It turns out center Al Jefferson wasn’t the only Charlotte Hornet to go on a weight-loss regimen this summer.
Second-season shooting guard P.J. Hairston said he went to Houston for two weeks to participate in John Lucas’s off-season basketball camp. In the process, Hairston said he lost about 13 pounds.
Like Jefferson, who lost more than 20 pounds in the off-season, Hairston said he gave up fried foods and reduced his starch and sugar in-take.
Hairston played poorly for most of Orlando’s summer league in July. He said working out for Lucas, a former NBA star and coach who overcame drug addiction, was a positive experience.
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“I already knew what John Lucas was about, what his workouts were about,” Hairston said at Hornets media day Friday. “For the kids who didn’t know that it was like boot camp. I was motivated to lose some weight. I’m happier and I feel good.”
Hairston had an uneven rookie season, averaging 5.6 points per game and shooting only 30 percent from the 3-point line, which was supposed to be his forte.
“I feel hungrier now,” Hairston said. “There were games where I could shoot the ball and other games where it was like, ‘Man, he can’t even hit the rim!’ I didn’t have enough confidence in myself.
“Now, having gone to John Lucas’ basketball camp and him talking to me -- not just about basketball, but personal stuff and advice -- I feel I’m very eager to get on the court.”
Most talented team to date
The Hornets added seven new players in the off-season, effectively making over half the roster. It will be a challenge for the coaching staff to integrate all the new players, but that didn’t cause coach Steve Clifford to tamp down expectation Friday.
“In my three years here this is the most talent we have had and the most versatility and the most depth,” Clifford said during a 30-minute news conference. “What I told them this morning is we shouldn’t put any limits on our group.
“The intangibles will determine how we do. This is a group of good to very good players. This isn’t a team where we just say to a Lebron (James), ‘Let’s go.’ On a team like this where a lot of guys are going to have to play well, the work, the resolve, the togetherness, the basketball IQs will determine how far we can go.”
Clifford particularly praised rookie Frank Kaminsky, who the Hornets selected ninth overall.
“He’s going to play, whether it’s early or late (this season). All he has to figure out is the physical part,” Clifford said of 7-footer Kaminsky. “He has the chance to be a terrific player.”
Kaminsky, the consensus college player of the year last season, averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds in leading Wisconsin to the Final Four. He was the rare lottery prospect these days who chose to use all four seasons of college eligibility.
“I felt like I had stretches in Orlando where I played well and stretches where I didn’t play well,” Kaminsky said. “A lot of that had to do with getting acclimated to the team.”
Jefferson watched the Hornets’ summer-league games and was also impressed with Kaminsky’s skill, not only as a jump-shooter, but as a dribbler and passer. Kaminsky was a guard until his sophomore season in high school when he grew from 6-3 to 6-9.
“He’s a vet, a dominant player in the NBA,” Kaminsky said of Jefferson. “You want to look (to pass to) people like him. Get him the ball! Even in our voluntary workouts I was getting a feel for how he wants to play. I’m going to be able to read and react off him and that’s going to benefit both of us.”
Four starters set
Clifford said he’s penciled in four of five starters heading into training camp: Kemba Walker at the point, Nic Batum at shooting guard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at small forward and Jefferson at center. So the big competition in the preseason will be who starts at power forward and who is the first wing player off the bench.
“It’s going to be tougher to get to the rotation part, unless there is really a surprise,” Clifford said. “The rotation part is going to be very competitive. We have plenty of people good enough to be in a rotation and some of that will have to play out.”
Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams and Kaminsky would all be candidates to be that fifth starter at power forward.
Praise for Williams
Clifford said Williams, entering his 11th NBA season, was the Hornets player most conscientious about off-season workouts.
“Nobody more than Marvin. He’s 10-12 pounds lighter. His workouts, for a veteran player, have been exceptional,” Clifford said. “He stayed here for the summer and worked with our coaches, our strength people, which I think is the best way to go. He’s really ready to have a great year.”
Williams, who turned 29 in June, said as he’s aged, he’s had to focus more on not falling out of shape.
“As you get older you have to work a little bit harder to stay in shape. I felt like when I was younger I could take a month off from basketball and then be right back to basketball shape in a couple of weeks,’ Williams said. “I’ve had some injuries along the way, so I also have to stay on top of those.”
Lin was impressed by Clifford’s research
Point guard Jeremy Lin’s initial connection to the Hornets was having worked with assistant coach Stephen Silas at Golden State.
Clifford closed the deal on Lin signing with the Hornets because he seemed to know so much more about Lin’s game than other NBA teams that expressed interest.
“The surface-level conversation is always, ‘I really like the way you attack the rim and play pick-and-roll.’ But for him to have the scouting report (he delivered), it was much more detailed stuff,” Lin said. “Like, ‘I see you with these intangibles and now it’s about you refining your technique. Or ‘In this game you did this and this.’
“He watches film, he understands what I can and can’t do. We talked about my strengths and weaknesses so much more in-depth. Somebody had to watch for quite an amount of time to understand things about my game that most people will never understand, good and bad.”
Here and there
Lin has been wearing enough hair gel of late to make his hair stand straight up. He said that’s just becoming too much work, so he might do away with the new hairdo. ...Kaminsky, who enjoys his silly side, was asked what people don’t necessarily know about him. His answer: “I’m not weird.”...Center-power forward Spencer Hawes said he understands why other big men hate guarding him out to the 3-point line: “I know I hate guarding guys when they’re doing the same thing. Your instinct as a big guy (defensively) is to always gravitate toward the hoop. Any guy who stretches it out gets you out of your comfort zone.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell