James Borrego

Stein’s Latest: Nash, Hornets, Pacers, Wall, Turner, Mavs

The Nets‘ season could be over in a matter of hours, as the team faces an elimination game at home on Monday night, down 3-0 to Boston in its first-round series.

While a first-round sweep would be a disastrous outcome for a club that entered the season as a championship favorite and would certainly increase scrutiny on head coach Steve Nash, one source close to the situation tells Substack writer Marc Stein that he doesn’t expect Nash to become a fall guy for a disappointing playoff run.

As Stein and his source observe, Nash has faced an inordinate number of challenges during the 2021/22 season, including Kyrie Irving‘s vaccination decision, James Harden‘s trade request, and injuries to players like Kevin Durant and Joe Harris. Stein suggests that Nash shouldn’t avoid blame for the Nets’ struggles, but says there are many larger issues in play as well.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • A concern about player discipline both on and off the court was among the factors in the Hornets‘ decision to part ways with head coach James Borrego, league sources tell Stein.
  • The Pacers expressed some interest in Rockets guard John Wall early in the 2021/22 season, but it didn’t go anywhere and it happened before they acquired Tyrese Haliburton, according to Stein. In other words, Indiana is probably an unlikely offseason suitor for Wall.
  • After seriously considering trading Myles Turner during the ’21/22 season, the Pacers now hope to keep the big man long-term, sources tell Stein. Turner will be extension-eligible this offseason as he enters a contract year.
  • While some Jazz staffers were reportedly upset about seeing Knicks executive William Wesley and Julius Randle courtside at Game 1 of their series vs. Dallas, the Mavericks weren’t particularly bothered by it, since it “didn’t really change anything” in their view, Stein writes. The Knicks are believed to have interest in Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Mavs guard Jalen Brunson, and Dallas is aware of New York’s interest in Brunson. Of course, Brunson is an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Mitchell is under team control for at least three more years.
  • Some teams have asked the NBA to consider making qualification for the play-in tournament contingent on the Nos. 9 and 10 teams finishing within a certain distance of the No. 8 seed, says Stein. It’s unclear whether the league will tweak that rule going forward or leave the format as is.

Hornets Notes: Borrego, Kupchak, Assistants, Jordan

Although Hornets owner Michael Jordan signed off on the decision to fire former head coach James Borrego, a source told Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer that president of basketball operations and general manager Mitch Kupchak was the driving force behind the move.

An embarrassing 29-point play-in tournament loss to Atlanta after suffering a 27-point defeat to Indiana in last season’s play-in was one reason Kupchak decided to move on from Borrego, according to Boone. The team’s poor defense — Charlotte was ranked 22nd in the regular season and gave up 132 points to Atlanta — was another.

The players also weren’t receptive to Borrego’s messages of late, per Boone, which was likely another factor that Kupchak considered before making his judgment.

The move stunned many people around the league, including an NBA agent who represents a Hornets player.

I’m shocked,” the agent told Boone. “I’m kind of surprised. I thought he did a good job.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • League sources told Boone that all of the assistant coaches who worked under Borrego will remain on staff until the new head coach is hired, and the new hire will determine whether to retain them or not.
  • It’s clear that Charlotte no longer accepts losing after relieving its coach, and at minimum a playoff berth should be expected going forward. With that in mind, Matthew Stephens of The Charlotte Observer explores a few potential candidates for the opening, including former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.
  • Borrego’s firing is the latest example of Jordan’s failing as an owner, argues Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer. Since Jordan became a minority partner in 2006, he has had final say in the team’s basketball operations. In that 16 year-span, the Hornets have won zero playoff series, and only made it to the postseason three times, Fowler notes.

Hornets Fire James Borrego

11:56am: The Hornets officially announced in a press release that they’ve relieved Borrego of his duties as head coach.

“I want to thank JB for his hard work and commitment during these past four seasons,” president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Beyond his work as a coach, he is a tremendous person. I wish him and his family the best in the future. These decisions are always difficult. Having said that, we have a talented, young core of players which has me very excited about the future of the Hornets. We will begin the search for our new head coach immediately.”


10:46am: The Hornets are dismissing head coach James Borrego, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Borrego is just one year removed from signing a contract extension with Charlotte. After having his option for 2021/22 picked up, Borrego agreed to a new deal that reportedly tacked on at least two years to his previous contract. However, it appears the Hornets are letting him go before that contract even takes effect.

A former Spurs assistant, Borrego was hired to replace Steve Clifford in 2018. He led the team to a 39-43 record in his first year, then posted a 23-42 mark in year two after losing Kemba Walker in free agency.

In the last two years, however, the Hornets had been taking positive steps forward, led by young cornerstones LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges, in addition to veteran additions like Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier.

Charlotte went 33-39 in 2020/21 and 43-39 this season, despite missing Hayward due to injuries for a significant portion of this year. In both 2021 and 2022, the team made the play-in tournament, but was blown out in its first game and eliminated from playoff contention.

As Wojnarowski observes (via Twitter), the decision to move on from Borrego is somewhat surprising, but it seems that Hornets leadership decided that the team’s poor play-in showings and lack of playoff berths negated the positive development shown by Ball, Bridges, and – prior to his 2021 departure – Devonte’ Graham.

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report wrote earlier this month that there had been some speculation about the possibility of the Hornets replacing Borrego if the team didn’t make the playoffs, but Fischer said at the time there was a “heavier dose of optimism” that the head coach would stick around. One rival assistant GM told Bleacher Report “it would make no sense” to fire him, given the progress he had made with the team’s young core.

The Hornets will be the third team this offseason to launch a search for a new head coach, joining the Lakers and Kings.

Hornets Notes: Play-In Loss, Bridges, Washington, Borrego

The Hornets were exposed by the Hawks in Wednesday’s play-in game that ended their season, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

As Boone outlines, the Hornets’ Achilles heel all year long was their defense and it was the weak link again on Wednesday in a 132-103 loss. Penetration into the paint was an ongoing issue, according to Boone, who suggests the Hornets lack any sort of intimidating interior presence and could badly use an athletic, shot-blocking center.

As Zach Kram of The Ringer observes, it was the second consecutive year in which the Hornets allowed more than 128 points per 100 possessions in an elimination play-in game, so addressing the defense has to be the team’s top priority this offseason. Besides acquiring a defensive-minded center, Charlotte could also benefit from adding a reliable wing who can capably guard opposing teams’ most dangerous perimeter players, Kram notes.

Here’s more on the Hornets as they prepare for their offseason:

  • Ejected in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s loss, Miles Bridges threw his mouthpiece at a fan who was taunting him on his way to the locker room, but missed and hit another fan, a 16-year-old girl (video link). Bridges, who figures to face at least a fine from the NBA, apologized after the game for the incident, per Scott Fowler and Matthew Stephens of The Charlotte Observer. “I was upset about a call, a couple of calls really. I let my temper get the best of me. That was definitely the wrong thing to do,” Bridges said. ” … I was aiming for the guy that was screaming at me and it hit a little girl … I take full responsibility and will take any consequences the NBA gives me. … Hopefully, I can get in contact with the young lady, sincerely apologize and do something nice for her.”
  • Viewed as a potential trade candidate in February, P.J. Washington entered the Hornets’ starting lineup after the deadline and played a key role in the club’s success down the stretch, Boone writes for The Charlotte Observer. Washington will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason, so Charlotte will have to decide soon how he fits into the organization’s long-term plans.
  • In his preview of the Hornets’ offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) explores how the team should approach the summer, taking an in-depth look at Bridges’ restricted free agency and Washington’s case for an extension. Besides needing a starting center, the Hornets could also use a backup point guard and need James Bouknight to develop into a rotation player, Marks writes.
  • After extending him last offseason, the Hornets seem likely to retain head coach James Borrego for 2022/23, but after the way the season ended, his seat should be considered warm – if not hot – going forward, Fowler writes in a column for The Charlotte Observer.
  • In case you missed it, we passed along a series of Hornets-related rumors on Wednesday.

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?”

James Bouknight Has Sideline Altercation With Head Coach

Hornets rookie guard James Bouknight was escorted to the locker room by team security after an altercation with coach James Borrego during Saturday’s game, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

The incident began late in the third quarter when Miles Bridges was knocked to the ground in a collision and had to be removed from the game because he was bleeding. Borrego inserted Bouknight for the final 14 seconds of the quarter, which was the only playing time he saw all night.

