At a press conference announcing Steve Clifford as head coach on Tuesday, Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak sounded pretty unequivocal about the team’s desire to retain Miles Bridges, who will be a restricted free agent once the team tenders him a qualifying offer.
“As an organization, we love Miles. We’re going to bring him back,” Kupchak said (video link via Bally Sports: Hornets). “He’s been great for the franchise and I believe with his work ethic he’s only going to get better.”
Kupchak’s statement is notable because Shams Charania reported last week that rival executives believe Bridges will command a maximum-salary contract or something close to it, and Charania’s sources believe Charlotte may be hesitant to match an offer sheet worth the max.
In an ESPN appearance on Monday, Brian Windhorst said Bridges isn’t receiving a max offer from Charlotte at this point.
“He’s not being offered, from what I am told, a max contract by the Charlotte Hornets right now,” Windhorst said (video link from Talkin’ NBA). “So he’s gonna go out in the marketplace starting on Thursday (or) Friday and see if he can get that offer from somewhere else, so we’re gonna find out.”
When Kupchak signed an extension last month, he said the club wanted to keep Bridges around. “Our intention is to keep Miles long-term, yes. He’s a big part of our future,” he said at the time. Free agency starts in just two days, and Kupchak hasn’t publicly wavered in his commitment to Bridges.
It’s been rumored that the Hornets are trying to gauge the trade market for a number of players to accommodate a new contract for Bridges after the forward had the best season of his career in 2021/22. The 24-year-old posted career-highs in points (20.2), rebounds (7.0) and assists (3.8), along with a .491/.331/.802 shooting slash line in 80 games (35.5 minutes per contest).
Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report previously stated the Pacers and Pistons might pursue Bridges, and Marc Stein has heard Detroit is a fan of Bridges as well. However, both of those reports came prior to the draft last week, so it’s unclear if the two Central Division teams are still interested in tying up their significant cap space by signing Bridges to an offer sheet that can be matched by Charlotte, especially given Kupchak’s statement.