Hornets’ Mark Williams dismisses injury prone label: ‘I’m not a guy that likes to sit out’

The thought of being slapped with a certain tag rubs Mark Williams the wrong way, quickly drawing the ire of the Charlotte Hornets big man.

Bring up the words “injury prone” and Williams bristles.

“I know hurting your back as a big guy, you always get that label,” Williams said Monday in his first public comments since speaking to The Observer on New Year’s Day. “So, I think that was a really big piece for me, trying not to force anything and have that be an ongoing issue for me. So, in the future, I don’t want that to be a label for me.

“I’m not a guy that likes to sit out.”

Shelved since December with a nagging lower back injury involving a bone issue, Williams logged action in only 19 games this season. He missed the bulk of the final four-plus months seeking to get himself right, leaving a clould of doubt surrounding his health.

Although he couldn’t pinpoint exactly why things went downhill with his back, Williams said he felt something in the Hornets’ win in Brooklyn on Nov. 28, but didn’t think much of it. Then it cropped up again in Chicago on Dec. 6 before really flaring up against Toronto on Dec. 8, forcing Williams to exit in the third quarter.

He knew something was amiss.

“This isn’t just your normal, like, I fell down,” Williams said. “So, yeah, since then I’ve been out and I’ve just been rehabbing since. It’s not a surgery situation or anything like that. It’s just a matter of getting back to being comfortable enough to play, being able to move how I moved, jump how I jumped, and just, again, not having it be something that lingers.”

Currently, Williams is focusing mostly on core work. He’s also hitting the weights and can even participate in some overhead lifting now, which is something he hasn’t been able to do very much due to the injury.

Basketball activities outside of light shooting and moving around aren’t on tap yet.

“I’m totally going to be OK,” Williams said. “It’s just a matter of building strength back up. It’s not a lingering issue. It’s just mobility, strength and, yeah, just overall comfort.”

He added: “I’m definitely starting to feel better and I’m able to do more. It’s not something where it’s really going to linger. I’m aiming to play every game next year, so it’s definitely not something I like doing — sitting out. It’s definitely tough. It was a tough year for us, so I’m excited for the future, though.”

Come October, look out below.

“That first game of Year 3 for me,” Williams said, “I’ll definitely be excited.”

Miles Bridges reiterates Charlotte is ‘home’

Miles Bridges’ heart remains in the 704 area code.

The combo forward, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, reiterated his preference is to stay with the Hornets. The message, which he initially delivered leading into and after the NBA’s trade deadline in February, hasn’t changed.

“Yeah, it’s still the same,” Bridges said. “I would love to be here. That’s my plan to be here. So, like I said, I love the city of Charlotte. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Bridges holds the keys to his final destination, a byproduct of signing a one-year, $7.9 million qualifying offer rather than a long-term deal last summer. Typically, players in the league with his level of skill and experience don’t get an opportunity to choose their own destination following their fifth full season.

That usually comes after the conclusion of their second multi-year contract. But Bridges is a rare case and he has his sights on hanging around with the Hornets instead of going somewhere else. Not even Detroit, the franchise he rooted for during his younger days while living over 40 miles away in Flint, Mich.

“You know the NBA is a business, but the reason why I want to be here is I damn near grew up here,” Bridges said. “I’ve been here since I was 20. I’m 26 now, been through a lot here. The Hornets stayed down with me. They didn’t have to and they did. It’s just like family to me here. My mom loves it here. My family loves it here. So, it’s just home to me.”

It’s noticeable, too. From a variety of angles.

Charlotte Hornets Miles Bridges leans back an listens to a question during an interview with the local media at Spectrum Center on Monday, April 15, 2024. JEFF SINER/
Charlotte Hornets Miles Bridges leans back an listens to a question during an interview with the local media at Spectrum Center on Monday, April 15, 2024. JEFF SINER/

“The thing about Miles is he has a voice here,” Grant Williams said. “He’s been here for a long time and he’s worked his tail off to hopefully get the contract that he gets this summer. So now it’s just a matter of understanding the level of preparedness and maturity that it takes to win.

“And I think that Miles can bring that and I think his level of leadership can continue to grow as it has throughout this past season. With Miles, one of the cool things about him is he connects with guys on a deeper level. And not just from a player-to-player perspective. But I think that he’s done a good job throughout the organization of talking to people.”

Despite missing the entire 2022-23 season and being suspended for the first 10 games of 2023-24 — after pleading no contest to felony domestic violence charges — Bridges turned out to be one of the Hornets’ steadiest players. He was one of 13 in the NBA who averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game, joining the likes of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Los Angeles Lakers Anthony Davis and LeBron James, DallasLuka Doncic, Phildelphia’s Joel Embiid and Denver’s Nikola Jokic, to name a few.

Bridges averaged career bests in points, field goals (8.1 per game), made 3-pointers (2.3), 2-pointers (5.8), defensive rebounds (6.3) and total rebounds (7.3). He definitely proved something.

“That I can play basketball,” he said with a smile. “Not too many people can leave for a year and come back and damn near average the same as they did. Obviously, there’s a lot of things I can improve on. And that’s what this summer is for, so I’m going to use this summer to improve on everything else.”

Seth Curry on injury, future with Hornets

Eight games into his tenure as a member of the Hornets, Seth Curry got bit by the same thing that’s plagued his new teammates over the last two years in particular.

The dreaded injury bug.

“Basically I had a Grade 3 sprain, so honestly it’s better than what it looked like,” Curry said. “It’s around a two-month process as far as getting healthy. There just wasn’t enough time left in the season to get back on the court. So, the next couple of weeks, I get back on the court, back to my regular scheduled workouts and be good to go.”

Curry just completed the first season of a two-year, $8 million deal and his 2024-25 salary remains non-guaranteed until June 25. Wearing the No. 30 his father Dell Curry used to sport has invigorated him and his desire is strong to hang around and assist in transforming the organization into more of a winner.

Charlotte Hornets guard Seth Curry smiles as he responds to a question during an interview with the local media at Spectrum Center on Monday, April 15, 2024. JEFF SINER/
Charlotte Hornets guard Seth Curry smiles as he responds to a question during an interview with the local media at Spectrum Center on Monday, April 15, 2024. JEFF SINER/

“Yeah, I definitely want to be a part of it,” Curry said. “It’s got a great, talented locker room. I think the health has been talked about enough, but the health is the main thing. If we get everybody on the court we can definitely have some success and have the foundation, the talent to compete and make the playoffs here.

“But like I said it means more for me to play here.”

Curry’s reach extends pretty far. His veteran leadership is already being lauded.

“It’s funny,” Curry said. “It happened quick, but I’ve become the oldest guy in the room, most experienced. So, guys were looking at me for wisdom and I was just trying to spread that around the locker room, try to be an example on the floor and off the floor, in the training room, on the bench try to help them as much as possible.

“Use my eyes, my experience to help those guys play better toward the end of the season, and hopefully that carries into the offseason and next year.”