Hornets Steve Clifford: Courtney Lee helps teammates play better
It appears Courtney Lee’s debut as a Charlotte Hornet will be delayed until Sunday’s road game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Time needed to complete Lee’s physical kept him from fully participating in practice Thursday before the Hornets flew to Milwaukee for Friday’s game against the Bucks. Coach Steve Clifford doesn’t plan to use Lee until he practices Saturday in New York.
Lee met with media Thursday, saying Tuesday night’s trade caught him off guard. He said he was told by Memphis Grizzlies management he wouldn’t be dealt at the deadline.
“They reassured us no activity was coming down with me,” Lee said. “Then I got the call (that he’d been traded) the next day. It kind of threw me off.”
That doesn’t mean Lee finds the change unwelcome. He worked previously with Hornets coach Steve Clifford and associate head coach Patrick Ewing when all three were with the Orlando Magic.
“Feels like some of the sets we ran in Orlando,” Lee said after watching the Hornets scrimmage Thursday.
“There’s a comfort level with this coaching staff. He knows my abilities.”
Clifford said he’s confident Lee will have a smooth transition: “He’s very bright. He’ll pick things up quickly.
“He’s very high character – a prideful, self-motivated guy. He’s team first and brings a lot to every team he plays for.”
Clifford said Wednesday he plans to start Lee at shooting guard. That won’t happen Friday, and Clifford wasn’t sure at practice Thursday who would start at that spot in Milwaukee. The Bucks have a tall starting lineup, so it’s possible Clifford could go with a big lineup that could include Marvin Williams at small forward.
“They’re huge,” Clifford said, “and they all play multiple positions. …How they beat us here was just a size thing.”
While Lee won’t play Friday, the Hornets will still have a different look from before the All-Star break: Center Al Jefferson will be back after missing six weeks recovering from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Jefferson isn’t expected to start Friday, but he will get minutes behind Cody Zeller. The Hornets’ other center, Spencer Hawes, suffered a lower back strain. Clifford expects Hawes to miss at least the next two games.
Clifford said at practice around noon Thursday he felt the Hornets were done dealing leading up to the trade deadline at 3 p.m. That’s how it played out at 3 as the Hornets flew to Wisconsin.
“I like our team. When we’ve been healthy, we’ve been really good. I think our guys have done a great job of battling back since the middle of July.,” Clifford said.
“We haven’t made the progress that we’ve needed to, but a lot of that has been injury-driven. We still haven’t gotten to our playing groups, and it’s February. But most of that has been out of our control due to injuries to rotation players.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell