CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Courtney Lee wasn’t expecting to play for the Charlotte Hornets this season – or any NBA franchise other than the Memphis Grizzlies for that matter.
But Lee said one day after members of the Grizzlies front office reassured him and his agent that they weren’t trying to deal him, he learned that he was headed to Charlotte as part of a three-way trade that also included the Miami Heat.
“It kind of threw me off,” Lee said Thursday after Hornets practice.
Lee isn’t complaining.
In fact, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard is excited about the opportunity ahead with the Hornets, where he’ll join the starting lineup alongside point guard Kemba Walker in the backcourt. The Hornets currently have the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference and are battling for a playoff spot.
Lee started 37 games and appeared in 51 this season for the Grizzlies, who have the fifth-best record in the Western Conference and are considered a more serious playoff contender.
He averaged 10 points per game and shot 45.8 percent from the field for Memphis.
Lee said the comforting thing is having played for Hornets coach Steve Clifford before as a rookie in 2008-09 when Clifford was as an assistant with the Orlando Magic
“It helps a lot,” Lee said. “I have a feel for him and his coaching style. He knows my capabilities and I think he’s comfortable with me in that sense. It’s just a matter of picking up the plays.”
Lee replaces former first-round draft pick P.J. Hairston in the starting lineup. Hairston was part of the three-way trade that also sent backup point guard Brian Roberts to the Heat. Roberts has since been traded away to the Portland Trail Blazers.
“It feels good (to start), but it’s also a lot of pressure,” Lee said. “These guys have been here and have been through most of the battles. I’m the new face in town. I still have to get comfortable playing with these guys. But it feels good to have a coaching staff that has confidence in me.”
Clifford views Lee as a “3 and D” guy – a player capable of knocking down the 3-pointer while playing solid team defense, something the Hornets desperately need after losing top defender Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the remainder of the season after reinjuring is right shoulder.
Lee is a 38.3 percent 3-point shooter for his career. In four of his previous eight seasons Lee has knocked down better than 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
“He’s smart and dependable and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” Clifford said. “He’s a good spot-up 3-point shooter and he’s actually is a really good mid-range shooter, which is his biggest strength offensively.”
Clifford also likes that Lee has solid playoff experience, appearing in 43 postseason games during his previous seven seasons in the league.
NOTES: Clifford said forward Marvin Williams is questionable for the Bucks game with a strained neck.