Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson suffered a strained calf on Nov. 29 against the Milwaukee Bucks and did not return. While he has been cleared to return to the court, he is serving a five-game suspension.
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Latest on Jefferson's Playing Status
Wednesday, Dec. 16
Latest on Jefferson's Practice Status
Monday, Dec. 14
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reported Jefferson participated in Monday's session.
Hornets Will Miss Jefferson's Consistency
Jefferson has long been one of the most consistent and productive bigs the NBA has to offer. He has rarely been recognized league-wide for his accomplishments, but his importance to the Hornets is obvious.
Charlotte made moves during the offseason designed to give it more shooting ability and stronger perimeter play overall, which means it is incumbent upon Jefferson to carry the load in the paint.
The 2014-15 season was a down year by Jefferson's standards as he averaged 16.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, both of which were below his career marks.
In an effort to get fitter and healthier for the 2015-16 campaign, the 6'10" Mississippi native dieted and dropped 25 pounds during the summer, per Bonnell.
According to Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer, the weight loss was huge for Jefferson in terms of his stamina and ability to remain on the floor for longer periods of time:
Tom Sorensen @tomsorensen
All the stuff about Big Al Jefferson losing weight? It's true. The man is fit enough to run the court without taking a break. He's lean.2015-9-25 18:25:01
Jefferson also made it clear that he fully intended to continue playing the way he has since entering the league despite the weight loss and the fact that the NBA is trending toward smaller and faster-paced lineups, per Scott Fowler of the News & Observer.
"Look at the NBA Finals," Jefferson said. "There were times there wasn't a guy over about 6'6" in the game. There were small forwards playing center. But if guys like me can do what we do, we will still be around. I'm sure not about to change my game. I'm not going to shoot threes."
While it is difficult to argue with Jefferson's stance, playing in the trenches and banging with big, physical players can take a toll on the body.
He has only twice played in all 82 games over the course of a season, and he has missed at least 10 contests six different times.
Injuries are nothing new for Jefferson, but he usually finds a way to bounce back and continue producing at a clip that has made him such a valuable player over the years.
Charlotte does have some frontcourt depth, including the likes of Spencer Hawes, Tyler Zeller and Frank Kaminsky, but Jefferson brings something different to the table and will be sorely missed.
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