Hornets’ Rozier: Don’t be ‘soft,’ but this NBA season is brutal on every player’s body

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Rick Bonnell
·3 min read
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Charlotte Hornet Terry Rozier hated sitting out Tuesday’s home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers with knee tendinitis.

He also knew it was necessary to avoid worsening the injury. There is a line between tough and reckless, health-wise, and striking that balance is tested constantly this season.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to listen to your body,” Rozier said Friday. “I just don’t like soft (approaches). No soft (expletive)!

“You’ve got to listen to your body sometimes, you’ve got to sit out. But if you can play, I feel like you’ve got to play.”

The Hornets are decimated by key injuries in the midst of a playoff race. Devonte Graham, LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward and Malik Monk will all miss Friday’s road game against the Brooklyn Nets.

Devonte Graham with a quad injury

Graham was ruled out with a left quad contusion suffered against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Center-forward P.J. Washington is doubtful against the Nets with a sprained right ankle that has kept him out of the past two games.

Those five players — Graham, Ball, Hayward, Monk and Washington — combine for 74 of the 110.2 points the Hornets average this season. Rozier (20.3 points per game) could be the only one of Charlotte’s top six scorers to play Friday.

The effects on the Hornets’ offense have been dramatic: Over the past eight games (a 3-5 record), Charlotte is 29th among 30 teams in scoring (101.6 ppg.) and field-goal percentage (43%). Only the Oklahoma City Thunder was worse in that span.

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That has blown up the 27-27 Hornets’ place in the Eastern Conference standings: A three-game losing streak has dropped them from fourth to eighth and a spot at least in the play-in games (for teams 7th through 10th) is no longer a given.

Rozier said the crush of games (37 over 67 days after All-Star break) is draining, but so is the daily COVID-19 testing.

“We’ve been through a lot this year,” Rozier said. “With COVID (testing), we get up early every day. That kind of messes up our sleep schedule. And a lot of traveling to fit in all these games.

It’s a lot!”

Hornets coach James Borrego will scramble Friday night just to assemble a viable rotation, particularly if reserve guard Brad Wanamaker, questionable with a right ankle sprain, can’t play. With Graham, Ball and Wanamaker out, Rozier would be the only Hornet with real NBA point guard experience, along with being the go-to scorer.

The Nets will be without superstar James Harden (hamstring strain), but based on Friday’s injury report, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving should be available.

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James Borrego: Don’t run them into the ground

The Hornets could be down to 10 players Friday, including three rookies — Vernon Carey, Nick Richards and Grant Riller — who hardly ever play. Caleb Martin figures to go back into the starting lineup, with Cody Martin and Cody Zeller being the top reserves.

The Hornets will use their 17th different starting lineup Friday. They enter the Nets game with 77 player-games missed. That’s relatively low in the NBA this season, but the importance of who has missed games, and the concentration of key players missing the same games, has been devastating.

Hornets coach James Borrego sounded overwhelmed after the loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday by the key players lost.

“This is unprecedented. These guys are gassed. It’s no excuse, every team is. That’s just the nature of this season,” Borrego said.

“My goal here moving forward is just to keep this group healthy. I’m not going to run our guys into the ground, (creating) more injuries across the board. I’ve got to be smart.”