West returns to practiceHornets starting forward David West, who has missed the last 28 games because of inflammation of the synovial membrane in his right elbow, on Thursday went through his first full practice in nearly two months. "It's another big step. We're happy it went well,” Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said. "The big test is how he feels the following day. We're happy with what he was able to do today. Hopefully, tomorrow it will still feel good.” Hornets coach Byron Scott did not specify a return date for West, but it could be as early as next Friday's game at San Antonio. "We'll probably have (West participate in) another couple full practices,” Scott said. "He still has a little weakness in the elbow as far as where he can extend it. We're just going to take it slow. He's anxious to get back, and we're anxious, too. But we still want him to get some more work in.” West said he still cannot fully extend his right arm, but he received clearance to play from Dr. Carlan Yates, who performed the operation on Dec. 20. "Feels good,” West said. "I'm just going to keep taking these baby steps. I'm not quite there yet, but there's no pain. You just don't want to run the risk of getting out there and doing something that will set you back. As long as the arm keeps progressing, we'll keep taking steps forward.” West said he doesn't fear contact. "The biggest thing is to make sure I'm ready, or putting too much stress or strain (on the elbow),” he said. •Paul progressing: Point guard Chris Paul shot free throws with the team Thursday without wearing a cumbersome walking boot. Paul instead wore a splint on his sprained right ankle. "He's not hopping now. He's limping,” Scott said. As they are with all their injured players, the Hornets are stressing patience with Paul's return, which is expected to be sometime in early February. "He'd play tomorrow if it was possible,” Bower said. "But we've got to keep the big picture in mind here.” •Jackson's return delayed: Scott said it will likely be at least another week before sixth man Bobby Jackson attempts another return from his cracked ribs. An MRI earlier this week revealed Jackson had five cracked ribs rather than the previously diagnosed one. "No more MRIs for a while. I'm scared to take one myself,” said Scott, who is struggling with a cold. •Empty house: Many associated with the Hornets said they never have seen a crowd as small as Wednesday night's gathering inside the Philips Center for the Hornets' game against Atlanta. Paid attendance was 10,120. One Hornets official estimated the crowd at tipoff to be about 1,300. •Weather woes: Severe weather once again is victimizing the Hornets. An ice-storm warning has been issued locally for 6 p.m. today to 6 p.m. Sunday. The Hornets host Washington tonight at 7 and hopefully will be able to fly to Milwaukee afterward to face the Bucks on Saturday night. Tonight's attendance at the Ford Center no doubt will be affected by two factors: the forecast and the game being televised on ESPN. "Ideally, the weather would wait, be slow-arriving,” Bower said. "I think people will still come out, exercise good judgment and it'll be a great night.” By John Rohde
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Wizards at Hornets•When: 7 tonight •Where: Ford Center •Television: ESPN (Cox channel 29) •Radio: KHBZ-FM 94.7 Probable starters