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The Charlotte Hornets will be without their entire starting front court for Tuesday’s road game against the Detroit Pistons.
The Hornets announced at noon Tuesday that starting center P.J. Washington and power forward Miles Bridges will miss tonight’s game. Small forward Cody Martin was previously ruled out with an ankle sprain.
Bridges was listed as out for “health and safety protocols,” which is the term the NBA uses for COVID-19 related issues. A source familiar with Bridges’ situation confirmed this could result in an extended absence for Bridges.
Washington is out for what the Hornets termed “personal reasons.”
The Hornets will also be missing backup point guard Devonte Graham, due to a knee contusion.
The Hornets are in a playoff race, looking to at least qualify for one of the four spots in the play-in tournament. The seventh- through 10th-place teams qualify for that tournament. The Hornets are currently eighth in the East at 31-33.
The Pistons are last in the Eastern Conference at 19-46, and have been playing mostly rookies and other young players of late. The Hornets have won 12 consecutive games over the Pistons.
Like for most NBA teams, COVID-19 issues aren’t new to the Hornets. Malik Monk missed the preseason after being diagnosed in December. Washington and Cody and Caleb Martin all missed regular season games in February under health and safety protocols.
With Washington, Bridges and Cody Martin all out, and small forward Gordon Hayward still recovering from a foot sprain, coach James Borrego will be scrambling for front court combinations tonight.
At center, he has veterans Bismack Biyombo and Cody Martin and rookie Vernon Carey. At 6-foot-10, Jalen McDaniels would be the logical candidate to start at power forward. Caleb Martin would be the most logical option, at 6-foot-7, at small forward.
Bridges and Washington combine for about 25 points and 12 rebounds per game this season. There will be a heavy burden on the guards tonight to carry the scoring load.
The starting backcourt of LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier will be backed up by Malik Monk, who is two games back from missing a month with an ankle sprain. It’s likely Borrego will play some 3-guard lineup tonight with Ball, Rozier and Monk together.
The Hornets have eight games left in the regular season. Holding on to eighth place in the East is important under the play-in format: The seventh- and eighth-place teams will have two chances to win one game to advance to the 16-team playoff draw. The ninth- and 10th-place teams would be eliminated after one play-in loss.