Hornets Rumors

Hornets To Reevaluate LaMelo Ball In One Week

The Hornets have issued an update on LaMelo Ball ‘s right ankle sprain, announcing today (via Twitter) that he has resumed individual work and will be reevaluated in one week.

Ball, who injured his ankle on November 26, reportedly suffered a severe sprain, with reports at the time indicating he was expected to be out for a while. It sounds like he’s making good progress in his recovery, having shed his walking boot and crutches earlier this week, per Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be ready to return when he’s evaluated again at the end of next week.

According to Boone, Ball has yet to take part in a practice with the Hornets, but has been spotted after practices taking some jump shots and putting his full weight on the injured ankle.

An All-Star in 2022, Ball was off to a hot start this season, averaging career highs in points per game (24.7) and field goal percentage (44.3%), among other categories, through his first 15 games.

The Hornets are 1-3 in his absence, with veteran guard Terry Rozier taking on more ball-handling responsibilities. Rozier has averaged 24.0 points and 8.0 assists per night in the four games since Ball went down.

Terry Rozier Replacing LaMelo Ball As Point Guard

  • Terry Rozier is taking on more point guard duties for the Hornets while LaMelo Ball is sidelined with a right ankle strain, per Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Rozier is averaging a career-high 6.6 assists per game and recorded 13 last Thursday at Brooklyn. “Definitely just getting guys involved early, making sure they feel good,” Rozier said. “Finding guys in their spots, knowing fourth-quarter plays, having a meeting going into the game. So, it just changed in that aspect. But the main thing is winning, so that’s what we are trying to do.” 

Hornets Vice Chairman Fred Whitfield Steps Down From Position With Team

Longtime Hornets executive Fred Whitfield is stepping down from his position with the team and leaving the organization, the club announced today in a press release.

Whitfield isn’t on the basketball operations side of the organization, but has been the head of business operations for 17 years and is the president and vice chairman of Hornets Sports & Entertainment, the team’s ownership group. He has also long held a minority stake in the franchise.

Whitfield’s departure from the Hornets comes just a few months after new co-owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin took control of the franchise, having purchased majority control from former owner and chairman Michael Jordan.

A North Carolina native, Whitfield worked closely with Jordan through several different stages of his career, having held positions at David Falk’s player representation agency, in the Wizards’ front office, and with Nike and Jordan Brand.

“We thank Fred for all he has done for our organization and for the role he has played in helping get our ownership group up to speed over the last several months,” Schnall and Plotkin said in a statement. “His experience, knowledge and relationships in this industry, league and community have been invaluable to our franchise. We appreciate his hard work and dedication and wish him all the best.”

Whitfield cited health and family reasons in his statement confirming his departure from the Hornets.

“Over the last 18 months I have successfully battled a serious case of throat cancer,” Whitfield said. “I’ve also been focused on supporting my mother, who has her own health issues. As these priorities have occupied more of my time and energy, I realized that now is the right time to leave my role with the Hornets, who are on a tremendous path to success with the energy and ideas brought by our new owners, Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin.

“I’m grateful to them for their support during this challenging time, and I also want to thank the prior ownership groups under the leadership of Bob Johnson and Michael Jordan for giving me such a tremendous opportunity.”

Whitfield first joined the franchise in 2006, just two years after Charlotte had returned to the NBA as an expansion franchise. He oversaw the name change from the Bobcats to the Hornets in 2014.

Neither the Hornets’ announcement nor Whitfield’s statement says anything about divesting his shares in the team, so it’s not clear whether he’ll hang onto that minority stake or whether he’s selling it to Schnall and Plotkin (or another minority shareholder).

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Ball, Heat, McClung

With Jalen Johnson unavailable due to a wrist injury, the Hawks have been experimenting a little more with different frontcourt combinations, including playing centers Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu alongside one another, writes Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (subscription required).

The pairing is very much a work in progress, particularly on the offensive end, but it showed some intriguing potential against bigger teams like San Antonio and Milwaukee, according to Williams.

“There’s certain times in the game where that allows itself and there’s certain matchups where I think it pays dividends defensively,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “(Saturday vs. Milwaukee) was one of those nights).”

For his part, Okongwu is on board with the idea of handling power forward alongside Capela if it means he’ll get an opportunity to play a little more.

