Hornets get news that player who tested positive for COVID-19 has been cleared to return

By Richard Walker

Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego opened Thursday’s zoom news conference with the best news possible for fourth-year guard Malik Monk, who has missed all of training camp after recently testing positive for COVID-19.

“He’s been medically cleared,” Borrego said of Monk. “So he’ll rejoin the group on Saturday.”

Does that mean Monk could be in action for the Hornets second preseason game on Monday at 7 p.m. against the Toronto Raptors?

“We’ll just have to wait and see where he’s at conditioning-wise,” Borrego said. “I don’t have an answer yet because I haven’t seen him.”

Monk, the former University of Kentucky standout who was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, has given the Hornets glimpses of his extraordinary scoring ability during his first three seasons in the NBA.

He’s also drawn criticism for his subpar defensive play and has struggled to find a spot in the playing rotation for the Hornets, who have started him once in 191 career games.

Monk came out of Kentucky with much acclaim, largely due to a Wildcats’ freshman record 47-point game in a December 2016 victory over the University of North Carolina.

His freshman year ended with a regional finals loss to eventual NCAA champion North Carolina and averages of 19.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists that earned him Southeastern Conference player and freshman of the year honors.

Monk averaged 6.7 points, 1.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists as a Hornets rookie in the 2017-18 season and 8.9 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists in his second year of 2018-19 before playing his best basketball last season for Charlotte.

He was averaging career-highs of 10.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season before he was suspended indefinitely by the NBA on Feb. 26, 2020 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He was reinstated on June 8 after he was deemed him in compliance with league rules.

Borrego has been complimentary of Monk’s improvement and the potential for his having a role in the team’s rotation.

On Thursday, he was taking a wait and see approach.

“I don’t have an answer for you on that,” Borrego said to a question about Monk’s upcoming role on the team. “Could he potentially be there on Monday? Yes. (But) I’ll have more of an answer this weekend.”

After hosting Toronto on Saturday and Monday to open its four-game preseason schedule, Charlotte visits Orlanndo for games on Nov. 17 and 19.

The Hornets’ 2020-21 regular season opener is Dec. 23 at Cleveland.