Gordon Hayward

Bulpett’s Latest: D’Antoni, Hornets, Hayward, Kings, Irving

The Hornets‘ head coaching search is still in progress, but three league sources who spoke to Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com said they believe Mike D’Antoni is the frontrunner to land the job.

“I don’t think it’s a done deal or anything, but I know they like the idea of what he can do with LaMelo (Ball) and their running game,” a source told Bulpett. “If D’Antoni can get those guys on his wavelength, that’s going to be an even more fun team to watch.”

D’Antoni has coached a total of 1,199 regular season games for five different teams. If he were to be hired by the Hornets, he would be the second-oldest NBA head coach of all-time, behind only Gregg Popovich. D’Antoni turned 71 on Sunday.

Here’s more from Bulpett:

  • According to Bulpett, chatter around the NBA indicates that the Hornets would like to get off Gordon Hayward‘s contract, which has two years and $61.6MM left on it. “I know Gordon’s situation has been super frustrating,” one executive said to Heavy.com. “He’s such an important player when he’s healthy. He’s talented and he plays the right way. But him staying healthy is a big if.”
  • While Kyrie Irving faced plenty of criticism for his end-of-season comments about “managing the franchise” along with Kevin Durant, GM Sean Marks, and team owner Joe Tsai. However, a source close to the situation suggests Irving was merely stating a fact. “When Kyrie signed as a free agent, he basically said, ‘I’ll come and I’ll bring Kevin Durant,'” that source told Bulpett. “And in return, the Nets agreed that he could have a say in the roster decisions. … With Kyrie, they talked this out beforehand. He wanted a situation like LeBron (James) has — or like he thinks LeBron has.”
  • Bulpett has heard that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, who has had an outsized voice in some basketball decisions in the past, chose to listen to his basketball operations executives in the head coaching search, which led to Sacramento hiring Mike Brown. In addition to general manager Monte McNair, assistant GM Wes Wilcox was involved in that coaching decision, Bulpett notes.

Hornets Notes: Hayward, Bridges, Coaching Search, Harrell, Washington

Hornets forward Gordon Hayward is a name to watch in the trade market, though injuries limit his value, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto, who conducted a podcast with Charlotte Observer beat reporter Rod Boone.

Hayward is regarded as a “neutral asset” that the Hornets can move. However, it’s unlikely they’ll benefit much in terms of cap space if they deal the veteran, who has two years and $61.5MM remaining on his contract. One executive told Scotto they might be able to move him for two players making around $10-15MM apiece.

The Pacers are an unlikely destination after trading away Domantas Sabonis and building around younger pieces.

More highlights from the podcast:

  • Both Scotto and Boone anticipate Miles Bridges will get $25MM or more annually in restricted free agency. Scotto sees Bridges as being coveted due to his status as a young, two-way, big wing. The Trail Blazers could pursue him if they can’t trade for Jerami Grant and teams with cap space, like the Pistons, could also be a factor. Boone believes he’ll return to the Hornets due to unfinished business with an improving team. The fact that he’s close with LaMelo Ball also works in Charlotte’s favor.
  • Neither Scotto nor Boone believe Mike D’Antoni is a viable option in the search for a head coach. Former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and Mavericks assistant Sean Sweeney are names to watch there. However, D’Antoni could wind up in Philadelphia if the Sixers let Doc Rivers go, according to Scotto.
  • Free agent Montrezl Harrell generally enjoyed playing with Charlotte this season and could return to the Hornets, depending upon the coaching hire. Harrell probably wouldn’t command more than the taxpayer mid-level on the open market, according to Scotto.
  • P.J. Washington, who is extension-eligible, is a movable piece and his name will pop up in trade rumors.

L.A. Notes: Westbrook, Hayward, Lakers’ Coach, Clippers

After a disappointing first season in Los Angeles, it may seem like the Lakers would take whatever they can get in a trade this offseason for Russell Westbrook and his $47MM+ salary, but that’s not the case, Marc Stein writes at Substack.com. According to Stein, Los Angeles will have “more boundaries than advertised” when weighing potential Westbrook deals.

For one, the Lakers will seriously consider a player’s injury history as they explore the trade market for Westbrook. Given how costly injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis were in 2021/22, the team doesn’t want to bring on another high-priced veteran who has been unable to stay healthy in recent years.

In Stein’s view, that means the Lakers are unlikely to be very interested in a trade with the Hornets that includes Gordon Hayward, who has missed 61 of 154 regular season games in Charlotte over the last two years, plus both play-in games. If the Lakers and Hornets discuss Westbrook, it’s possible Hayward could be moved to a third team or Terry Rozier could be substituted as a headliner, but those scenarios would be less appealing from Charlotte’s perspective.