“Whatever it takes for me to be on the court longer, I’ll do it,” Okongwu said. “Playing the four, it’s obviously is an adjustment but nothing I can’t do.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Hornets guard LaMelo Ball still has a noticeable limp and isn’t expected to return anytime soon, but he’s no longer wearing a walking boot, tweets Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. That’s a promising first step in Ball’s recovery from a severely sprained right ankle, which he’s scheduled to have reevaluated this week.
  • Buoyed by a seven-game winning streak in the first half of November, the Heat are 11-9 after 20 games, but many of their victories have come against subpar competition and they’ve lost four of their last five contests. Jimmy Butler kept coming back to one word when describing the team’s performance so far, per Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. “We stand right where we don’t want to be, which is very mediocre, not good, not bad, not great, not any of those things,” Butler said. “Just mediocre. You talk about our offense has been mediocre. You talk about our defense has been mediocre. That’s the word I would use.”
  • Mac McClung, who has been playing for the Magic‘s G League affiliate this season, was named the NBAGL’s player of the month for November, the league announced on Monday (Twitter link). McClung averaged 25.4 points, 5.7 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game in nine November contests for the Osceola Magic, but isn’t under contract with Orlando — the 2023 slam dunk champion remains an NBA free agent, available to sign with any team.

Hornets Notes: Hayward, Williams, Richards, Miller, Bridges

With his time in Charlotte possibly ending soon, Gordon Hayward talked to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype about his three-plus years with the Hornets, which he admits have been “up and down.” Hayward has an expiring $31.5MM contract that makes him an attractive trade chip, and Scotto reported last week that several contenders have already called about his availability.

“There have been moments where it’s been really fun with big-time wins,” said Hayward, who came to Charlotte in a sign-and-trade deal in 2020. “There have been a lot of moments where I was injured my first two years at the beginning of the year. They were unfortunate injuries. Those suck. There’s nothing you can do about that. It’s sports, and it happens.”

Hayward has been healthy this season and has helped the Hornets remain competitive, averaging 14.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists through 17 games. He’s enjoying his role as a veteran leader and discussed several of his young teammates with Scotto. He said Brandon Miller is exhibiting unusual poise as a passer for a rookie, LaMelo Ball has developed a more complete game and Mark Williams has the potential to become an elite defender.

“He’s got a great feel for the game,” Hayward said of Willians. “In Utah, you could see the same thing with Rudy Gobert. Initially, he’s young and kind of like Bambi out there, but you can’t teach that defensive feel where they have good timing and know when to help or when to play cat and mouse. Offensively, he’s got great hands and catches just about everything. He’s still going to get better and has a ways to go, but I think he’s definitely taken a step, and he’s certainly got a bright future.”

There’s more from Charlotte:

  • The Hornets plan to bring Nick Richards along slowly in his return from a concussion, according to Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Richards missed six games while he was in the league’s concussion protocol and played just nine minutes in his first game back Saturday night. “(Have to watch) more so just his minutes because most injuries when guys are hurt, they can still do cardio and not lose a great deal of conditioning over a couple weeks,” coach Steve Clifford said. “With him and a concussion, he wasn’t able to do anything. … He’s going to need a few games to just get his conditioning level back.”
  • Clifford was impressed by Miller’s determination to keep playing after turning his ankle in Tuesday’s game, Boone adds. “You don’t get a lot of younger players who are like that anymore,” Clifford said. “He went out there in the second half and actually played pretty well. He was limping around a little, but he has more of an old-school type outlook on this game.”
  • In a separate story, Boone looks at how Miles Bridges was able to return to an elite level so quickly after his 10-game suspension.

Injury Notes: Haliburton, Bam, K. Murray, Nuggets, Suns, Hornets

Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton is expected to be out for Saturday’s game against Miami, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. Indiana’s best player is officially listed as questionable.

As Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star tweets, Haliburton missed the team’s shootaround this morning due to a right knee bone bruise and an upper respiratory infection. The Pacers went just 6-20 without Haliburton last season, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter).

Haliburton, who signed a five-year, maximum-salary rookie scale extension in the offseason, is off to an All-NBA-caliber start to 2023/24, averaging career highs of 27.0 points and a league-leading 11.8 assists per game while posting an elite .519/.447/.880 shooting line. The Pacers host the Celtics on Monday for the quarterfinal of the league’s inaugural in-season tournament, so hopefully he’ll be back in time for that contest.

Heat center Bam Adebayo has also been ruled out of Saturday’s contest due to a left hip contusion, tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (subscriber link) wouldn’t be surprised to see Orlando Robinson get the starting nod in his place, with Kevin Love continuing to come off the bench due to the synergy he’s developing with the second unit.

Here are a few more injury notes from around the NBA:

  • Kings forward Keegan Murray, the No. 4 overall pick of last year’s draft, will return on Saturday against Denver after missing four games due to lower back soreness, sources tell Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 KTXL (Twitter link). As for the Nuggets, Jamal Murray (ankle) and Aaron Gordon (heel) are questionable after missing Friday’s game against Phoenix, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link).
  • Suns star Devin Booker is questionable for Saturday’s contest vs. Memphis, notes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Booker, who is dealing with an ankle sprain, missed Friday’s game against Denver. Eric Gordon is also questionable due to a right knee contusion.
  • Hornets backup center Nick Richards will return to action on Saturday after missing the previous six games while in the league’s concussion protocol, the team announced (via Twitter). No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller will also be available after missing Charlotte’s last game with a left ankle injury.

