Charlotte Bobcats

Mullens hopes to return during 5-game road trip

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 24, 2013 

Power forward Byron Mullens hopes to be playing again during the Charlotte Bobcats’ upcoming five-game road trip.

Mullens, the Bobcats’ leading rebounder, has been out nearly a month with a severely sprained left ankle. He worked out with the team Thursday, and while he hasn’t been cleared to fully practice, Mullens thinks he’s getting close to a return.

“I’m going on this whole road trip. It’s 12 days. I might come back on the road. I might be able (play) to the way it feels today,’’ Mullens said.

The Bobcats play in Chicago Monday, the first of five consecutive road games.

Mullens did some agility drills – it looked like he was playing hopscotch – to restore what he called the “muscle memory’’ in his injured ankle. He also did some sprints and shooting, then walked through some plays.

“(Based on) today, I felt like I could play on Saturday (at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves), but I know I can’t,’’ Mullens said. “Just running around at 10 percent is not like game speed and I’m definitely not in game shape. Not after being out for a month.’’

Mullens, averaging 11.6 points and 7.8 rebounds, has been missed. Since his injury the Bobcats have gone 3-12. In his absence the scoring burden has fallen even more on the guards.

Wednesday the Bobcats lost their 16th straight home game (to the Atlanta Hawks) and Charlotte’s four power forwards and centers combined to shoot 3 of 17 from the field.

“It’s tough not to be out there, especially when we’re losing games by six or seven points,’’ Mullens said. “In my head I’m thinking, ‘Well, I can at least get seven or eight points.’ ’’

Mullens said he’s essentially been cleared for whatever activity doesn’t cause pain. He said the swelling is gone and pain is minimal, but he needs to work the ankle to break up scar tissue.

Mullens’ sprain, late in a loss Dec. 22 in Denver, was so severe there was initial concern he had fractured his left ankle.

“I jacked it up pretty bad,’’ Mullens said of the injury. “I probably tore everything you could tear without breaking it.

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