The Charlotte Hornets acquired shooting guard Courtney Lee from the Memphis Grizzlies in a deal that discards P.J. Hairston, Brian Roberts and two future second-round picks.
Lee is averaging 10 points per game this season and will add to the Hornets’ 3-point shooting. He’s making 37 percent of his shots from outside the 3-point arc this season.
This deal came on the heels of the Hornets announcing small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will have season-ending shoulder surgery after suffering a torn labrum for the second time in six months. Kidd-Gilchrist’s surgery was scheduled for Wednesday in Philadelphia under the care of Dr. Gerald Williams.
At 6-5 and 200 pounds, Lee has dimensions comparable to Hornets starter Nic Batum. Those two figure to be interchangeable parts at the wing positions the rest of the season.
The primary reason coach Steve Clifford started Hairston was to avoid Batum having to constantly guard the opposing team’s top perimeter scorer.
Lee should be a solid alternative defensively, replacing Hairston and Kidd-Gilchrist in the lineup.
Whether Lee starts will be Clifford’s decision, but general manager Rich Cho said in a media conference call Tuesday night that he anticipates Lee playing lots of minutes.
“He brings a lot of experience,” Cho said of Lee, in his seventh NBA season. “He’s a veteran and a true professional who brings shooting and defense. He’s a guy we’re really excited about.”
Clifford coached Lee as an assistant with the Orlando Magic during Lee’s rookie season in 2008-09.
The Hornets are 27-26 and entered the All-Star break in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They reassemble Wednesday for a mid-afternoon practice and play Friday in Milwaukee – the first of five consecutive road games to finish the month of February.
Cho said Kidd-Gilchrist’s injury was a factor in the decision to pursue a trade for Lee: “We were scanning all the rosters and we liked” what Lee provides.
This two-for-one trade opens a spot on the Hornets’ roster. Cho said he might sign a point guard out of the NBA’s Development League to replace Roberts.
Cho was asked about rumors Tuesday that the Hornets have had discussions with the Houston Rockets about possibly acquiring center Dwight Howard.
Cho laughed in response to the question, then said, “It’s my policy not to comment on trade rumors. I’d like to leave it at that.”
Cho was also asked if Tuesday’s deal likely ends the Hornets’ activity leading up the Thursday-afternoon trade deadline.
“I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily done, but we are happy with this move,” Cho said. “We always keep our eyes and ears open.”
Lee’s contract – he makes $5.67 million this season – expires in July. The two second-round picks the Hornets sent to Memphis are their own in 2018 and one the Brooklyn Nets owe them in 2019.
This trade was first reported by Yahoo Sports.
Hairston, whose draft rights were acquired from the Heat in June of 2014, had an uneven 1 1/2 seasons with the Hornets. The team did not exercise his option for next season on his rookie-scale contract, so he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in July. He was a fill-in starter for portions of this season after Kidd-Gilchrist originally injured his right shoulder in October.
Shortly after the trade became official, Hairston tweeted, “Thanks Buzz City for all your support! Being from NC, it meant a lot to me. Next stop, Memphis!”
Hairston grew up in Greensboro and starred at North Carolina before losing his college eligibility. He spent a half-season in the NBA’s Development League before entering the 2014 draft.
This was the ninth trade the Hornets have made in the past two years. Similar deals around the previous three trade deadlines acquired Josh McRoberts, Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour and Mo Williams.
Roberts was signed as a free agent before the 2014-15 season. He spent this season as a third option at point guard behind Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin. He went to the Heat in a three-team transaction. The Heat sent Chris Anderson and two additional second-round picks to Memphis to complete the deal.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell