Ahead of a two-game mini-series scheduled against the Sixers for Monday and Wednesday in Charlotte, four Hornets entered the NBA's health and safety protocols.
The team announced Saturday morning that it placed LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee and Jalen McDaniels into the protocols.
When the Hornets are fully healthy, Ball and Rozier are the team's starting backcourt. Ball had built a strong early-season All-Star case after winning Rookie of the Year in 2020-21, averaging 20 points, 8.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds for the 13-11 Hornets. He's one of the sport's most entertaining players and has even quieted some of the pre-draft concerns about his jumper and inefficient style, knocking down 39.1 percent of his 7.5 three-point tries per game.
Plumlee missed Charlotte's last four games with a calf injury, but The Charlotte Observer's Rod Boone reported he was on track to play Sunday against the Hawks. The Hornets have most played small ball without him, using P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges in the frontcourt. Second-year big man Nick Richards is a more conventional center option.
McDaniels is a rangy wing who's part of Charlotte's normal rotation. Through 22 games, he's posted 5.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest.
To avoid postponement, a team must be able to field at least eight players. If the Hornets are able to do so and the matchups with the Sixers go ahead as planned, Cody Martin and Ish Smith would appear to be among the players in line for heavier minutes than usual. Charlotte recalled young players James Bouknight, Kai Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. on Saturday morning from the Greensboro Swarm, its G-League affiliate.
As the Sixers know from their own COVID-19 troubles last month, these situations are fluid. Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 8, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe all entered the league's protocols. Embiid was the last of the four to return, scoring 42 points last week in a double overtime loss to the Timberwolves. He said the virus "hit me hard."
Embiid posted 28 points and 12 rebounds Friday night in the Sixers' comeback win over Atlanta. Now the team will wait to see how things develop in Charlotte.