Hornets will be hurting for players, particularly starters, against Kings on Sunday

Rick Bonnell
·3 min read

The Charlotte Hornets could be without leading scorer Gordon Hayward and starting center Cody Zeller versus the Sacramento Kings Sunday night.

Hayward (right hand contusion) and Zeller (left hip contusion) both were downgraded to doubtful to play following shootaround Sunday.

The Hornets are already missing Devonte Graham (sore left knee cap). But Caleb Martin was cleared to play Sunday, after missing the past six games under COVID-19 related protocols.

Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward (20) walks off the court after injuring his right wrist in the second half during an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward (20) walks off the court after injuring his right wrist in the second half during an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

If Hayward and Zeller don’t play, the Hornets are down to nine available players Sunday. The minimum under NBA rules for a team to play is eight.

This will be the 13th consecutive game when the Hornets will be without at least one player in the top seven of their rotation.

“It’s kind of been normal for us now,” Hornets guard Terry Rozier said after shootaround. “Obviously, you’ve got to have that next-man-up mentality. We’ve got a lot of guys who can play different roles. Now, it’s paying attention to details and being ready.”

That’s particularly true now for Charlotte’s top three reserves: Miles Bridges, Malik Monk and Jalen McDaniels, who each figures to play multiple positions versus the Kings. Rozier pointed out the benefit of 6-foot-10 McDaniels’ versatility — that he’s prepared to play either forward position or center.

Gordon Hayward’s hard fall vs. Jazz

Hayward took a hard fall in Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz, aggravating an injury to his shooting hand. He played the next two games, but was way off his 21.5-point average in Golden State, finishing the game with 12 points.

Zeller injured his hip against the Suns and was ruled out of the Warriors game. In his absence, the Hornets gave up a season-high 72 points in the lane. Golden State had nine dunks in the first quarter, the most dunks a Hornets team had allowed in a quarter in 20 years.

With Zeller out, Hornets coach James Borrego chose to move power forward P.J. Washington over to center, rather than start Bismack Biyombo. The only true center available Friday, Biyombo played just 12 minutes against the Warriors.

With Washington shifting to center, Borrego chose to start Cody Martin at forward against the Warriors.

Graham will miss his fifth consecutive game Sunday. Borrego has said it’s possible Graham will miss all six games of this road trip prior to All-Star break.

Malik Monk’s fine bench scoring

Monk rejoined the Hornets’ rotation 15 games ago and has been on quite a hot streak ever since.

He has scored 20 or more points in four of his past five games. In 15 consecutive game appearances, he’s averaging 15 points on 47% shooting from both the field and 3-point range.

Monk played in only four of the Hornets’ first 17 games, partially due to missing training camp with COVID-19. He started playing regularly Jan. 27 against the Pacers and has averaged 25 minutes per game since.