The Charlotte Hornets are without three key rotation players as their playoff hopes hang in the balance.
The team announced that big man Cody Zeller and forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are unavailable to play on Saturday against the Boston Celtics. Nicolas Batum also joined the two on the sidelines after being initially listed as questionable for the game due to an unspecified illness.
— Charlotte Hornets PR (@HornetsPR) March 22, 2019
The Hornets just updated Nicolas Batum to OUT for today vs the Boston Celtics. He had been doubtful with an illness.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) March 23, 2019
The oft-injured Cody Zeller last played in his team's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on March 9th. He's been out ever since while dealing with soreness in his left knee, which likely stems from the season-ending surgery he had in December 2017 to repair a torn medial meniscus. The veteran also missed 16 games in January and February while recovering from a fractured hand.
Long a bellwether of Charlotte's success on both ends of the floor despite his limited box score production, Zeller is averaging 10.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game on 55.1 percent shooting this season.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is also a big loss against the Celtics due to his ability to defend multiple positions. He suffered a concussion in Tuesday's hard-fought loss to the Philadelphia 76ers after bumping heads with Amir Johnson, and evidently needs additional time to recover. Coming off the bench for the first time in his career this season, Kidd-Gilchrist is averaging 7.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in 18.8 minutes per game, all career-lows.
Nicolas Batum, meanwhile, has played a reduced role this season despite starting at shooting guard next to Kemba Walker for the fourth consecutive season. Though his efficiency has improved, the veteran Frenchman is averaging just 9.9 points and 3.4 assists per game this season — his lowest numbers in years.
The Hornets, 32-39, are currently tenth-place in the Eastern Conference, two and-a-half games back of the eighth-placed Miami Heat.