P.J. Washington will have an increased role this season for the Charlotte Hornets and it's not because of Miles Bridges' absence. However, because of Bridges' situation, the Hornets will need the fourth-year man out of Kentucky to take a big step and become one of the leaders on the floor.
Washington worked his way into the starting lineup in stretches last year and flashed his potential as a full-time starter. This offseason, he wanted to take his game to a whole other level and did so by shedding 12-14 pounds thanks to his new chef who is ensuring that P.J. eats all of his veggies.
"I feel a lot lighter on the court. I feel like I can move better, I can guard better. I'm comfortable at this weight. This is what I played at in college, so I just wanted to change my diet and get back right."
What's most impressive about his offseason journey is that he did it on his own. The front office and coaching staff had no issue with PJ playing in the 240s. This was something he took upon himself and followed through with it.
I asked Steve Clifford earlier this week about how successful P.J.'s summer has been and how it will translate to this season.
"I've been really happy with him," Clifford said. "He came out to [Las] Vegas and that was the first time I really got a chance to spend time with him. Spent some time out there working with the coaches. He does a lot with Jay Hernandez and they have a good working relationship. But my thing about him is that his role, in terms of the way he should be thinking, it doesn't matter who else is there. He's going to be a big part of this team. If we're going to take a step and become a legitimate playoff team, he's going to be on the floor 28-30 minutes and he's going to be a big part of it. He can play well at both ends of the floor. He gives you roster versatility because he can play the four or the five. And he can also defend different perimeter players. He's a talented player and I think he finished last season on a good note and he's had a good summer."
Heading into the final year of his contract, Washington has an opportunity to make himself a lot of money if he chooses to bet on himself and postpone all contract negotiations.
Last year Miles Bridges rejected a four-year, $60 million contract extension before the season and followed that up with a tremendous year which would have made him nearly double what the Hornets offered him in the preseason had it not been for his actions off the court.
As far as Washington is concerned, it's all about ball right now. "I'm just focused on the season," said Washington. "I'm not even worried about that right now." The deadline for the two sides to get a deal done is set for October 17th.
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