt," Stephenson said. "I look good just shooting around, but with someone guarding me (where) I have to cut, going off their reactions, that’s tough for me."
Stephenson injured himself taking a transition layup against the Suns.
"It looked like a regular play where you lay the ball up and fall on the floor. I guess I slammed my pelvic together," Stephenson recalled. "When I got up I felt like I couldn’t even walk."
Stephenson signed with the Hornets in July, leaving the Indiana Pacers for a three-season, $27.4-million contract. He’s struggled to adjust to his new team, but is still averaging 10.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
"I feel like at the beginning of the season I didn’t really get a chance to get a feel for everybody. (Through the injury) I got a chance to watch and see what they can do and how I can help them," Stephenson said.
"I just have to get used to the system more. It’s hard to take what you learned for four years straight (as a Pacer) and just switch all that over."
Stephenson said his best chance to contribute initially is to lean on his versatility, rather than force the issue as a scorer.
"I can rebound, I can pass. I don’t really have to score right now with everyone on such a roll," Stephenson said. "I feel like I can come in and facilitate.”