Cody Zeller

Southeast Notes: Heat Injuries, Hornets, Isaac

The Heat have dealt with a plethora of injuries this season but, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes, the team is slowly but surely making progress. Hassan Whiteside, for example, has started doing on-court work for the first time since being sidelined eight games ago.

While there’s still no timetable for Whiteside’s return, Heat fans can take solace in the fact that head coach Erik Spoelstra seems convinced that Rodney McGruder will return to the court by the end of the season.

I will not answer [in more detail] because he will read it and take it as major progress and then start banging on my door and say I’m ready to play,” the Heat coach said. “He’s out of the boot and doing more work, all non-impact at this point.

Finally, there was hope that Justise Winslow would be able to return within the week for the Heat. The forward received optimistic MRI results after injuring his knee on Wednesday. Spoelstra, however, pumped the brakes on that one saying that he wouldn’t commit to that timetable. Winslow is currently limited to bicycle and pool work.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division tonight:

Cody Zeller To Undergo Surgery, Miss Six Weeks

Hornets center Cody Zeller will undergo surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee on Tuesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets, citing league sources. Zeller is expected to miss six weeks, Wojnarowski adds.

Zeller injured the knee last week against the Warriors. Zeller was relegated a second-unit role this season with the addition of Dwight Howard but had been productive, averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.5 RPG. In his absence, Frank Kaminsky and Johnny O’Bryant will likely share minutes behind Howard. Kaminsky has missed two games with an ankle sprain but is expected to play Monday.

Zeller, 25, has long-term security but it remains to be seen whether the knee injury will have a lingering effect. He’s making $12.6MM this season and his contract runs through the 2020/21 season.

If the Hornets want to add a big man, they could sign a free agent to a pro-rated, non-guaranteed minimum deal and remain below the luxury tax line, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. The Hornets have a roster spot open and are $1.8MM below the tax line, Marks notes.

Cody Zeller Out Indefinitely With Torn Meniscus

The Hornets will be without Cody Zeller indefinitely as the 25-year-old explores treatment options for a torn meniscus, the team announced in a press release. Zeller injured his left knee in Charlotte’s Wednesday night loss to the Warriors.

Zeller has seen his role reduced in 2017/18 thanks to the team’s acquisition of Dwight Howard, but he has been a pivotal part of the Hornets’ second unit. In 19.9 minutes per game so far this season, Zeller is averaged 7.2 points and 5.5 rebounds.

It’s not clear at this point whether Zeller will elect to go under the knife, but that surgery decision could impact his recovery time. Torn meniscus surgeries ended the 2016/17 campaigns of both Joel Embiid and Derrick Rose last spring.

In the meantime, Charlotte will rely more heavily on Howard with Zeller’s fellow reserve Frank Kaminsky hobbled by an injury of his own.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Zeller, Hezonja

The battle for the Wizards‘ final regular season roster spot figures to come down to Donald Sloan and Carrick Felix, and head coach Scott Brooks calls it one of the “toughest” roster decisions he’s had to make in recent years, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. The decision may ultimately come down to what sort of player the Wizards want to keep around, since Sloan, a veteran point guard, and Felix, an athletic swingman, would play different roles.

In theory, the Wizards could keep both players on the roster. The team only has 13 players on fully guaranteed contracts, leaving two openings. However, a 14th player – Sheldon Mac – has been ruled out for most or all of the season with a torn Achilles, and Washington will be on the hook for his salary until he recovers, whether or not he’s on the roster. By waiving him and keeping both Sloan and Felix, the Wizards would essentially be paying 16 players, an undesirable outcome for a club already well over the luxury-tax line.

Here’s more from around the Southeast division:

  • Having signed a new four-year extension with the Heat this offseason, Josh Richardson is now determined to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2016/17 season, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes.
  • The offseason arrival of Dwight Howard supplanted Cody Zeller from the starting lineup, but the Hornets‘ backup center remains valuable to the team as he enters the first year of a new contract. Sam Perley of Hornets.com has the story on Zeller.
  • Mario Hezonja, 2015’s fifth overall pick, took a step backward during his second NBA season last year. However, he has been solid in the preseason as he looks to cement a role in the Magic‘s rotation, says John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com.
  • Backup Hawks point guard Malcolm Delaney spoke to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype about making the leap to the NBA last year, his decision to join the Hawks, and his expectations for Atlanta in 2017/18. “With our system and the way we move the ball, we could surprise a lot of people,” Delaney said. “My goal is always going to be to win. I don’t believe in rebuilding. I certainly don’t believe in tanking. I’m going out to win every game because this is my contract year and I’ve gotten to this point because of winning.”

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Wizards, Jordan

The Hornets struggled to keep leads when their starters – particularly Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller – were on the bench last season. The question ahead of 2017/18 then, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer asks, is whether or not that will change this season.

Gone are all of Walker’s and Zeller’s backups, a veritable laundry list of players from Ramon Sessions, Brian Roberts and Briante Weber to Spencer Hawes, Roy Hibbert and Miles Plumlee. In their place are Michael Carter-Williams and Dwight Howard, both of whom were attained by the Hornets at relative bargains over the summer.

