When the Charlotte Hornets take the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for their play-in game against Indiana on Tuesday night, they won't have the services of Gordon Hayward or Cody Martin.
As expected, neither practiced on Monday and are ruled out.
A sprained left ankle has sidelined Martin since he got injured against Miami on May 2, forcing him to miss the past eight games. Hayward sprained his right foot on April 2 in Indianapolis, forcing him to miss the final 24 games of the regular season. There has been very little update on his rehabilitation process, other than him shedding his walking boot beginning strengthening exercises a few weeks ago.
He can be spotted on the bench, lifting up his teammates whenever possible, but that's about the extent of it. Due to his lack of practicing, he probably wouldn't be available until -- at the earliest -- sometime during a potential first-round series if the Hornets can get that far.
Hayward's postseason experience and leadership are two of the reasons the Hornets brought him here, and they are facing a must-win scenario in Hayward's home state, playing in the arena he won a high school championship in. And, coincidentally, the very place he last suited up for a game this season.
"He’s been getting a lot of treatment, a lot of rehab trying to stay in shape," Cody Zeller said Monday. "But he’s been great about encouraging us, trying to stay involved as much as he can. Obviously I’ve dealt with my fair share of injuries, too, so it’s always tough. For him, same thing too. I know how he’s feeling. Sitting down to watch, I know it’s eating at him and he wishes he can be out there."
With the struggles the Hornets have had of late finishing out games in clutch situations, Hayward's presence has probably been longed for on more than one occasion. Besides his natural playmaking and facilitating, the calming influence and veteran leadership he provided is sorely lacking at times.
"Gordon Hayward’s one of those guys that historically and through his experience has been a fourth-quarter type guy that you can play through," coach James Borrego said. "Obviously, Washington has (Bradley) Beal and (Russell) Westbrook that they can play through. Julius Randle is one of those guys in New York and Indiana has a couple of guys in (Malcolm) Brogdon, (Caris) LeVert and Domantas Sabonis they can play through. We're just going to have to do it collectively. It could be Terry (Rozier), it could be Tae (Devonte' Graham). It could be Miles (Bridges). It could be PJ (Washington). Obviously, it’s our fives.
"But we've got to close out. And part of closing out is making shots. I like the shots we’ve gotten. I’ve gone back and reviewed the film. We’ve got good looks in the fourth quarter. It’s just going to turn our direction. It starts tomorrow night. Those shots are going to fall for us."