While Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson is still optimistic he’ll play in Wednesday’s season opener in Houston, the team is listing him as questionable with a sprained right ankle.
Jefferson was hurt early in the preseason when he stepped on the foot of Miami Heat center Chris Bosh and landed awkwardly. He participated in most, but not all, of Monday’s practice after sitting out nearly three weeks.
“He did some contact, some 5-on-5, but not everything,” coach Steve Clifford said.
Jefferson said “in my head” he’s ready to play Wednesday against perennial All-Star Dwight Howard, whom the Rockets signed during the summer. The two have played against each other since their mutual rising-senior summer in high school. Both turned pro out of high school in 2004.
“The ankle felt good,” Jefferson said after practice. “My lungs were hurting more than anything, my wind.”
He said he understood why Clifford and the team’s medical staff might be cautious in projecting whether he will be ready for the opener. Part of the issue will be how Jefferson’s ankle feels overnight, now that he has tested it in practice.
Assuming there’s no setback, Jefferson said, he’ll participate in an eight-minute full-court scrimmage Tuesday to test his mobility and conditioning before the team flies to Houston.
The Bobcats signed Jefferson to a three-year, $41million contract. He’s among the best low-post scorers in the NBA, averaging 16.4 points and 9.0 rebounds over nine pro seasons.
His absence this preseason has been challenging, since the Bobcats’ offense runs very differently with and without him.
In other news, Clifford said power forward-center Jeff Adrien and small forward James Southerland made the opening-night roster. Both are playing under nonguaranteed contracts.
Adrien, who played for the Bobcats last season, wasn’t much of a surprise, particularly with center Brendan Haywood out 12 weeks with a stress fracture. Southerland, an undrafted rookie out of Syracuse, was less expected.
“He has size, he can really shoot and he’s a good worker,” Clifford said of Southerland.