Charlotte Hornets

Hornets center Al Jefferson says: I have no plans to opt out of contract

Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson (right), pictured here with team owner Michael Jordan, says he needs to lose 20-25 pounds this summer to ease stress on his knees.
Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson (right), pictured here with team owner Michael Jordan, says he needs to lose 20-25 pounds this summer to ease stress on his knees. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson says he doesn’t plan to opt out of next season on his contract with the team.

He said Thursday that’s about more than $13.5 million in guaranteed salary. It’s about being disappointed in his and his team’s performance.

“I’ve got unfinished business here. That’s not even an option for me,” Jefferson said as the team closed the book on a 33-49 season. “Unless something dramatic changed, I can’t see myself opting out, and leaving that bad taste in my mouth. And in the Charlotte Hornets’ mouth. I can’t walk away from that.”

Jefferson finished the season averaging 16.6 points and 8.4 rebounds and shooting 48 percent from the field. In 2013-14, Jefferson averaged 21.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 51 percent from the field, leading the then-Bobcats to the playoffs.

“I wasn’t the player I need to be to get this team to the next level,” said Jefferson, 30. “I’m still a young man with a lot of great basketball in me. Like coach (Steve Clifford) always says – the responsibility (to lead) is with him and the best players. I’m disappointed in myself. I’ve got to redeem myself.”

Jefferson missed 17 games this season with a groin strain and soreness in his right knee. Last season he suffered a debilitating plantar fascia injury during the first-round playoff loss to the Miami Heat.

Having played 11 NBA seasons and more than 23,000 minutes, Jefferson said he’s committed to a summer of heavy conditioning in Charlotte. Normally he takes a month off following the season. This spring he plans to be back in the training facility in early May.

“I’ve been playing at 285 to 287 (pounds) for five years and it’s catching up to me. I’m going to have to drop some weight to take pressure off my knees,” Jefferson said.

“I’m thinking 20 to 25 pounds.”

Zeller might need surgery: Power forward Cody Zeller missed 19 of the Hornets’ last 20 games with a sore right shoulder. Zeller revealed Thursday he’s been diagnosed with a partially torn rotator cuff and might need arthroscopic surgery.

Zeller said the injury would be re-evaluated in about a week to determine whether a procedure is required.

“It sounds like a very minor procedure,” Zeller said, adding he also has a bone spur and an inflamed bursa sac.

Clifford said Thursday that for Zeller to become a complete NBA power forward, he needs to start taking 3-point attempts. Zeller took two 3-pointers in his first two NBA seasons.

“I shoot them all the time in practice,” Zeller said. “It’s just the confidence in shooting it. It’s not like I need to change technique.”

Stephenson’s confidence dented: Lance Stephenson, the Hornets’ high-profile free-agent signing last July, acknowledged Thursday that his performance this season shook his self-confidence.

“When I was going through it, yes, it hurt my confidence,” Stephenson said. “I feel like this will be a big summer for me to come in prepared.”

Stephenson shot 38 percent from the field and 17 percent from 3-point range. Stephenson brought it up Thursday that 17 percent was the worst season in NBA history for a player attempting at least 100 3-pointers.

“My 3-point percentage was the lowest ever in history. That’s terrible,” Stephenson said. “I have to come in and figure out how to be a better shooter. Being a good shooter will help my overall game. When people sag off of me (playing him to drive), it’s harder for me to be successful.

“It’s confidence – just wanting the shot to go in so bad and then you lose your confidence. That plays a major part when you don’t have confidence in your shot. This summer I’m going to find my confidence.”

Stephenson went from a starter to a reserve to sitting out two games entirely by Clifford’s decision. Stephenson said it’s not his desire to move on to another team.

“It’s a good group of guys. We all help each other,” Stephenson said. “We just need to find a starting five and stick with it and a second unit and stick with it. We never really got to stick with a (rotation) all season because we had people getting hurt.”

Henderson undecided: Shooting guard Gerald Henderson has a player option for $6 million for next season.

He said Thursday he hasn’t given it any thought on whether it makes sense to become a free agent this summer, but he’d like to remain in Charlotte with the franchise that drafted him in 2009.

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell

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