Here are a few more items on the NBA’s two L.A. teams:

  • Outside of the previously-reported big-name targets who are currently coaching other teams – including Nick Nurse, Doc Rivers, and Quin Snyder – the Lakers may consider candidates such as Scott Brooks, Terry Stotts, former Lakers coach Mike Brown, and Jazz assistant Alex Jensen for their head coaching vacancy, per Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times.
  • According to Woike and Turner, people with knowledge of coaching situations around the NBA believe the Lakers‘ open coaching position isn’t looked upon especially favorably, due to concerns about possible front office meddling and the roster/cap situation. “Is the Lakers’ job that attractive?” one coaching agent said. “I’m not so sure it is. But someone will take the job.”
  • Getting Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back in their lineup next season will significantly increase the Clippers‘ ceiling, but there are still areas to improve if the team wants to ensure it’s a title contender, says Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group. Fortifying the point guard spot will be an offseason goal, and replacements will be necessary if key rotation players like Isaiah Hartenstein (UFA) and Nicolas Batum (player option) don’t return.
  • While Leonard’s and George’s injuries limited the Clippers‘ potential in 2021/22, their absences allowed a handful of young players to step in and grow up fast, Swanson writes in a separate story. Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Ivica Zubac, Hartenstein, Amir Coffey, and Brandon Boston Jr. – all of whom are 25 or younger – had bigger roles than they would have if the team had been healthier, which could pay off for the club down the road.

Hornets Notes: Bridges, Thomas, Hayward, Offseason

Hornets forward Miles Bridges said this week that he’s grateful to the city of Charlotte and loves being a part of the team, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Bridges will be a restricted free agent this summer when the team tenders him a $7.92MM qualifying offer, which is a foregone conclusion after his breakout fourth season.

My mom loves it here, my kids love it here,” Bridges said Thursday. “Charlotte has really taken me in and brought me in. I got drafted as a 20-year-old kid. And for me to grow up here and for everybody to embrace me like they have, that’s something I’ll never forget. Especially going into the contract season. Charlotte took me in as a 20-year-old kid, and now I’m a 24-year-old man, and I love it here.”

The Hornets and Bridges had a disappointing end to their season, as the 24-year-old was ejected from Wednesday’s blowout play-in tournament loss to Atlanta and then received a $50K fine for throwing his mouthpiece into the stands and hitting a teenage fan (he later apologized). He finished with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists after averaging 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 80 games this season.

Bridges sees himself as part of the team’s core alongside LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, and hopes to stick with them long-term, per Boone.

I would love to play with Melo and Terry for the rest of my career,” Bridges said. “Those are my guys, my brothers. All of us damn near averaged 20 (points) this year, so just to have that type of relationship with such dynamic players and bring it to the basketball court every night, you don’t see that too much in the NBA. And we have that relationship and that’s what it is. It will always be like that. So I’m just happy to be a part of them.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Backup point guard Isaiah Thomas, an unrestricted free agent this summer who served as a mentor to Ball, would also like to stick with Charlotte. “Man, I want to be here,” Thomas said, according to Boone. “I see something special in this group. I see a place where I can really help. But I would love to be here. This team gave me a chance when really nobody was giving me one. They allowed me to come in and be who I am. They embraced that on and off the floor.”
  • Gordon Hayward is suffering from a bone chip in his left foot, which is why he missed the team’s play-in game, Boone tweets. Hayward initially sprained ligaments in his left ankle back in February, which caused him to miss 22 games, but after just one game back he started experiencing pain and was diagnosed with the foot injury, as Jonathan M. Alexander of The Charlotte Observer relays.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic explores the team’s offseason and future, noting that a starting-caliber center and improving the defense are areas that need to be addressed, but doing so could be easier said than done.

Hornets Rumors: Kupchak, Hayward, Bridges, Borrego

People around the NBA have speculated for years about the possibility of Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak leaving the organization or transitioning into more of an advisory role, but those whispers have intensified this year, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. As Fischer explains, Kupchak’s current contract with Charlotte is believed to expire at the end of this season.

It’s unclear at this point what Kupchak’s future holds, but Fischer says two names have frequently been cited as potential candidates for the top job in the Hornets’ front office if a change occurs. One is current assistant general manager Buzz Peterson, who was roommates with team owner Michael Jordan at UNC. The other is Bulls GM Marc Eversley, who interviewed for the job in 2018 before the Hornets hired Kupchak.

