Hornets coach Steve Clifford on loss of Josh McRoberts: ‘You can’t soft-sell this: It’s a hit’

July 10, 2014 

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford says forward Josh McRoberts’ departure for the Miami Heat is a setback, but not something that can’t be overcome.

“You can’t soft-sell this: It’s a hit,” Clifford said Thursday. “His teammates respected him and liked the way he plays. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make up for it in other areas.”

McRoberts chose a four-year, $23 million deal with the Heat over a similar offer to return to Charlotte. In his 1 1/2 seasons with the then-Bobcats, McRoberts was the starting power forward and a key secondary ballhandler alongside point guard Kemba Walker.

Clifford, the players and team owner Michael Jordan all praised McRoberts as a great teammate who upgraded ball-movement. Replacing what he provided could be a challenge.

“Not many guys of his (6-foot-10) size make the game easy for his teammates the way he does. Not just offensively, but defensively, too,” Clifford said. “No question he was a big part of what we did. Doesn’t mean we have to take a step back, but we have to change.”

The Hornets are considering signing veteran forward Marvin Williams, who played college ball at North Carolina, to help fill the gap left by McRoberts’ departure. The Hornets have also used top-10 picks in the last two drafts on power forwards – Cody Zeller and rookie Noah Vonleh.

Zeller struggled initially last season, but seemed to improve significantly the last two months of the season. Clifford intentionally brought Zeller along slowly last season, letting him adjust to pro basketball at his own pace. Now more will be expected.

“He’s having a great summer,” Clifford said. “Cody was brought here obviously to be a starting player.”

Buchanan hire: The Hornets made it official Thursday that Chad Buchanan has been hired as assistant general manager. Buchanan previously worked with Hornets general manager Rich Cho in Portland.

Buchanan spent the past 10 years with the Trail Blazers, the past seven as director of scouting. Cho was with the Blazers one season before joining the then-Bobcats two years ago.

After president of basketball operations Rod Higgins resigned in June, Jordan said an assistant GM would be hired to share responsibilities with Cho.

Trade with Cleveland: The Hornets’ first priority when the moratorium ended was getting Gordon Hayward’s offer sheet signed and submitted to the league.

The Hornets are also expected to consummate a trade agreed to on draft night. It will send center Brendan Haywood and the draft rights to Stanford forward Dwight Powell to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Hornets will get back Alonzo Gee, whose contract is unguaranteed for this season.

Assuming Gee is waived, the deal will have the effect of freeing up about $2 million in cap space – what the Hornets would have owed Haywood for the 2014-15 season.

Viva Las Vegas: The Hornets’ summer roster flew to Las Vegas Thursday afternoon and will begin play in summer league at 8:30 p.m. EDT Friday against the Golden State Warriors.

NBATV is televising all summer-league games in Las Vegas, but the Hornets-Warriors game will not be shown live.

Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129; @rick_bonnell

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