After the quarter ended, Bouknight and Borrego had a “heated exchange” on the sidelines, according to Boone, and Bouknight seemed to take a step toward his coach before they were separated. He remained in the locker room for the rest of the game.

“Obviously we were all a little frustrated, all of us,” Borrego said after the 18-point loss to Miami, “in the third quarter, early fourth and it got a little emotional there. Beyond that I’ll leave it there.”

Borrego admitted that Bouknight is unhappy over a lack of playing time. The 11th pick in last year’s draft has gotten into just 25 games and is averaging 4.8 points and 1.5 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per night.

“As I’ve said before he’s in a tough spot,” Borrego said. “He obviously wants to play. I get that. I understand that. Look, he’s a kid that we believe in, we trust in and we are going to find more minutes for him, more time. So I won’t get into the specifics. Just two competitors trying to help this team.”

Boone notes that the public dispute comes at an especially bad time for Charlotte, which has lost five of its last seven games and has slipped into ninth place in the East. Anxiety over Thursday’s trade deadline is adding to the tension in the locker room.

Bridges, who emphasized the need for the team to remain united, reached out to Bouknight after Saturday’s incident.

“Everybody’s been through it,” Bridges said. “When I was a rookie I wanted to play. And he’s very talented and he’s not getting in the game like he wants to. But I’m trying to explain to him that everybody’s been through that. I went through that. (LaMelo Ball’s) been through that and he was Rookie of the Year. So he’s good. I talked to him. He’s good and the Coach is good. So everything is good.”

Southeast Notes: Ball, Hachimura, Okongwu, Adebayo

Hornets coach James Borrego meets individually with LaMelo Ball at least twice a week to go over details that will aid the point guard’s development, Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer writes. They are especially focused on reducing turnovers and fouls.

“It’s really about decision-making,” Borrego said. “That’s really it. ‘What are you seeing here? What are your reads here? What are you thinking on this play offensively, defensively?’ Some of it is accountability, some of it is simply, ‘You are in the right position, you are not in the right position.’ I show him positives, I show him areas of growth. It’s not all areas of concern for me.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards forward Rui Hachimura is expected to begin training with the Capital City Go-Go in the G League next week, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. Hachimura hasn’t played this season due to personal reasons and the Wizards are hopeful he’ll soon return to their rotation. The focus right now is mainly about getting his conditioning up to speed.
  • Hawks second-year forward Onyeka Okongwu has ramped up his activity as he seeks to return from shoulder surgery, he told Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The 2020 lottery pick is hopeful he can get back in action sometime next month. “I feel stronger. Legs feel stronger, I’m getting my upper-body muscles back, and everything’s going well right now,” he said. “You could say that I’m definitely on track; my goal is still to come back in December, but I’m not going to rush or anything.”
  • Heat center Bam Adebayo admits the team was worn out by the time the playoffs came around last season, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Miami was swept by the Bucks in the opening round. “We are more solution-based and trying to figure out how to get it done rather than, ‘Here is our excuses to why we can’t get it done,’” Adebayo said. “But after the season, looking back at it, you was like, ‘Nah, we were broken.’”

Southeast Notes: Washington, Bridges, Lowry, Martin, Okpala

Hornets big man P.J. Washington is missing at least this weekend of game action as he deals with a hyperextended left elbow, writes Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer. In his third NBA season, Washington is averaging 9.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 1.4 APG.

“He’s in good spirits,” Charlotte head coach James Borrego said Friday. “We’ll know more in the next two days. He’ll get further evaluated by a specialist in the next day or two, probably on Monday and we’ll know more at that time. We’re not going to jump to conclusions yet. We’ll see what comes out of that and make a plan from there.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Hornets forward Miles Bridges has developed into one of the better scorers in the NBA during his fourth season, impressing his MSU coach Tom Izzo in the process, per Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer. Bridges is putting up career-high averages of 22.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.7 SPG and 0.9 BPG so far. “He couldn’t jump until he got to Michigan State,” Izzo said. “So I coached the s— out of him.”
  • New Heat point guard Kyle Lowry has been a big part of Miami’s early-season success, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel“He wants the best available shot every possession,” center Bam Adebayo said of his new teammate. “That’s what I really like about Kyle. He’s one of those guys, he wants every play to be right, make or miss.” Lowry, 35, has taken a step back as a scorer for his new team, averaging 11.3 PPG, his lowest output since his 2009/10 season with the Rockets. At 7-2, the Heat are currently the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
  • Emerging Heat small forward Caleb Martin may be outplaying his current two-way contract, and appears to be fulfilling the perimeter defender position Miami may have earmarked for third-year forward KZ Okpala, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Given that Martin can only play for 50 games with Miami on his two-way deal before it must be converted to a standard contract (and has played meaningful minutes across six contests so far), Winderman wonders if the Heat will start feeling the roster crunch soon.