Southeast Notes: Adebayo, Heat, Magic, Wizards, McGowens, Smith

Heat center Bam Adebayo went to the locker room in the second quarter of Miami’s Thursday victory over the Pacers after re-aggravating a hip injury, then was later ruled out for the rest of the game.

He came in those last four minutes of the second quarter and he was just getting some treatment at halftime with the intention to come back,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said, per Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. “I basically talked to him in my office and just said, ‘Look, you’re laboring like the fourth quarter of the New York game and it’s November right now. I’m not putting you back in in the second half. I’m taking this decision out of your hands.’ I didn’t even talk to the trainers at that point.

This lingering hip issue has caused Adebayo to miss three games this season already. While it hasn’t yet kept him out of action long-term, it’s still worth monitoring Miami’s leading scorer and rebounder.

It’s not, thankfully, something serious,” Spoelstra said. “It’s just you play competitive NBA basketball, you get hit, you’re jumping and you’re twisting, all that stuff. He heals fast, so we’ll continue to treat him and see where we are.

With Adebayo out of action, the Heat turned to Thomas Bryant, who had previously been out of the rotation, but he only logged six minutes to start the second half. Orlando Robinson also saw some action, but Kevin Love took on the brunt of the workload at the position.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Spoelstra made headlines this offseason when he said he felt the Heat were deeper this year than last. At the time, the Heat had just missed out on trading for Damian Lillard and lost Gabe Vincent and Max Strus to free agency. But Spoelstra appears to have been proven right, with Miami’s depth propelling the team in the early parts of the season, Chiang writes in a separate piece. Even with Tyler Herro unavailable, the Heat’s reserves outscored Indiana’s bench 66-23 on Thursday. Love, Josh Richardson, Caleb Martin and Jaime Jaquez are among the bench players currently flourishing. “That’s scary, man,” Martin said. “Shoot, Duncan is coming off a hand injury, you got Tyler who’s not even back in the mix. We got a lot of guys we can turn to and that’s the scary thing about it. … We just got a lot of talented dudes who are ready whenever their name is going to be called.
  • The Magic, whose 13-5 record is the second-best in the NBA, are one of the league’s top teams. Josh Robbins of The Athletic analyzes how Orlando set the standard for what a rebuild should look like, and compares it to how the Wizards have started theirs. As Robbins observes, the Magic sold high on their core at the right time, primarily by turning Nikola Vucevic into Franz Wagner, a baton handoff for franchise cornerstone, by way of trade. Robbins opines that for the Wizards, the best time to trade Bradley Beal, their centerpiece at the time, was from 2019-21. Then, when former decision-makers gave Beal a no-trade clause, it forced newly hired president Michael Winger and general manager Will Dawkins to sell low on the three-time All-Star, failing to kick-start a rebuild in the way the Magic did when they traded Vucevic.
  • Hornets guards Bryce McGowens and Nick Smith are both getting increased opportunities in Charlotte, with each scoring season highs in Thursday’s win over the Nets. “Bryce is just putting a lot of work in and it’s showing,” Charlotte guard Terry Rozier said, per The Charlotte Observer’s Roderick Boone. “That’s all it is. We are all happy for him and hopefully he can keep it going.” Smith said he’s enjoying the chance to contribute as a young rookie.

Fischer’s Latest: Pistons, Ivey, M. Williams, Bridges

After starting 73 games and averaging 31.1 minutes per night as a rookie last season, Pistons guard Jaden Ivey has started just five of 15 games in 2023/24, with his playing time dipping to 22.7 MPG. As we outlined last night, he was moved back to the bench on Thursday vs. New York and logged just 13 minutes, his second-lowest mark of the season.

Ivey’s inconsistent role under new head coach Monty Williams has “sparked some tension” among the team’s top decision-makers, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who cites league sources.

As Fischer details, there were rumblings back in training camp that Williams’ fondness for rookies Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser – who were drafted after he was hired – could lead to reduced minutes for Ivey. For his part, last year’s No. 5 overall pick has taken his fluctuating role in stride.

“There wasn’t anything said,” Ivey told Fischer. “Once I saw what was going on, coming off the bench was no problem for me. I love every single one of these dudes in here. I’d ride for them any day. Coming off the bench isn’t a confidence thing or a downer for me. I’m still confident in my game and play the same way.”

