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Charlotte hoping to have Cody Zeller back before the All-Star break

Cody Zeller might be the most impactful role player of whom casual NBA have never heard. Fortunately for the Charlotte Hornets, the mostly-anonymous big man is nearing a return the court after suffering a broken bone in his right hand on January 3rd.

“We’re hoping before the [All-Star] break,” coach James Borrego said of Zeller’s potential return, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. “It’s very encouraging. I give our [medical] group a lot of credit. We’re not there yet, we’ve got to figure it out, but just that we have the potential to have him back in the next week is encouraging.”

Zeller was originally prescribed a four-to-six week timeline to gain a clean bill of health. Oft injured throughout his career, the dirty-working Zeller has nevertheless been a stalwart performer for the Hornets since entering the league in 2013. He leads Charlotte with a +4.3 on-court net rating this season, a trend indicative of his subtly positive effects on the game that dates back several seasons.

“The team knows how to play with him,” Borrego said of Zeller. “It’s not like Cody’s going on the floor and he’s a new player. They know how he plays. I don’t think it’s going to take a while to get back in a rhythm with Cody because he’s just been around so long.”

The 26 year old is averaging 9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game this season. Zeller has flirted with expanding his shooting range in 2018-19, too, having already taken a career-high 16 three-point attempts – five of which he’s made – despite appearing in just 35 games. Veteran center Bismack Biyombo has been starting next to Marvin Williams up front in his stead.