(Reuters) - The Charlotte Hornets' playoff prospects were dealt a heavy blow on Thursday when pivotal center Al Jefferson had surgery on his right knee, ruling him out until around mid-February.
The 30-year-old had a tear in his lateral meniscus and "his recovery and rehabilitation is expected to take approximately six weeks", the team said in a statement.
Jefferson was only two games into a return from a prolonged absence when he suffered the setback. He had previously missed 11 games due to injury and a suspension for violating the NBA's anti-drug program.
A selection for the All-NBA Third Team in 2013-14, Jefferson is averaging 12.5 points and 6.1 rebounds for Charlotte (17-14) who are ninth in the Eastern Conference and just outside the playoff spots.
The Hornets have gone 12-7 with Jefferson in their lineup while they are 5-7 in his absence.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Tony Jimenez