Charlotte Hornets

Good news for ex-Kentucky star PJ Washington as Hornets training camp approaches

Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak discusses first-round pick PJ Washington

Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak discusses the team’s first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Kentucky forward PJ Washington.
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Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak discusses the team’s first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Kentucky forward PJ Washington.

The foot injury that kept PJ Washington out of summer league shouldn’t be an issue for training camp, the Charlotte Hornets lottery pick said Monday night.

The Hornets chose forward-center Washington 12th overall in June, then shut him down for Las Vegas Summer league in July due to ongoing soreness from an injury he suffered in March playing for Kentucky. Washington said he was held out of basketball activity for about two weeks, but is cleared medically now, with training camp starting in late September.

“I’m pretty much cleared to do everything,” Washington said, after throwing out the first pitch at a Charlotte Knights game. “After summer league, it was about two weeks.”

The day before leaving for Las Vegas in early July, Hornets coach James Borrego said the Hornets were taking the precaution of shutting down Washington. The pain in his left foot, which caused him to miss two NCAA tournament games with Kentucky, never fully went away before the draft. At the time of the injury, Kentucky described it as a sprain.

Washington, who is 6-foot-7, is expected to play mostly power forward as a rookie. He could also play some small-ball center.

The Hornets are deep at power forward. Last season’s starter, Marvin Williams, is returning and Borrego said last month he’s looking at starting Miles Bridges at power forward after Bridges played mostly small forward as a rookie. The Hornets can also play Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at power forward. General manager Mitch Kupchak said after the draft Washington might spend time next season with the Hornets’ G-League affiliate in Greensboro.

“I’m just trying to adjust quick, and have an impact on my teammates,” Washington said of his expectations.

Washington said Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne, who played four NBA seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, has been particularly helpful preparing him for NBA life. Washington said he’s now into a daily rhythm of on-court work and weight-lifting each morning. There has been no one basketball skill Hornets coaches have emphasized.

“Pretty much everything: Finishing, shooting, pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop,” Washington said. “All the reads.”

Washington said the biggest challenge so far has been setting up a home for the first time: Furnishing an apartment, getting the right bed for a basketball player’s frame, the right TV and setting up WiFi. And adjusting, after a highly structured college schedule, to a lot of free time in the afternoons post-workout: Mostly video games and naps for now, because once informal team workouts begin around Labor Day, and then camp approaches, he’s about to get busy in the working world.

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