Cody Zeller

Hornets Notes: Borrego, Batum, Howard, Zeller

Nicolas Batum may benefit more than anyone from the Hornets’ coaching change, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Spurs assistant James Borrego is expected to install the motion offense used in San Antonio, which plays to Batum’s strengths of handling the ball and making quick decisions.

Charlotte’s approach under Steve Clifford this season was heavy on postups for center Dwight Howard, which restricted Batum’s effectiveness. His scoring average dropped to 11.6 points per game, the lowest in his three years with the Hornets, and Bonnell speculates that he needs a new approach on offense to become productive again.

Bonnell addresses more Hornets topics in a mailbag column:

  • New GM Mitch Kupchak would like to move at least one big contract this summer to provide cap relief, but the organization might be wise to hold onto Howard. Bonnell states that the team may be in a better long-term position by allowing Howard’s $23.8MM contract to expire next summer rather than trading it for other expensive assets. However, he questions how much Howard will play next season, especially if the Hornets fall out of contention early.
  • Of the five players with large contracts, Cody Zeller may be easiest to trade. Zeller is signed for the next three seasons at an average of about $14MM per year, but he is only 25 and could develop into an effective center if he can overcome his injury history.
  • Young players Malik Monk, Willy Hernangomez and Dwayne Bacon may get a better chance to prove themselves under Borrego than Clifford. Bonnell says all three will be closely watched and supervised over the offseason, although Hernangomez will spend a large part of the summer with the Spanish National Team.
  • Borrego may try to add a former NBA head coach to his staff, just as Clifford did with Bob Weiss and Eddie Jordan.
  • The most pressing offseason need is finding a point guard to back up Kemba Walker. Monk played there late in the season, but Bonnell notes that it’s too early to say if that’s his best position. It’s also a long-term concern because Walker is headed for free agency in 2019.

Hornets Notes: Howard, Hernangomez, Walker

The Hornets shouldn’t have any regrets when it comes to their offseason acquisition of Dwight Howard, but despite the 32-year-old veteran’s admirably productive season, the team should look into trading him, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes.

Howard has been impressively consistent and durable and the move that the club made to acquire him was worth the risk. Unfortunately for Hornets fans, Charlotte seems destined to rebuild, something that Howard may not be all that interested in and that his arduous $23.8MM 2018/19 contract may complicate.

In 76 games for the Hornets this season, Howard has averaged 16.8 points – his highest scoring output in four seasons – and 12.4 rebounds.

There’s more out of Charlotte tonight:

  • Midseason acquisition Willy Hernangomez has had his work cut out for him appeasing Hornets coach Steve Clifford but the young big man appears to be taking the constructive crticisim to heart, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes. “With every player, you have to find a way that you’re comfortable talking with them and they are comfortable talking with you. Serious players, they want a coach who can help them play better,” Clifford said.
  • A year of setbacks and injuries has continued into the final month of the regular season. Most recently, the Hornets have watched big man Cody Zeller shut things down for the remainder of the season. “I would say we’re at the stage now where it almost becomes, ‘Why [ask him to play]?‘” head coach Steve Clifford told Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “It’s so hard to not play for long stretches off the season. Why, with five games left, would we even play him? It makes more sense to me to let him get back to 100 percent and then just start again next [season].”
  • A dramatic year has resulted in another disappointing, playoff-less season for the Hornets and now it seems as though Kemba Walker‘s future in Charlotte is far from certain. This week we asked readers what they think will come of Walker’s tenure with the organization. Could Hornets fans be nearing the end of an era?

Hornets Notes: Clifford, Bacon, Zeller, Batum

The Hornets have already announced that general manager Rich Cho won’t have his contract renewed after this season, and according to Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer, head coach Steve Clifford probably shouldn’t be retained either.

Despite being one of the best coaches that the city of Charlotte has ever had – in Sorensen’s eyes – Sorensen wonders whether the team has reached a point where the players have stopped listening to Clifford and his message.

The Hornets have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this year. The team was widely expected to compete for a playoff spot, but have been out of the hunt for much of the season, currently sporting a record of 34-41 with seven games remaining after finishing with a similarly disappointing record last season at 36-46.

There’s more out of Charlotte from Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:

  • The Hornets selected Malik Monk with the 11th overall pick in last year’s draft, with expectations that Monk could come in and help the team this season. However, the Charlotte rookie who has probably ended up having the best season is second-round pick Dwayne Bacon, the 40th overall selection. With that in mind, Bonnell analyzes whether Bacon could end up being the better catch.
  • Hornets big man Cody Zeller missed his 10th consecutive game tonight against the Cavs, leaving Bonnell to wonder whether Zeller may be done for the season. Zeller, who thought he might be ready to play in Dallas on Saturday, said his injured left knee had begun to swell again after he tested it.
  • Part of the Hornets’ problem is a high payroll for next season, leaving the team with few options to improve upon its current roster. One albatross of a contract is that of Nicolas Batum, who is scheduled to make $24MM next season. In a mailbag piece, Bonnell answers some readers’ questions regarding Batum and his contract, among others.

