CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Bobcats coach Steve Clifford returned to the court Monday night, three days after having two stents placed in his heart.
Clifford was given a warm welcome by the home crowd during pregame introductions against the Atlanta Hawks. He said he felt "fine" before the game and is taking every necessary precaution to ensure he's safe.
"I'm doing exactly what (the doctors) tell me to do," Clifford said. "I'm going to do a little bit less during the work day, come in just when the team is here. I'm going to work out of the house more, sleep in for a couple of weeks and I think I'll be good. I'll be getting checked regularly. I think it'll be fine."
Clifford thinks it's something he'll be able to get through. "I don't think it'll be that hard, I've just got to be smart," Clifford said. "I don't want to get sick again. I have a great staff, so that makes it easier. During practice these last couple of days, they've been doing the majority of it. It's easy to delegate when you have a good staff and the players respect them."
Clifford, 52, said he was taken by ambulance to the hospital Thursday night after experiencing chest pains while dining at a Charlotte restaurant. The following day doctors inserted the stents to prevent blockage to the heart.
"I had significant pain in my chest and I was having trouble breathing," Clifford said. "So it was scary enough where I had them call 911. And I was lucky that I did. ... Once I got the hospital I felt good."
Clifford said he feels lucky that he acted as quickly as he did, knowing the incident could have been worse had he ignored the warning signs. "At least I got a warning signal," Clifford said. "Things worked out well. The doctors have me on a good plan and I'm going to follow it."
He said he will need to change his diet. "I will have to, but it's only been two days and obviously it hasn't shown up yet," he said with a laugh as he rubbed his stomach. Clifford only missed one game, a 101-91 loss Friday night to the New York Knicks. Associate head coach Patrick Ewing filled in for Clifford.
Doctors advised Clifford to take it easy, which could be difficult considering the Bobcats have four games in six days. Clifford is in his first season with the Bobcats. He was hired to replace Mike Dunlap, who was fired after the Bobcats finished 21-61 last season.
Clifford isn't the only one who returned Monday night. Center Al Jefferson, who missed five games with an ankle injury, started against Atlanta. Jefferson, who signed a three-year, $41 million contract with the Bobcats this offseason, first injured his ankle in the team's second preseason game against the Miami Heat. He sat out to remainder of the preseason and returned to play in the regular season opener at Houston but aggravated the ankle.