Hornets Notes: Jefferson, Stephenson, Biyombo

Al Jefferson, who has a $13.5MM player option for next season and recently said he would likely opt in, is committed to dropping 20 to 25 pounds this summer, Hornets GM Rich Cho said during a media session, transcribed by Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “He [Jefferson] seemed genuinely disappointed in our season both as a team and as an individual,” Cho said. Also during Cho’s availability, the GM stated the obvious about the team’s decision to sign Lance Stephenson to a three-year, $27.405MM deal: “It didn’t work out as we expected it to,” Cho said. “I don’t want to look backwards, I want to look forward. I expect Lance to work hard this off-season and have a better season next year.” Stephenson shot only 17% from three-point range.

Here’s more from the Hornets:

  • Cho was mostly complimentary of backup center Bismack Biyombo, who is set for restricted free agency and played regularly the second half of the season, except for 11 games he missed with a bruised knee. “I thought Biz was up-and-down a little bit. He definitely improved,” Cho said. “There were spurts when he was really good, like before he got injured. And then after the injury it took him a while to get back.” There is a distinct possibility that the Hornets won’t make his qualifying offer, which would be $4,045,894.
  • During the same media session, Cho said it’s conceivable the Hornets could trade their lottery pick and that Charlotte owns several tools to improve the roster. “We have our draft picks going forward,” Cho added. “We don’t have any bad contracts, long-term. I think we’re in a good position moving forward. … Not this summer, but next summer, we’ll have significant cap room.” 
  • In a separate piece, however, Bonnell makes the argument that the Hornets are actually very much limited in resources. If Jefferson and shooting guard Gerald Henderson don’t exercise opt-out clauses in their contracts the team has about $65MM in player-salary obligations, which is close to next season’s projected cap, Bonnell points out. Therefore, the most the Hornets could spend on a free agent this summer is the mid-level exception, which is $5.464MM in a first-season salary, Bonnell adds. Bonnell identifies the Hornets’ most glaring need as shooting; they finished this season 29th in field goal percentage and last in three-point shooting. That player, therefore, likely won’t be someone who would demand a high price tag. “We’re not in a position to get a max-level player,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “Nor do we need to.”

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