Point guard Mo Williams has been such a sensation in his first five games with the Charlotte Hornets that coach Steve Clifford is already planning how to use him in collaboration with Kemba Walker.
Walker is recovering from knee surgery, and the earliest he figures to play is the West Coast trip in two weeks.
“We’re going to play them together,” Clifford said Monday at practice. “We need to get (Walker) back as soon as we can, and then we’ll make an adjustment on the fly to play those guys together.”
Williams arrived in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with shooting guard Troy Daniels, in return for shooting guard Gary Neal and an open roster spot to acquire rookie Adreian Payne from the Atlanta Hawks.
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Williams is averaging 23.4 points and seven assists as a Hornet, shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. As limited as the Hornets are offensively – and particularly as 3-point shooters – it’s incumbent on Clifford to find ways to keep using him after Walker’s return.
“He’s a pro player. He’s picked things up quickly,” Clifford said of Williams’ immediate impact. “He’s a good organizer and a good pick-and-roll player. He’s been through the wars, so there is nothing he hasn’t seen.”
Walker has begun running and jumping in practice but hasn’t been cleared for contact. He has an appointment Wednesday with the specialist who repaired his torn meniscus in New York when the Hornets play the Brooklyn Nets.
Williams, in his 12th NBA season, says it would be nothing new to him to be paired with another point guard.
“I’ve played that way in my career and had a lot of success with it, whether it be me and Chris (Paul) in L.A. or Eric Bledsoe,” Williams said. “And in my younger days with T.J. Ford.”
Williams isn’t giving much thought to pairing with Walker just yet. The Hornets have at least nine games to play before Walker’s return.
“Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it,” Williams said. “We’ve got some games to continue to win to stay in this (playoff) hunt before he gets back.”
Those games will come in bunches. Starting with Tuesday’s home game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Hornets play 16 games in 27 days. Clifford said he’ll need to back off physical activity in practice some to save the players’ legs.
“We’re going to have to learn more off film. Today was basically film and no contact,” Clifford said. “Practice in this league this time of year is always going to be shorter. You’ve got to have energy for the games.
The Hornets will play four sets of games on back-to-back nights in March.
“When you’re playing back-to-backs, it’s the travel part” that hurts your performance, Clifford said. “You’re getting in at 2 or 3 (in the morning). We played here last Saturday, get to Dallas early the next morning and then played at 6 (p.m.) Those games are tough.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell