Charlotte Hornets

Hornets’ Clifford intrigued by Spencer Hawes’ shooting and passing

Charlotte Hornets' Spencer Hawes press conference

Spencer Hawes, Charlotte Hornets newest player, holds first press conference with local media
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Spencer Hawes, Charlotte Hornets newest player, holds first press conference with local media

New Charlotte Hornet Spencer Hawes buys the similarities to ex-Charlotte Bobcat Josh McRoberts, and that goes beyond the height, the beard and the long hair.

“Talking briefly to coach (Steve Clifford) about how he used Josh a couple of years ago in that role, there’s an opportunity there,” Hawes said at a media availability Tuesday. “Guys here are used to playing with a big guy who can pass. That makes things easier on everybody.”

The Hornets completed a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night that sent shooting guard Lance Stephenson to L.A. The Hornets got back Hawes, a 7-footer with 3-point range and some passing skill, and wing defender Matt Barnes.

It’s likely the Hornets will trade or waive Barnes in the coming weeks.

Clifford envisions Hawes addressing the shooting and spacing problems the Hornets had, particularly after McRoberts signed with the Miami Heat last summer. The Hornets shot an NBA-worst 31.8 percent last season.

“In the offseason you try to make your team fit better together, and I think that’s what this trade does. Our defense is more than good enough to win and our offense isn’t,” Clifford said Tuesday. “If you look more specifically into the numbers (the flaw) is our (long-)range shooting. What Spencer will do is improve our range shooting and he’s also a very good passer.”

Hawes signed as a free agent with the Clippers last summer. He has three seasons left on that contract (assuming he doesn’t exercise a player opt-out the summer of 2017). He’d count a total of about $17 million on the Hornets’ payroll over those three seasons.

Somewhat like Stephenson in his one season as a Hornet, Hawes anticipated a bigger role with the Clippers than how it worked out.

“You look at something on paper and then you accept it didn’t work out. That’s the way it goes,” Hawes said. “Playing behind Blake (Griffin) and DeAndre (Jordan) meant not getting consistent minutes, and that was hard for me. It’s a great opportunity to come down here and get a fresh start.”

Even though he didn’t have a big role with the Clippers, he said he was shocked Monday when he started getting text messages this trade was coming to fruition. He immediately flew cross-country to Charlotte to take his team physical, then went to dinner with Clifford to discuss his new role.

“The last 24 hours have been a little bit of a whirlwind. I’m a little exhausted,” Hawes said. “But I’m glad to be here and get acclimated as quickly as I can.”

Hawes is a career 35 percent shooter from 3-point range. He said he was immediately attracted to playing with Hornets center Al Jefferson, one of the NBA’s top low-post scorers.

“That’s the way the game is evolving – more and more emphasis” on 3-point shooting, Hawes said. “I didn’t shoot that many of them really until two or three years ago. It puts so much pressure on the defense, having someone out there when the floor is stretched.”

“I know personally when I’m guarding the stretch (power forward) I hate it. It gets big guys out of their comfort zone.”

Hawes said he’s confident he can help create space in the lane for Jefferson by forcing an opposing big man to chase him out to the 3-point line.

“Playing the high-low game with him, I really look forward to it,” Hawes said. “He’s always been a challenge for me to guard. It’s nice to be on the same team now.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell

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