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • If Ivey’s role remains in flux, there will certainly be rival teams calling the Pistons to see what it would take to acquire him, according to Fischer, who notes that several clubs attempted to trade up and acquired the guard during the 2022 draft, even after Detroit made the pick official. For now though, the expectation is that the Pistons will be focused on trading veterans, Fischer says, with Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks, and Monte Morris among the candidates to be dealt.
  • Monty Williams‘ record-setting six-year, $78MM+ contract has led to speculation from rival teams about the type of influence he’ll have in personnel decisions. However, the Pistons‘ head coach said this week that he doesn’t expect to get overly involved in the team’s in-season trade negotiations, even though he and general manager Troy Weaver talk about the roster. “Troy tells me stuff, but that’s not my job,” Williams said, per Fischer. “I trust his ability to evaluate talent. He’s one of the best in the league. He’s gonna ask me about a guy. Does he fit our style? Is he the kind of player we want? That kind of thing. But I’m not one of those coaches that’s gonna be like, ‘No’ or ‘Yes,’ that kind of thing. I gotta trust his judgment.”
  • In the latest episode of his No Cap Room podcast with Dan Devine (YouTube link), Fischer suggested that it’s possible 2023/24 will be Miles Bridges‘ last season with the Hornets. “There’s not a lot of confidence or expectation around the league that’s going to be back in Charlotte next year,” Fischer said. Bridges signed his qualifying offer as a restricted free agent during the 2023 offseason, which means he’ll be unrestricted in 2024.

LaMelo Ball Likely Sidelined For Extended Period

NOVEMBER 30: Ball will be reevaluated in one week after an MRI confirmed he suffered a right ankle sprain, according to a release from the team.

NOVEMBER 28: Hornets star guard LaMelo Ball has a severely sprained right ankle and will likely miss extended time, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links).

While the ankle isn’t fractured, a cautious approach is expected for a player who has been riddled with injuries in his young career. Ball had surgery on the same ankle last season. He’s currently in a walking boot and on crutches, per Charania.
Ball had already been ruled out Tuesday’s in-season tournament game against the Knicks. He needed assistance to leave the court on Sunday after being injured against Orlando.
Ball landed awkwardly while attempting a left-handed layup shortly before halftime of that contest when he got tangled up with Paolo Banchero.
Ball was limited to 36 games last season because of four ankle injuries. He had gotten off to a strong start this fall — 24.7 points, 8.2 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game. He scored 30 points or more in seven of his last 10 games.
Ball signed a five-year max extension during the summer. Ball’s starting salary on the new deal will pay him at least 25% of the 2024/25 cap. There is reportedly Rose Rule language in the contract that could increase that figure to 30% of the cap if Ball earns All-NBA honors this season. A lengthy absence would almost certainly dash those hopes, given the 65-game minimum requirement for major awards this seasono.
Without Ball, Hornets guards Ish Smith, Theo Maledon and James Bouknight could all see a bump in playing time.

Southeast Notes: Ball, Bridges, Avdija, Magic

The Hornets haven’t provided an update on LaMelo Ball‘s ankle injury or given any indication of a timetable for his return, but it sounds like his teammates are preparing to be without him for an extended stretch, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

Ball had to be assisted to the locker room after hurting the ankle Sunday in Orlando. He has been ruled out for Thursday’s game at Brooklyn, but no official details have been given beyond that. Ball wore a walking boot and used a crutch during Wednesday’s practice, according to Boone.

“Yeah it’s tough, no matter how you cut it, it’s tough,” Mark Williams said. “But at the same time that’s what the league is. You’ve got to be able to adjust. You’ve got to be able to cooperate well with different lineups and you’ve just got to find a way. But of course it’s tough. It’s tough not having your guys out there. But guys know they’ve got to step up and you’ve got to figure it out.”

A report Tuesday indicated that Ball avoided an ankle fracture, but he’s still expected to miss significant time. Hornets coach Steve Clifford plans to handle the absence the same way he did when Ball had surgery on the ankle in March, keeping the talented guard close to the team and including him in discussions of game strategy.

“He’ll be at shootaround and he’s just got to continue,” Clifford said. “He’ll do the same stuff that he did last year, the same stuff that he did with his rehab before.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Despite his legal issues, there’s a good chance Miles Bridges will have a long-term future with the Hornets, Boone adds in a mailbag column. Bridges, who’s averaging 19.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists since returning from his 10-game suspension, accepted the team’s $7.9MM qualifying offer and will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
  • Wizards forward Deni Avdija has become more consistent after being a hot-and-cold shooter through his first three NBA seasons, notes Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports. Avdija is third on the team in scoring at 12.1 PPG while shooting a career-high 51.9% from the floor and 39.6% from three-point range. The 22-year-old is solidified as part of the future in Washington after signing a four-year extension prior to the season.
  • The Magic had several chances to advance to the final eight in the in-season tournament, but nothing went their way Tuesday night, per Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando could have won East Group C with a Toronto victory over Brooklyn or a Boston win over Chicago by fewer than 22 points. The Magic also had a chance at a wild card if Miami had won at Milwaukee or New York had beaten Charlotte by fewer than four points. Orlando wound up getting eliminated despite a 3-1 record and a +22 point differential.