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • “Word has circulated” among rival front offices that Hornets forward Gordon Hayward may be interested in a change of scenery this offseason, Fischer reports. However, a source close to Hayward told Bleacher Report that the veteran is primarily focused on recovering from the foot injury that appears likely to end his season.
  • Some league executives think that Hayward could be involved in a trade for Russell Westbrook, allowing the Hornets to increase their 2023 cap flexibility, according to Fischer. However, it would be a challenge for the Hornets and Lakers to work out a deal that appeals to both sides and includes both of those highly-paid former All-Stars. Using Hayward to try to acquire a center is another option Charlotte could explore, Fischer adds.
  • It’s unclear whether the Pacers will seriously consider Myles Turner – long considered a top trade target for the Hornets – this offseason, but league personnel expect Charlotte to be in the market for a rim protector like Turner. “They don’t defend,” one team scout said to Fischer. “You gotta find a defensive identity.”
  • Fischer’s sources believe the Hornets would match any offer sheet for RFA-to-be Miles Bridges. With that in mind, it remains to be seen if teams will be dissuaded from going after Bridges or if there could be a club willing to submit a maximum-salary offer to force Charlotte to match it. A four-year max deal for Bridges from a rival suitor projects to be worth about $128MM.
  • Even if the Hornets don’t make the playoffs via the play-in tournament, Fischer’s sources inside and outside of the franchise believe head coach James Borrego is a good bet to stick around. “It would make no sense to fire him,” an assistant general manager told Bleacher Report. “I know the NBA is a results-oriented business, but if you believe in him to be your coach, if you believe in him growing alongside LaMelo (Ball) and Bridges, you’ve taken a step forward each of the last two seasons, you just extended him. Why would not making the playoffs with a young roster suddenly change that?”

Gordon Hayward To Miss Play-In Tournament

Hornets forward Gordon Hayward will miss the NBA’s play-in tournament due to a foot injury, the team announced in a press release.

Hayward is out indefinitely because of nagging pain in his left foot. He will be placed in a cast to immobilize his foot and he will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks.

He missed nearly two months of action due to sprained ligaments in his left ankle before returning last Saturday, April 2. Hayward played 17 minutes but returned to the sidelines this week.

The team’s highest-paid player, Hayward is averaging 15.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 3.6 APG in 31.9 MPG in 49 appearances during his second season with the club. He has two seasons and approximately $61.6MM remaining on his contract.

Charlotte entered the final day of the regular season tied for ninth place in the Eastern Conference with a 42-39 record. Assuming they don’t move up in the standings today, the Hornets would have to win two play-in games to earn a playoff spot.

Hornets Might Have Interest In Russell Westbrook

League insiders have increasingly mentioned the Hornets as a team that might have interest in trading for Lakers guard Russell Westbrook, writes Marc Stein at Substack.

Charlotte would only be interested in Westbrook in order to create long-term financial flexibility, and based on salary-matching rules, the team would have to send out roughly $38MM to acquire the former MVP. Stein points to Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier as contracts the team might want to move to accommodate a new deal for Miles Bridges this summer, plus the future max extension of LaMelo Ball.

Hayward has been very productive when healthy for Charlotte, but injuries have again been a concern. After appearing in 44 of 72 games last season, he’s played in 49 of 79 contests this season and is listed as doubtful for Thursday’s matchup with Orlando (Twitter link). Hayward will earn $30.075MM next season and $31.5MM in 2023/24.

Rozier has also been productive over the past few seasons. His four-year, $96.26MM extension starts next season, so he’ll be under contract through ’25/26.

Pairing Hayward or Rozier with Kelly Oubre could work as a framework of a deal, Stein says. He also notes that Hornets owner Michael Jordan has long admired Westbrook, although it isn’t known whether that would play a factor in a potential trade.

The Rockets remain the most logical trade partner for Westbrook due to John Wall‘s salary being a near-perfect match, but the Lakers might not find that any more palatable than they did previously, considering Houston was asking for a first-round pick, per Stein.

League sources tell Stein that the Lakers also haven’t ruled out using the waive-and-stretch provision on Westbrook’s contract, which would split his $47.06MM player option over three seasons with annual hits of $15.69MM. Going that route would take Los Angeles out of the luxury tax and make it much easier to retain Malik Monk; the team badly wants to bring him back, so it’s considered a viable possibility.

Health Updates: D. Murray, Hayward, Mobley, Zion, More

Dejounte Murray, who missed a third straight game on Tuesday due to an upper respiratory illness, may not accompany the Spurs on their trip to Minnesota for Thursday’s game, head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters, including Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link).

As it turned out, the Spurs didn’t need their All-Star guard available in order to clinch a play-in spot with a victory in Denver on Tuesday. The Spurs are just one game behind the Pelicans in the standings for the No. 9 spot and hold the tiebreaker over New Orleans, so if the two teams finish with identical records, their play-in game would take place in San Antonio.

Here are a few more health updates from around the NBA:

  • After making his return from a foot injury on Saturday, Hornets forward Gordon Hayward missed Tuesday’s contest against the Heat. According to Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link), head coach James Borrego referred to it as a precautionary move and said the team doesn’t want to push Hayward too hard following a lengthy absence.
  • Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley did a lot of on-court work on Tuesday and is making progress in his recovery from a sprained ankle, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. A source tells Fedor there’s a chance Mobley will play in Brooklyn on Friday. The team will know more after Thursday’s practice.
  • Pelicans head coach Willie Green didn’t provide an official update on Zion Williamson‘s injury rehab on Tuesday, but sources tell Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter links) that the star forward has progressed to more on-court work. He remains out indefinitely.
  • The Clippers upgraded Norman Powell (foot) from out to doubtful for Wednesday’s game vs. Phoenix, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. It still sounds like Powell probably won’t play tonight, but it’s a good sign that he’s moving closer to a return.
  • Heat power forward P.J. Tucker left Tuesday’s win early due to what the team has initially diagnosed as a right calf strain, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. Acting head coach Chris Quinn said Tucker will get looked at more extensively on Wednesday.

Eastern Notes: Hayward, Lowry, Barnes, Duarte, Porzingis

Incorporating Gordon Hayward back into the rotation is a tricky task for Hornets coach James Borrego, Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer notes. Hayward missed nearly two months of action due to a foot injury. He had five points, four rebounds and three assists in 17 minutes against Philadelphia on Saturday.

“Well, it’s a challenge, but that’s my job and I’ll figure it out,” Borrego said. “We’ll take a look at the film, look at the rotations. We’ve got two days now to digest and figure out what we are going to do. … I’ll try to bring some consistency to the lineup and try to communicate that to our group, making sure everybody understands their role and what this rotation is going to look like moving forward.”

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Heat guard Kyle Lowry is impressed by the lottery pick his former team drafted, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. Lowry sees Scottie Barnes as a potential franchise player for the Raptors. “He’s a special talent. He’s going to be a cornerstone of the franchise,” Lowry said. “He fits in perfectly here – how hard he plays, how passionate he is for the game. And he’s only going to continue to get better.”
  • Pacers rookie Chris Duarte won’t play during the final week of the season, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Duarte hasn’t played since March 15 due to a left big toe injury. Duarte, the 13th pick of last year’s draft, averaged 13.1 PPG in 28 MPG while appearing in 55 games.
  • The Wizards defeated Dallas on Friday, the first time Kristaps Porzingis played against his former team. Porzingis was grateful for the intensity his new teammates showed, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. “What I liked is everybody had my back (Friday),” Porzingis said. “They knew it was, I don’t want to say a personal game, but it’s always fun to compete against your former team. Everybody had my back.”

Hornets’ Gordon Hayward Set To Return On Saturday

With the Hornets in the midst of a battle for play-in positioning, veteran forward Gordon Hayward is poised to make his return from an ankle injury that has sidelined him for nearly two months, writes Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

According to Boone, Hayward has been listed as probable for Saturday’s game in Philadelphia vs. the 76ers and will be available for the Hornets.

Hayward, who last played on February 7, has missed Charlotte’s last 22 games after spraining ligaments in his left ankle. Prior to the injury, he has been his usual productive self, averaging 16.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 3.6 APG on .460/.390/.846 shooting in 48 appearances (32.2 MPG).

The Hornets have held their own without Hayward and have been particularly hot as of late, winning eight of their last 10 games to pull in a three-way tie with Brooklyn and Atlanta for the East’s No. 8 seed. Claiming that spot in the standings would put Charlotte in a stronger position to a earn a playoff spot in the play-in tournament, but it won’t be easy — both the Nets and Hawks have more favorable schedules over the next 10 days, per Tankathon.

After playing in Philadelphia on Saturday, the Hornets will head to Miami to face the Heat on Tuesday. Their regular season schedule will conclude with a a visit to Chicago on April 8, sandwiched by a pair of favorable home matchups vs. Orlando (April 7) and Washington (April 10).