Hornets' Jefferson plans to return, Henderson unsure
Jefferson is due $13.5 million next season. Henderson, the longest-tenured player on the roster, is set to make $6 million. Both have opt-out clauses in their contracts that would allow them to become free agents.
''Unless something dramatic changes, I don't see myself opting out,'' Jefferson said Thursday.
Jefferson said he has ''unfinished business'' to attend to after a disappointing and injury-plagued season. Charlotte finished with the ninth-worst record in the league (33-49) this season after making the playoffs in 2014.
''I have a bad taste in my mouth, the Charlotte Hornets have a bad taste in their mouths - and I can't walk away from that,'' said the 30-year-old Jefferson.
The 6-foot-10, 289-pound Jefferson, who has long been referred to as ''Big Al'' because of his stocky frame, said he plans to come into training camp next season in better shape. He wants to drop 20 to 25 pounds to help eliminate some of the stress on his knees and feet.
Jefferson missed 17 games this season due to knee and groin injuries and averaged 16.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He averaged fewer minutes per game than the previous season when he was named third-team All-NBA and averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds while leading the Hornets to a 43-39 record.
Coach Steve Clifford said if the Hornets want to be a playoff team they need their star player performing at a high level again.
Jefferson knows that.
''I wasn't the player I need to be to get this team to the next level,'' Jefferson said. ''I'm still a young man with a lot of great basketball in me. ... I'm disappointed in myself. I've got to redeem myself.''
Henderson, who starred at Duke and has spent all six NBA seasons in Charlotte, said he ''hasn't even thought about'' his contract situation because he's been focused on the season. He said that all things being equal he'd like to return, but added that it's too early to know what the future will bring.
Either way, the Hornets have plenty of work to do between now and next season.
Clifford acknowledged Thursday the Hornets ''took a step back'' in his second season at the helm.
''It was a disappointing year,'' Clifford said.
Clifford said the Hornets need to focus on improving their shooting this offseason. Charlotte finished last in the league in 3-point shooting (31.8 percent) and second-to-last in overall field goal percentage (42 percent).
However, he doesn't anticipate the team making a big splash in free agency.
''We are not in a position to go out and get a max-level player,'' Clifford said. ''Nor do we need to.''
The Hornets swung and missed last offseason in free agency.
After allowing Josh McRoberts to walk in free agency, general manager Rich Cho set his sights on restricted free agent Gordon Hayward. But the Utah Jazz matched Charlotte's six-year, $72 million contract offer.
The Hornets turned to Lance Stephenson, giving him a three-year, $27 million deal.
But he was a major disappointment.
Stephenson's 17.3 shooting percentage from 3-point range this season was the worst in NBA history among players who have attempted at least 100 3-pointers, according to basketball-reference.com.
''That is terrible,'' Stephenson said of his shooting.
Stephenson said he lost confidence in his jump shot early in the season and never regained it.
''I just wanted to make the shot so bad and when it doesn't go in you just lose your confidence,'' said Stephenson, who went from starter to out of the rotation. ''That plays a major part when you don't have confidence in your shot. This summer I am going to find my confidence and come in a better player.''
He acknowledged the Hornets aren't close to competing for an NBA championship, but added ''to take a step to be a playoff team, I don't believe we need a ton'' of help.