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Hornets’ Monk back at practice on Saturday morning. How soon before he plays in a preseason game?

By Richard Walker

By his own admittance Saturday morning after shootaround, Charlotte Hornets’ fourth-year Malik Monk has made youthful mistakes in his pro career.

Suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy last season when he was playing arguably the best basketball of his career, Monk has been out of action all of this year’s abbreviated training camp after testing positive for COVID-19.

But after being cleared to return to practice drills on Saturday, Monk is anxious to get back in action – and possibly as soon as Monday’s second preseason game.

“I was young,” Monk said in a Saturday morning zoom news conference. “You make mistakes. I think I’ve grown every year and I’ll be back with the team and I’ve got to take advantage of it.”

Hornets coach James Borrego gave Monk positive reviews following his Saturday workout.

“He was with our group this morning playing 3-on-3 and 4-on-4,” Borrego said. “We’ll have another workout for him tomorrow (Sunday). But he looked good today. I don’t know what the plan is for him on Monday or what the next step will be.”

Monk didn’t play Saturday but Hornets hope he can continue to show the improvement he’s done so far in his career.

A former University of Kentucky standout, Monk was Charlotte’s No. 11 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He averaged 6.7 points, 1.0 rebounds and 1.4 ssists in his rookie season of 2017-18 season and averaged 8.9 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 2018-19 before setting career-highs in all significant categories last season.

Monk was averaging 10.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists before he was suspended indefinitely by the NBA on Feb. 26, 2020. He was reinstated on June 8 after he was the league deemed him in compliance with their rules.

Monk says he spent the offseason working to get into the best shape of his career, even as he had to do most drills by himself because of the pandemic. Then a positive COVID-19 just before training camp started knocked him out of action.

“Sitting out 10 days was terrible,” Monk said. “I couldn’t do anything except watch basketball. But with all that work I put in this summer, it shouldn’t take long to be able to get back out there.”

After Monday’s home against the Toronto Raptors, the Hornets close the preseason with road games at the Orlando Magic on Thursday and Saturday before opening their regular season Dec. 23 at the Cleveland Cavaliers.