Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson told the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell he could be back as soon as Jan. 21.
BREAKING: Al Jefferson said he could be back as soon as Wednesday.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) January 16, 2015
The Hornets are playing the Miami Heat in Charlotte Jan. 21 — this Wednesday — a game in which size inside could be the deciding factor.
If Jefferson does return on Wednesday, he will have missed 10 games with a groin strain he suffered against the Utah Jazz back on Dec. 20. Initially, Jefferson played through the injury. However, he aggravated the strain in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks Dec. 29, and the team's doctors recommended he sit and recover.
The Hornets have gone 5-3 without Jefferson in the lineup this season, but they're still a far better team with him on the floor. Head coach Steve Clifford's entire system is built around Jefferson, much in the same way that the 2004-11 Orlando Magic system was built around Dwight Howard. There has been some criticism that the Hornets lack the players to make such a system effective, but in recent weeks their shooting numbers have improved markedly.
Jefferson's return also spells the end of Bismack Biyombo's reign of terror. Biyombo had come into his own, averaging 6.3 points on 57.7 percent shooting, 8.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in just 25.3 minutes per game with Jefferson out of the lineup. His last two games saw him average 13 points on 69.2 percent shooting, 13.5 rebounds, and three blocks in 25 minutes per game.
Still, it will be nice to see what the Hornets are capable of now that their shooting woes are mostly a thing of the past. They were performing well below expectations in 2014, but 2015 has been a different story. If they can keep things moving forward, the addition of Jefferson could bring the team back into the playoff race.
Jefferson is averaging 18 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and one block in 32.2 minutes per game.