Hornets Steve Clifford: Courtney Lee helps teammates play better
New Charlotte Hornets shooting guard Courtney Lee didn’t get to town in time to practice Wednesday, but the team did get a post-All-Star Game boost, nonetheless.
Center Al Jefferson scrimmaged Wednesday for the first time since having right knee surgery Dec. 30 to repair a torn meniscus.
Jefferson and coach Steve Clifford are hopeful Jefferson will be ready for the active roster when the team resumes play Friday in Milwaukee against the Bucks.
“It was better than I thought,” Jefferson said of his first full-scale practice in six weeks. “It feels great. The surgery basically solved the problem. I was trying to wait until the end of the (season to have the surgery).. I had to go and get it over with to be ready for the second half” of the season.
Jefferson said he played in pain since training camp in October.
“It got to a point where I was limping and couldn’t do anything,” Jefferson said. “I’ve just got to get my wind back and my rhythm back. These two days (of scrimmaging) will be good for me.”
The Hornets practiced for about two hours Wednesday after a six-day All-Star break. They did a lot of scrimmaging Wednesday, as Clifford brought in referees to simulate game conditions.
The Hornets acquired Lee, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, from the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday night, in part to compensate for the loss of small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist had season-ending surgery in Philadelphia Wednesday to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The procedure was termed successful in a news release issued by the Hornets.
Lee will start for the Hornets, Clifford projects, although his size and skill set aren’t a perfect match for what Kidd-Gilchrist provided.
“Courtney is a 2 (a shooting guard). I’ve been asked if he’ll be able to guard 3s (small forwards). No, he’s not big enough to guard those guys. Nic (Batum) will now guard those guys, and (matchups) will be more positional.
“Against bigger teams, like Milwaukee, Marvin (Williams) will have to play some (small forward). We don’t have great size defensively, but we can handle that by playing Marvin” as a small forward.
Clifford is quite familiar with Lee, having coached him as an Orlando Magic assistant.
“He’s a starting player, he’s played in the Finals and in the Western Conference finals,” Clifford said. “He’s a smart, reliable, professional player. When you get a chance to get a guy like that, you do it, and then just work things out.”
The Hornets have a history of adding rotation players at the trade deadline to surgically address holes in the roster. Three years ago that was power forward Josh McRoberts. The next year they added guards Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour. Last season, they acquired point guard Mo Williams, filling in for an injured Kemba Walker.
Williams was particularly adept at fitting in quickly with the Hornets. The circumstances are a little different with Lee, but Clifford anticipates him adapting quickly.
“It will be different. Courtney is a glue guy, where Mo Williams is a scorer. Mo Williams was an NBA player of the week,” Clifford said.
“Courtney is a guy who understands spacing and timing. He’ll figure out where his teammates want the ball. He’s efficient in the way he plays. Mo was a creator, where guys played off him. Courtney is more a ball-mover.”
Clifford described Lee as a solid defender with 3-point range and an established mid-range offensive game. Lee averaged 10 points and shot 37 percent from 3-point range for the Grizzlies this season.
Jefferson said he was excited when he heard Lee was coming aboard.
“A guy who’ll accept his role, who will do whatever he has to do to help his team,” Jefferson said of Lee. “And a guy who has played in some big games. He went all the way to the Finals with Orlando. I’ve known him for a long time and always had respect for him.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell