Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford puts a major emphasis on one-on-one work with the players throughout the NBA offseason.
By that measure, Clifford says guard-forward Jeremy Lamb has applied himself this summer as much as any Hornet.
“I’m really excited about what he’s done and where he’s at,” Clifford told the Observer of Lamb, who will enter his third NBA season with the Hornets when training camp opens at Spectrum Center Sept. 26.
The Hornets acquired Lamb, a 6-foot-5 college star at Connecticut, from the Oklahoma City Thunder in June of 2015. Hornets general manager Rich Cho, who had pursued a trade for Lamb for more than a year, signed Lamb to a contract extension weeks into Lamb’s first season in Charlotte.
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Lamb’s results were mixed. Getting his first consistent NBA minutes during the 2015-16 season, he struggled with endurance and slipped in and out of the playing rotation. He averaged a career-best 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds last season, but shot only 28 percent from 3-point range.
Clifford said the focus Lamb has demonstrated this summer in workouts has registered on his teammates and the coaches, and could lead to a more prominent role in the 2017-18 season.
This would be excellent timing for Lamb, because the Hornets have a crowd competing at his two NBA positions, shooting guard and small forward. Starters Nic Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist return, and the Hornets have major financial obligations to both those veteran players. The Hornets used their two draft picks in June on wing players – Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk in the first round and Florida State guard-forward Dwayne Bacon in the second round.
Also, small forward Treveon Graham, who enters training camp with an unguaranteed contract, was probably the Hornets’ best player at Orlando summer league.
Lamb has two seasons left on his current contract, at $7 million salary each season.
Lamb struggled to establish himself with the Thunder in his first three NBA seasons. The trade to Charlotte represented both a fresh start, and a chance to play again with Hornets point guard Kemba Walker. The two were key players on Connecticut’s 2011 national championship team.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell