Return this season still possible for Hornets forward

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte Hornets forward Jamal Mashburn,
out the past 23 games with a strained abdominal muscle, said Monday
the therapist he's been working with is encouraged by his progress.

But Mashburn said surgery is still not out of the question and
set no timetable for when a final decision might be made.

"Nothing is out of the woods right now," he said at halftime
of Charlotte's game against the Denver Nuggets. "I don't want to
get my hopes up too high."

Mashburn spent a week in Vancouver last month working with a
therapist who deals with similar injuries to hockey players. He has
been doing the rehabilitation routine with his own personal trainer
since, and the therapist is in Charlotte this week to check on him
and monitor his progress.

Hornets coach Paul Silas spoke with the therapist, who has asked
that his identity not be disclosed, and the therapist was hopeful
Mashburn would play again this season.

"The guy that's working with him says he will be back this
year," Silas said. "When? I don't know, but it's still a plus."

Silas said the team was looking into ways to have Mashburn work
more with the therapist, and Mashburn said he hoped the therapist
would be able to spend more time in Charlotte.

"It's kind of strange to have to go all the way to Vancouver to
get the treatment I need," Mashburn said. "So I think everyone is
starting to realize how valuable he is."