The same day the Charlotte Hornets announced oft-injured former No. 2 overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, they acquired a veteran who seems capable of helping them remain a serious playoff contender.
Courtney Lee is expected to debut for the visiting Hornets as they try to match a season-high four-game winning streak Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Though Charlotte (27-26) reportedly pursued Dwight Howard prior to Thursday’s trade deadline, Lee might prove to be a solid fallback option. His addition should provide even more confidence for a club that entered the All-Star break in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
"We put ourselves in a good position," said leading scorer Kemba Walker, who has averaged 26 points in the last three games. "I’m excited to have (Lee). … We’re excited to get it going."
The Hornets acquired the eighth-year swingman from Memphis on Tuesday in a three-team deal that sent second-year small forward P.J. Hairston to the Grizzlies and point guard Brian Roberts to Miami.
"He brings a lot of experience," Hornets general manager Rich Cho said of Lee, who played in Orlando when Charlotte coach Steve Clifford was an assistant. "He is a vet that is a true pro. He’s a great shooter and plays great defense."
Lee is not a small forward like Kidd-Gilchrist (12.7 points, 6.4 rebounds per game), who was limited to only seven games in his fourth NBA season after tearing his labrum for the second time in a 117-95 win at Indiana on Feb. 10.
However, Lee remained a valuable overall presence while averaging 10 points, shooting 37 percent from 3-point range and going a plus-43 in 51 games for the Grizzlies this season.
"There are not a lot of those 3 and D guys around," Cho said.
Charlotte, which allowed an average of 94.5 points and 42.1 percent shooting to win five of six before the break, could also get a boost if center Al Jefferson is ready to return from Dec. 30 knee surgery.
"I feel good," said Jefferson, who has averaged 12.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in 19 games this season. "I just have to get my wind back, my rhythm back."
Charlotte has split two meetings with the Bucks (22-32) at home, allowing Milwaukee to shoot 54.2 percent in a 105-92 loss Jan. 16 in the most recent matchup.
Looking for a third straight home victory and seventh in the last eight there, Milwaukee will continue to lean on leading scorer Khris Middleton (17.9 ppg). The fourth-year shooting guard, who scored 24 on 11-of-16 shooting at Charlotte last month, has averaged 21.5 points in the last four games.
He recorded 14 of his 27 points and five of nine assists in the fourth quarter of last Thursday’s 99-92 win over Washington.
"We look at Khris as our best player, our best scorer," teammate Jabari Parker said. "He opens up a lot of areas for us, and we’re going to depend on him."
Parker has averaged 14.2 points on 52.1 percent shooting in the last six at home.
Walker averaged 24.8 points over a six-game stretch against Milwaukee before being held to 12 on 4-of-14 shooting in January.