Of course the addition of Carter-Williams will provide size and defense to the Hornets’ second unit but the real draw is Howard, not because of what he’ll add off the bench but because of what his addition to the starting lineup entails.

As we’ve already written, head coach Steve Clifford has already committed to starting Howard when the season begins, that means Zeller himself will be able to work directly with the Hornets’ second unit to help do for them what he did for the starting five in 2016/17.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards will have a number of players to replace Markieff Morris with when the season tips off. The forward is currently expected to miss six to eight weeks with a sports hernia. “We have versatility and we have depth. We can go in many different directions. We can go small. We can throw Kelly Oubre]in there. We can throw Jason Smith in there. Mike Scott we can put in there. There’s a lot of players that we can throw into the mix,” head coach Scott Brooks told Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic.
  • Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan will soon have a stake in another professional sports franchise. Jordan is part of Derek Jeter‘s group that has been approved to buy the Miami Marlins, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.
  • Only time will tell how Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer and new general manager Travis Schlenk mesh over the next few years but the dynamic between the two could be worth watching as the organization’s priorities shift from winning ball games to developing for the future. Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Budenholzer will embrace the rebuild, whether that’s his preference or not.

Hornets Notes: Monk, Lamb, Batum, Howard

The Hornets’ choices for backup point guards were influenced by the drafting of Malik Monk in the first round, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. In a mailbag column, Bonnell states that because Monk is an undersized shooting guard with defensive limitations, the team needed larger point guards to pair with him who are better at stopping opponents. That’s why they signed Michael Carter-Williams and Julyan Stone, both 6’6″, when other options were available.

Another factor was cost, as Charlotte was concerned about staying under the luxury tax threshold of about $119MM and was financially limited after trading for Dwight Howard‘s $23.5MM salary. Carter-Williams agreed to a one-year, $2.7MM deal in July, while Stone accepted a minimum-salary contract in August after negotiating a release from his team in Italy.

Bonnell offers more insight into the Hornets:

  • Monk should be fully recovered from a sprained left ankle that caused him to miss the Orlando Summer League. The 11th overall pick suffered the injury during a draft workout and was sidelined for several weeks, which coach Steve Clifford said affected his conditioning. Monk probably won’t see a lot of playing time early in the season, Bonnell writes, but he should be fully healthy for the team’s October 18 opener.
  • Jeremy Lamb has impressed the coaching staff with his work this offseason, but he’s not a threat to take Nicolas Batum‘s starting job. Lamb has been a valuable reserve during his two seasons in Charlotte, and Bonnell says the team needs Batum’s playmaking skills and overall versatility in the starting lineup.
  • The roles of the big men haven’t been firmly established heading into camp. Howard is expected to start at center with Marvin Williams at power forward, but Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky could both make a push for more playing time. Howard’s reputation as a poor free throw shooter could limit his fourth quarter minutes, just as it did in Atlanta, with Zeller getting more use late in games.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Monk, Collins

A number of developments in Bradley Beal‘s game could help the Wizards two-guard earn his first career All-Star berth, Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic writes. Last year, for instance, the guard managed to stay healthy after missing considerable time the previous two seasons and looked to gain confidence attacking the basket as a result.

In 2017/18, with last year to reflect back on, Beal could ride that confidence to a new level. Another component that contributed to Beal’s success last season was his improved ball handling. If that continues, the swingman will be able to slash more competently and maybe even drive up his free-throw attempts as Wizards teammate John Wall has done.

Beal watched his average jump from 17.4 points per game to 23.1 last year and there’s no reason to believe that he can’t continue to thrive heading forward. Still just 24 years old, Beal represents a major part of the core that Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is so eager to keep together.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The ankle injury that kept Hornets rookie Malik Monk out of summer league is still “significant” and could even limit his availability at the start of the season, Dane Carbaugh of NBC Sports writes. In the article, Carbaugh cites two Steve Clifford quotes that Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reported via Twitter. Monk, who was initially said to be out 2-4 weeks, is still regaining his conditioning and recently struggled with a relatively lightweight optional workout.
  • After ten consecutive playoff appearances, the Hawks have handed the reins of the team over to their young players, Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes. With little established competition on the team’s depth chart, rookie John Collins could find a way to produce in Year 1.
  • The Hornets have every intention of keeping Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the starting lineup, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The only tweak to Steve Clifford‘s starting five will be the addition of Dwight Howard in place of Cody Zeller.

 

Hornets Notes: Howard, Monk, Zeller

The Hornets added a pair of players who will factor into their core rotation this season and with change comes curiosity. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer recently answered a handful of fan questions in a mailbag article, suggesting that he doesn’t anticipate seeing Malik Monk in the starting lineup barring a significant injury ahead of him.

Monk is an undersized shooting guard who will help shoulder some of the offensive load but his diminutive stature begets defensive shortcomings that may be compounded by the fact that any Monk promotion into the starting lineup would force somebody like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the bench.