Hornets Sign James Borrego To Contract Extension

AUGUST 9: Borrego’s extension with the Hornets is now official, the team announced today in a press release.

“We’re extremely pleased with the job that Coach Borrego and his staff have done in their three years in Charlotte,”president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Coach and his staff have built a strong player development program and it has resulted in the continued improvement of our young players. He has implemented an exciting style that our team likes playing and our Hornets fans enjoy watching. Coach has built strong relationships with our players, has demonstrated a great knowledge of the game and has provided tremendous leadership for our group.

“We’re thrilled to have signed him to an extension and look forward to the future with him leading our team as we continue to grow and improve.”


AUGUST 7: The Hornets and head coach James Borrego are finalizing a multi-year contract extension, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Charlotte had already decided to pick up its option on Borrego’s contract for next season and this will give him more long-term security.

When Charlotte hired Borrego in 2018, he was given a contract with three guaranteed years, along with an option for the fourth. Although his record is just 95-124 with the Hornets, he has spent most of that time overseeing a rebuilding project.

Borrego was an assistant coach for eight years with New Orleans, Orlando and San Antonio before becoming a head coach. He served as an interim head coach with the Magic for 30 games during the 2014/15 season.

Coaching Rumors: Magic, Bucks, Pacers, McMillan, Borrego

Of all the active head coaching searches around the NBA, the Magic‘s appears to be the most fluid, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Kenny Atkinson, identified last week as a candidate for the job, has been the named most frequently linked to Orlando’s vacancy, says Fischer, but the search is expected to be wide-ranging.

Lakers assistant Jason Kidd has been connected more and more to the Magic’s opening, per Fischer, who notes that Kidd has a connection to Orlando general manager John Hammond — the two worked in Milwaukee together from 2014-17 after Hammond hired Kidd as the Bucks’ head coach.

Former Warriors assistant Jarron Collins has talked to the Magic, sources tell Bleacher Report. Fischer says Nets assistant Ime Udoka is another candidate league sources have “strongly linked” the Orlando job, though there’s a sense Udoka may have more interest in the Celtics‘ job. Sixers assistant Sam Cassell may also be on the Magic’s radar, according to Fischer, who says Cassell would be popular among Orlando’s returning players.

Here are several more coaching-related notes and rumors from Fischer’s latest report:

  • With the Bucks tied at 2-2 in their second-round series, Mike Budenholzer is in a better position now than he was a few days ago, but if Milwaukee falls short of the Finals, there’s an expectation the team may make a change, per Fischer. In that scenario, Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee could be candidates for a promotion, since the team may just want a change at the top rather than an overhaul of the entire coaching staff, Fischer notes.
  • If the Bucks make a change, Mike D’Antoni would likely have interest in the job, and Olimpia Milano coach Ettore Messina would be another name to keep an eye on, Fischer writes. Rick Carlisle could also receive interest from Milwaukee, Fischer adds, though Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has said Carlisle’s not going anywhere.
  • Among the teams seeking a new coach, the Pacers appear to be the club most focused on hiring someone with previous head coaching experience, Fischer reports. Given how badly the hire of first-time head coach Nate Bjorkgren worked out, that’s not a huge surprise.
  • All indications are that Nate McMillan will sign a new contract with the Hawks to become the team’s permanent head coach, but until that happens, he’ll likely receive interest from other teams with coaching openings, including the Celtics, says Fischer.
  • Sources tell Fischer that the Hornets and head coach James Borrego are expected to work out a contract extension this offseason.