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Four key Charlotte Hornets will miss playing time in NBA’s health and safety protocol

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) brings the ball up court while guarded by Indiana...
Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) brings the ball up court while guarded by Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)(Jacob Kupferman | AP)
Published: Dec. 4, 2021 at 3:00 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Things just took a crazy turn for the Charlotte Hornets.

In advance of leaving for Sunday night’s game in Atlanta against the Hawks, the Hornets on Saturday announced LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee and Jalen McDaniels have entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

That means none of them will play against the Hawks — and their absences could, at the very least, extend into the middle of next week.

According to the league’s guidelines for its COVID protocols, each can return to play in two ways: with a time-based resolution or a test-based resolution.

Using the test-based route, a player is allowed to discontinue isolating if they return at least two consecutive negative PCR — known as polymerase chain reaction — tests collected within 24 hours after the initial sample.

In the time-based scenario, a player has to be isolated for at least 10 days after the date of the first positive or inconclusive test.

So Ball, Rozier, Plumlee and McDaniels most likely will not be available until perhaps Wednesday at the earliest, when the Hornets host Philadelphia for the second time in three days.

They also take on the 76ers on Monday.

Unless others return positive tests within the next 24 hours, the Hornets (13-11) should have enough available bodies to play the Hawks (12-11).

In a move that was already planned prior to their four key players being put in health and safety protocols, the Hornets recalled James Bouknight, Kai Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. from the Greensboro Swarm. In addition, they also recalled two-way players Arnoldas Kulboka and Scottie Lewis.

However, those moves were not previously in the works.

They got added to the roster as reinforcements. Without three starters and an important role player, the Hornets’ depth will be seriously tested. The absences of Ball, Rozier, Plumlee and McDaniels are a big blow for a variety of reasons.

Ball is coming off his career-best scoring output, pumping in 36 points in Wednesday’s loss in Milwaukee and nailing a game-tying 3-pointer with five seconds remaining. He’s nearly averaging a triple double over his past 10 games, effectively engineering the Hornets’ offense.

Rozier’s shooting form appeared to be reaching to what everyone had grown accustomed to. He posted at least 27 points in four of their last six games, including a pair of 31-point efforts in successive outings.

Plumlee was on track to get back on the court against the Hawks after missing the last four games with a strained right calf.

He returned to practice Friday, proclaiming himself healthy and ready to be in the lineup again.

McDaniels’ length and ability to knock down 3-pointers has been valuable off the bench. He was utilized even more when fellow wing player Cody Martin was sidelined in Chicago and Milwaukee with an illness.

It’s now going to be up to the Hornets to find others to fill the void until they are all cleared, and that could include Bouknight and Jones.

The rookies have appeared only during mop-up duty so far for the Hornets and have spent more time developing with the Swarm recently. In five appearances with Greensboro, Bouknight averaged 25.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, four assists and two steals in 37.1 minutes, while Jones puts up 10.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 25.6 minutes.

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