Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, center Al Jefferson back at practice Sunday

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comNovember 10, 2013 

The Charlotte Bobcats will get back their head coach for Monday’s home game against the Atlanta Hawks and hopefully their injured center, too.

Coach Steve Clifford was at practice Sunday at Time Warner Cable Arena, two days after two stents were inserted into his heart to guard against blockages. Clifford felt chest pain Thursday night and was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital.

Meanwhile center Al Jefferson, who played in the season opener against the Houston Rockets but missed the next five games, returned to practice for the first time since re-injuring his right ankle.

Clifford said he’s “hopeful” Jefferson can play against the Hawks, but that won’t be determined until they see how his ankle responds Monday to a full practice.

“Now it’s all up to coach {Clifford),” Jefferson said on whether he’ll play. “I think I proved I can go, but it’s not about one game and relapsing. I think I’m in a better position that I was.”

Clifford is in a dramatically better position than he was Thursday night, when the chest pains started. A first-time NBA head coach, Clifford said there is a history of coronary disease in his family.

The chest pains were a blessing.

“I was lucky. It was a warning sign and I’ve since been educated that a lot of people who have strokes or heart attacks don’t get warning signs,” Clifford said. “Also fortunate I had great doctors. They have a good plan for me, and I’m going to follow it and get better quickly.”

Clifford will have shorter workdays, at least for the next week. He can coach games and travel, but doctors want him resting most of the time in-between.

“I was fortunate in that, by other standards, what happened to me was mild,” Clifford said. “What I’ve been told is a few months from now, if it had continued (untreated), it could have been a lot worse. I haven’t had any pain since the initial (episode).”

Jefferson sprained his right ankle in the second preseason game against the Miami Heat. He played in the season opener, then was stiff and sore enough that he couldn’t play the second regular-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over a week later, he said it’s now primarily a bone bruise along his ankle that is the issue.

Jefferson played one-on-one games the three days leading up to Sunday’s practice to test the injury. He said he felt out of game shape, but has done enough workouts on a stationary bike that he should recover full game shape in about a week.

A key free-agent acquisition – he signed a three-year, $41 million contract in July – Jefferson is wary of another setback.

“I don’t want to play one game, then sit out another two weeks,” Jefferson said. “When I come back, I want to come back to stay.”

For Clifford, Jefferson’s availability becomes a wait-and-see thing now.

“We did a lot of contact (Sunday) and he was able to do the majority of it. So I would be hopeful he can play to some extent” versus the Hawks, Clifford said.

“It’s just a matter of the way he feels in the morning and how he is after shootaround.”

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