With their leading scorer sidelined for the past six games, the Charlotte Bobcats maintained the league’s worst offense. It could be about to improve considering what the team discovered while Jason Richardson was out.
Richardson could be ready to return on Wednesday, intruding upon a young and developing backcourt, when the Bobcats visit the Toronto Raptors.
Richardson, who leads Charlotte with 17.6 points per game, practiced Tuesday for the first time since having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Nov. 12.
That should be good news for the NBA’s lowest-scoring team at 87.2 points per game.
“It felt good,” Richardson said. “It’s still a little weak, but it was good to finally get out there 100 percent moving around, shooting and running up and down the court. We didn’t do a lot of contact, but it felt good.”
While coach Larry Brown thinks Richardson will return to the starting lineup on Wednesday, he has been more than happy with his starting guard combination of Raymond Felton and rookie D.J. Augustin. That youthful duo is a big reason the Bobcats (4-9) scored just 0.3 points per game less than they did in seven games with Richardson.
Felton, who is averaging 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists since Richardson’s injury, tied a season high with 23 points to go with his seven boards and five assists on Monday in a 93-84 win over Philadelphia.
Augustin, making his third straight start, hit 8-of-11 from the field, scored a team-best 25 points and had a season-high 11 assists versus the 76ers.
Although Augustin is averaging 21.0 points and 6.3 assists in his last four games while shooting 50.8 percent from the field, Brown said he will likely come off the bench when Richardson returns.
“When I got the job and we drafted D.J., I was hopeful to rotate J-Rich, Raymond and D.J. and have a three-man rotation,” Brown said.
Like Charlotte, Toronto (6-7) hopes one of its top players returns from injury after Jermaine O’Neal re-aggravated a left knee problem on Sunday in a 118-103 loss to Boston.
O’Neal, who started against the Celtics despite straining his knee in Friday’s 129-127 overtime loss to New Jersey, left in the second quarter after hitting 3-of-5 shots and scoring six points.
O’Neal played in only 42 games for Indiana last season due to a bone bruise on his left knee.
“I tried to gauge it and see if I could help the team, but I didn’t really have any stability, it was becoming too painful,” said O’Neal, who is shooting a career-worst 41.6 percent from the field and averaging his fewest points (12.4) since 2000-01.
Chris Bosh, meanwhile, is having his best season in the NBA, averaging a career-high 26.7 points with 10.5 rebounds per game to rank among the league leaders in both categories.
In the first meeting against Charlotte this season, Bosh had 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting and grabbed 15 boards to lift Toronto to an 89-79 win on Nov. 9. Richardson was held to 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
Richardson, though, scored 27 in Charlotte’s most recent visit to Toronto as the Bobcats won 105-100 on April 4 for just their second victory in their last seven games there.