Nine months ago the Charlotte Hornets agreed to pay Lance Stephenson $18 million guaranteed over two seasons.
Friday general manager Rich Cho was asked if he considers that a mistake.
“It didn’t work out as we expected it to,” Cho said. “I don’t want to look backwards, I want to look forward. I expect Lance to work hard this off-season and have a better season next year.”
Stephenson struggled all season, going from a starter to a reserve to a player briefly outside the rotation. Stephenson said Thursday his 17 percent from 3-point range was “terrible,” adding that his self-confidence took a hit.
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Cho met with each Hornets player Thursday.
“Like I told Lance yesterday, I didn’t think he played well,” Cho said. “He’s got to improve. In the 2013-14 season he shot 35 percent from 3s. This year it was 17 percent. He’s got to improve that.
“He knows he had a bad year. I think he’s committed to getting better this summer.”
Cho called the 33-48 record a disappointment, agreeing with coach Steve Clifford that the team stepped back from what it accomplished in reaching the playoffs the season before.
“This was an odd year. We had a ton of injuries,” Cho said.
“I don’t want to make that an excuse, but I do think when you’re missing your best players, it’s hard to get a rhythm for all the players. We went 21/2 months without Kemba (Walker) and Al (Jefferson) in the same lineup. MKG (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) missed a number of games and he’s a really important piece of our team.
Cho addressed a variety of topics in a 20-minute media availability:
“I think a lot of Al starts with conditioning and his weight. He acknowledged that yesterday. He’s committed to dropping 20 to 25 pounds this summer. He seemed genuinely disappointed in our season both as a team and as an individual.”
“MKG was probably our most improved player. We were roughly .500 when he played with us and I believe we were 6-21 when he was not on the court.”
On what tools he has to improve the roster
“We have our draft picks going forward. We don’t have any bad contracts, long-term. I think we’re in a good position moving forward. … Not this summer, but next summer, we’ll have significant cap room.”
On whether he’d consider trading the lottery pick
“I would say we’re going to look at every conceivable opportunity to improve the team. So I wouldn’t say that’s out of the question.”
On the poor shooting
“I told Kemba yesterday he’s got to improve his 3-point shooting along with his mid-range shot. MKG can hopefully develop a corner 3. And Lance has to improve his shooting as well.”
On rookie P.J. Hairston
“P.J., I felt, was pretty up-and-down all year. He played well and shot well in spurts. Other times he didn’t do as well. The key to becoming a good player in this league is consistency and he knows that. I addressed that with him yesterday.”
On rookie Noah Vonleh
“I do feel when he did get minutes at the end of the year that he did pretty well. He particularly rebounded well, averaging 12 rebounds for every 36 minutes. So I think Noah’s got a bright future.”
On his working relationship with Clifford
“I feel like I have a good relationship with coach. At the beginning of the season I said we have to be on the same page, and I think we are on the same page. You don’t always have to be on the same sentence, but you have to be on the same page.”
On free-agency and what could be available for the mid-level exception
“We’ll get a good player. We’ve done a lot of pro scouting during the year and I feel we’ll get a good player for this team.”
On backup center Bismack Biyombo
“I thought Biz was up-and-down a little bit. He definitely improved. There were spurts when he was really good, like before he got injured. And then after the injury it took him a while to get back.”
On his approach to improving the roster
“You have to make sure you’re set both long-term and short-term, that you’re not hamstrung by many bad contracts.”
Bonnell: 704358-5129; @rick_bonnell