Hornets are prepared to add a veteran player to their rotation on Friday

By Richard Walker

After going through live practices on Wednesday and Thursday, Charlotte Hornets veteran center Cody Zeller is listed as probable for Friday’s 7 p.m. home game against the Chicago Bulls.

Zeller had surgery on the fourth metacarpal of his left hand in New York City on Dec. 24 – or one day after suffering the injury in the Hornets’ 2020-21 season opener in Cleveland.

“Today is exactly four weeks from surgery,” Zeller said Thursday in a zoom news conference. “I just had to be patient. But I feel really good and I feel fresh.”

Zeller has career averages of 8.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 22.9 minutes in 420 games (253 starts) in his career. A 7-foot center, he had career-highs of 11.1 points and 7.1 rebounds in 58 games in the 2019-20 season.

“It’s really frustrating,” Zeller said of the 13 games he missed to give him 138 games missed due to injury in his career. “Most of these (injuries) have just been bad luck. Both the times I’ve broken my hand are plays I’ve done a million times.
“At some point, I hope to last the rest of the season and not get those bad luck injuries.”

Zeller missed 16 games in the 2018-19 season after breaking a bone in his right hand.

Zeller said he wouldn’t have any playing time restrictions but what role he would play would be up to coach James Borrego.

“It’s always tough mentally being away from the team and not being able to contribute on the court,” Zeller said. “I’m sure it (my left hand) will be a little sore but we were waiting for clearance that the bone had healed.”

Zeller said he felt the Hornets were still gaining chemistry with one another but felt good about the progress that has been made in its 6-8 start has the team in 11th place in the 15-team Eastern Conference standings – and only one game out of a tie for sixth place.

“I think early in the season it takes some time to become comfortable in your roles,” Zeller said. “It’s early in the season so every team – not just us – is trying to find their identity.
“When you look at the Eastern Conference, there’s an opportunity to be in the playoff mix.”