Bonnell also weighs in on another reader’s suggestion that Dwight Howard could be used off the bench. Despite Cody Zeller‘s strong performance at the five, Bonnell says that it’s unlikely Howard would come off the bench. Howard is familiar with being a starter (he’s only come off the bench once in his career) and will earn $23MM this season.

There’s more out of Charlotte:

  • In the same Q&A article, the Bonnell writes that the Hornets can only expect so much improvement in their three-point shooting. While the addition of Monk will help and veterans like Marvin Williams and Nicolas Batum should bounce back slightly, there’s only so much fans can expect when the club’s core features Howard and Kidd-Gilchrist.
  • There’s no inclination that he would sell the franchise any time soon, but Michael Jordan‘s investment in the Charlotte Hornets has been a lucrative one thus far, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The agreed-upon value of the franchise when Jordan bought out founding owner Robert Johnson was said to be $287MM. These days, given the Clippers‘ $2 billion sale in 2014 and the Rockets‘ sale for $2.2 billion this year, the Hornets ought to be worth at least $1 billion.
  • While it’s been rather easy to overlook Zeller given the fact that players drafted after him – like Giannis Antetokounmpo, C.J. McCollum and Rudy Gobert – have blossomed into stars, the sharp-shooting big man has been one of the game’s most efficient centers, Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype writes. Zeller also provides intangible contributions that make life easier for his teammates.

Hornets Notes: Howard, Zeller, Monk, Stone

To find a coach who still believes in him, Dwight Howard couldn’t have picked a better place than Charlotte, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The June trade that sent Howard from Atlanta to Charlotte reunited him with head coach Steve Clifford, who served as an assistant with the Magic while Howard was putting together his best seasons. “Cliff’s going to push me, but he’s not going to ever be one of those guys who I would say would break my spirit,” Howard said. “He really believes in me. Throughout all the mess that has happened the last couple of years, this is a great opportunity for me to prove to myself that I know exactly who I am — to just shut people’s mouths.”

The “mess” Howard refers to comes from feeling unwanted in Houston when he opted out last summer, then having a similar experience in Atlanta after signing a three-year, $70.5MM deal. He averaged 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds per game with the Hawks, but his playing time dwindled in the postseason and he was barely used in the fourth quarter. Clifford expects Howard to be inspired to prove that he still has something left to offer. “From the trade until now, I think he’s very motivated to have a great year, and he badly wants us to win,” the coach said. “The last couple years have been difficult for him. I see him as motivated to work. The success of our team is the thing that keeps coming up in our conversations. He wants to be a part of our team. And that’s his priority.”

There’s more today out of Charlotte:

  • The addition of Howard may give Cody Zeller some minutes at power forward, but Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer doesn’t believe that’s his best position. In response to a question in his mailbag column, Bonnell says Clifford is considering the move, but Zeller isn’t the type of stretch four that most of the league is now using. However, Bonnell believes Zeller can excel as a backup center.
  • First-round pick Malik Monk is unlikely to work his way into the starting lineup as a rookie, Bonnell writes in response to another question. The shooting guard out of Kentucky should give the Hornets a scoring boost, but his porous defense and small size at 6’3″ make it likely that he will remain a reserve all season.
  • The release agreement that Julyan Stone negotiated with his Italian team may only cover one season, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Stone had agreed to an extension with Umana Reyer Venezia earlier this year, but requested to be freed from it so he could return to the United States to be closer to his ailing father. The Hornets had hoped to sign Stone to a two-year contract, but that will depend on the terms of his agreement in Italy.

Southeast Notes: Reed, Zeller, Magic

Heat big man Willie Reed has seen his role increase with Hassan Whiteside out nursing an eye injury and the sophomore’s yeoman-like play could very well earn him a spot in the team’s long term plans. This summer, with the salary cap slated to rise dramatically, Reed could opt out of his player option for $1.6M and look to cash in.

Such a decision, coupled with Josh McRoberts‘ player option for $6M and Dion Waiters‘ for $3M, could factor heavily into how the Heat approach the offseason. As Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes, clearing cap space is a top priority for the club given the Chris Bosh situation, and the time is fast approaching that Pat Riley and company “accept the reality that the long view might be the only remaining perspective for this season.”

In 11.9 minutes per game for the Heat, Reed has averaged 3.9 points and 4.0 rebounds, figures that translate to 12.2 and 12.5 per 36, respectively.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Injury woes continue for the Hornets who most recently saw Cody Zeller go down Monday versus the Bulls. As Rick Bonnell writes for the Charlotte Observer, the team has placed the center in the NBA’s concussion protocol, with no timetable for a possible return.
  • Head coach Erik Spoelstra signed a contract extension to remain with the Heat last week and Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders has written about just how important continuity can be in NBA clubhouses. Spoelstra is already the second-longest tenured coach in the league behind only Gregg Popovich.
  • The Magic were reminded of what they could have had with the No. 5 pick in the 2015 draft on Sunday. Pacers big man Myles Turner dropped 23 points and 12 rebound on his former coach Frank Vogel, while Mario Hezonja – the player Orlando did select – failed to crack double-digits in minutes for the 13th time in 14 games since November 9.
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