Southeast Notes: Wade, Zeller, Wilkins, Magic

Dwyane Wade spent his first 13 seasons as a member of the Heat and he wants to finish his career with the organization. Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel writes that Wade, who is currently with the Cavaliers, wants to find a way back to South Beach before retirement.

“I have thought about it, of course. I wouldn’t lie and say I haven’t,” Wade said to Winderman of possibly rejoining the Heat. “When that opportunity comes, that day comes, hopefully, I can go out in a Miami Heat jersey. I don’t know how it will be, but I would love it.”

Wade, who recently turned 36, is enjoying a solid season off the bench for Cleveland, averaging 11.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 3.7 APG in 44 games. The Heat are in the midst of a strong season, sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a 29-23 record. Wade said he has followed the team since his departure and is proud of how the team has meshed together to find success.

Ideally, Wade would finish his playing career with one final season in a Heat uniform. However, it is possible for Wade to sign a one-day ceremonial contract — similar to Paul Pierce with the Celtics — and officially retire as a member of the Heat.

Check out other news from the Southeast Division:

  • Cody Zeller made his return on Friday after missing 21 games with torn left meniscus, providing a jolt for the Hornets. Brendan Marks of the Charlotte Observer writes that while it’s too early to tell how well Zeller has recovered, he could play a pivotal role as the Hornets make a playoff push.
  • The Hornets’ G-League affiliate Greensboro Swarm announced that 10-year NBA veteran Damien Wilkins has joined the team. Wilkins started the year with the Pacers and now returns to the Swarm, a team he appeared in 48 games with last season.
  •  Magic general manager John Hammond does not characterize the 15-35 as sellers but acknowledged any moves Orlando makes at the deadline are with the future in mind, John Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel writes.

Injury Notes: Zeller, Dunn, Lydon

The Hornets are expected to get  Cody Zeller involved in team scrimmages in a matter of days Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes. The forward has been sidelined since undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in mid-December.

Zeller was a critical piece of the Hornets’ rotation before his injury and will look to settle back into his new role of manning the backup center position behind Dwight Howard as soon as he’s cleared to do so.

In 19 games of action for the Hornets, Zeller has averaged 7.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. His return will be much appreciated by a team that’s struggled mightily in the first half of 2017/18.

There are other injury updates to report on this evening:

  • Rookie forward Tyler Lydon will miss four months of action after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports. The Nuggets revealed in a press release that Lydon went under the knife after an injury sustained on assignment in the G League.
  • We wrote last week that Bulls guard Kris Dunn was out indefinitely after entering the NBA’s concussion protocol. This week, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes that the guard’s symptoms haven’t changed much. Dun, who still suffers headaches, will take the comeback process slow and be out a while longer.
  • Pistons big man Jon Leuer underwent successful surgery on his left ankle and will miss the remainder of the 2017/18 campaign, Rod Beard of The Detroit News tweets. Leuer now faces a four-month recovery process.

Southeast Notes: Heat Injuries, Hornets, Isaac

The Heat have dealt with a plethora of injuries this season but, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes, the team is slowly but surely making progress. Hassan Whiteside, for example, has started doing on-court work for the first time since being sidelined eight games ago.

While there’s still no timetable for Whiteside’s return, Heat fans can take solace in the fact that head coach Erik Spoelstra seems convinced that Rodney McGruder will return to the court by the end of the season.

I will not answer [in more detail] because he will read it and take it as major progress and then start banging on my door and say I’m ready to play,” the Heat coach said. “He’s out of the boot and doing more work, all non-impact at this point.

Finally, there was hope that Justise Winslow would be able to return within the week for the Heat. The forward received optimistic MRI results after injuring his knee on Wednesday. Spoelstra, however, pumped the brakes on that one saying that he wouldn’t commit to that timetable. Winslow is currently limited to bicycle and pool work.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division tonight:

Cody Zeller To Undergo Surgery, Miss Six Weeks

Hornets center Cody Zeller will undergo surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee on Tuesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets, citing league sources. Zeller is expected to miss six weeks, Wojnarowski adds.

Zeller injured the knee last week against the Warriors. Zeller was relegated a second-unit role this season with the addition of Dwight Howard but had been productive, averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.5 RPG. In his absence, Frank Kaminsky and Johnny O’Bryant will likely share minutes behind Howard. Kaminsky has missed two games with an ankle sprain but is expected to play Monday.

Zeller, 25, has long-term security but it remains to be seen whether the knee injury will have a lingering effect. He’s making $12.6MM this season and his contract runs through the 2020/21 season.

If the Hornets want to add a big man, they could sign a free agent to a pro-rated, non-guaranteed minimum deal and remain below the luxury tax line, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. The Hornets have a roster spot open and are $1.8MM below the tax line, Marks notes.

Cody Zeller Out Indefinitely With Torn Meniscus

The Hornets will be without Cody Zeller indefinitely as the 25-year-old explores treatment options for a torn meniscus, the team announced in a press release. Zeller injured his left knee in Charlotte’s Wednesday night loss to the Warriors.

Zeller has seen his role reduced in 2017/18 thanks to the team’s acquisition of Dwight Howard, but he has been a pivotal part of the Hornets’ second unit. In 19.9 minutes per game so far this season, Zeller is averaged 7.2 points and 5.5 rebounds.

It’s not clear at this point whether Zeller will elect to go under the knife, but that surgery decision could impact his recovery time. Torn meniscus surgeries ended the 2016/17 campaigns of both Joel Embiid and Derrick Rose last spring.

In the meantime, Charlotte will rely more heavily on Howard with Zeller’s fellow reserve Frank Kaminsky hobbled by an injury of his own.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Zeller, Hezonja

The battle for the Wizards‘ final regular season roster spot figures to come down to Donald Sloan and Carrick Felix, and head coach Scott Brooks calls it one of the “toughest” roster decisions he’s had to make in recent years, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. The decision may ultimately come down to what sort of player the Wizards want to keep around, since Sloan, a veteran point guard, and Felix, an athletic swingman, would play different roles.

In theory, the Wizards could keep both players on the roster. The team only has 13 players on fully guaranteed contracts, leaving two openings. However, a 14th player – Sheldon Mac – has been ruled out for most or all of the season with a torn Achilles, and Washington will be on the hook for his salary until he recovers, whether or not he’s on the roster. By waiving him and keeping both Sloan and Felix, the Wizards would essentially be paying 16 players, an undesirable outcome for a club already well over the luxury-tax line.

Here’s more from around the Southeast division:

  • Having signed a new four-year extension with the Heat this offseason, Josh Richardson is now determined to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2016/17 season, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes.
  • The offseason arrival of Dwight Howard supplanted Cody Zeller from the starting lineup, but the Hornets‘ backup center remains valuable to the team as he enters the first year of a new contract. Sam Perley of Hornets.com has the story on Zeller.
  • Mario Hezonja, 2015’s fifth overall pick, took a step backward during his second NBA season last year. However, he has been solid in the preseason as he looks to cement a role in the Magic‘s rotation, says John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com.
  • Backup Hawks point guard Malcolm Delaney spoke to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype about making the leap to the NBA last year, his decision to join the Hawks, and his expectations for Atlanta in 2017/18. “With our system and the way we move the ball, we could surprise a lot of people,” Delaney said. “My goal is always going to be to win. I don’t believe in rebuilding. I certainly don’t believe in tanking. I’m going out to win every game because this is my contract year and I’ve gotten to this point because of winning.”

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Wizards, Jordan

The Hornets struggled to keep leads when their starters – particularly Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller – were on the bench last season. The question ahead of 2017/18 then, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer asks, is whether or not that will change this season.

Gone are all of Walker’s and Zeller’s backups, a veritable laundry list of players from Ramon Sessions, Brian Roberts and Briante Weber to Spencer Hawes, Roy Hibbert and Miles Plumlee. In their place are Michael Carter-Williams and Dwight Howard, both of whom were attained by the Hornets at relative bargains over the summer.

Of course the addition of Carter-Williams will provide size and defense to the Hornets’ second unit but the real draw is Howard, not because of what he’ll add off the bench but because of what his addition to the starting lineup entails.

As we’ve already written, head coach Steve Clifford has already committed to starting Howard when the season begins, that means Zeller himself will be able to work directly with the Hornets’ second unit to help do for them what he did for the starting five in 2016/17.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards will have a number of players to replace Markieff Morris with when the season tips off. The forward is currently expected to miss six to eight weeks with a sports hernia. “We have versatility and we have depth. We can go in many different directions. We can go small. We can throw Kelly Oubre]in there. We can throw Jason Smith in there. Mike Scott we can put in there. There’s a lot of players that we can throw into the mix,” head coach Scott Brooks told Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic.
  • Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan will soon have a stake in another professional sports franchise. Jordan is part of Derek Jeter‘s group that has been approved to buy the Miami Marlins, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.
  • Only time will tell how Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer and new general manager Travis Schlenk mesh over the next few years but the dynamic between the two could be worth watching as the organization’s priorities shift from winning ball games to developing for the future. Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Budenholzer will embrace the rebuild, whether that’s his preference or not.