James Borrego

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Heat, Olynyk, Magic

Hornets head coach James Borrego had done an admirable job this season finding plenty of playing time for his youngsters without alienating the veterans on the roster, as Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer details.

Borrego vowed during the preseason that he wouldn’t let salaries dictate which players get the most minutes and has stuck to that approach as his team, which currently holds the No. 9 seed in the East, has exceeded expectations. Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier, PJ Washington, and Miles Bridges are the top four Hornets in minutes per game, but vets like Cody Zeller, Nicolas Batum, and Bismack Biyombo have had regular roles too.

“I feel like he has made us older guys a part of this thing as well,” Hornets forward Marvin Williams said of Borrego. “Obviously, Nic would love to play more, but he’s a team player. There are times when I maybe would like to play more, but that’s not my job (to decide).”

As Borrego looks to continue striking that balance while keeping Charlotte competitive, let’s round up a few more notes from around the Southeast…

  • For the five years following LeBron James‘ departure in 2014, the Heat were almost exactly a .500 team, averaging just under 42 wins per season. However, the club is on pace to rack up 56 wins in 2019/20. In an entertaining feature, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps take a look at how team president Pat Riley and free agent addition Jimmy Butler – along with rising star Bam Adebayo – have helped revitalize the franchise.
  • After spending most of the season outside of the Heat‘s rotation, James Johnson has played rotation minutes in three of the team’s last four games, while it’s Kelly Olynyk who finds himself getting DNP-CDs. Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel examines the evolving roles for the two Miami bigs and how they’re responding.
  • One day after they ended point guard Josh Magette‘s 10-day contract, the Magic find themselves without D.J. Augustin (knee) and Michael Carter-Williams (shoulder) for Wednesday’s game vs. the Lakers. Asked about that roster decision, head coach Steve Clifford admitted that the return of Augustin’s knee soreness “caught us totally off-guard,” tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Magette 10-day deal would’ve run through January 20 if it hadn’t been terminated early.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Winslow, Carter, Herro

At the midpoint of the Hornets‘ 2019/20 NBA season, the team has shown growth under second-year head coach James Borrego, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer notes.

Bonnell goes on to report that the Hornets are the only team with a losing record that is still among the top-10 in the league in net rating in clutch time, thanks mostly to the clutch play of promising youngsters Devonte’ Graham, PJ Washington and even the 25-year-old Terry Rozier. Bonnell cautions optimistic fans that just two of the team’s 15 victories came against teams with winning records, and notes that the 15-26 team is still firmly in rebuild mode.

Rozier, an expensive free-agent gamble inked this summer to a three-year, $57MM contract to be the team’s starting point guard, has become effective as the team’s starting shooting guard after the ascendant Graham emerged as the best option to run the point for the Hornets.

Bonnell wonders if the 6’1″ Rozier can be a long-term fit as the team’s shooting guard, and whether forwards PJ Washington and Miles Bridges, similarly built at 6’7″, can truly coexist starting alongside each other in the frontcourt long term. Bonnell feels that shooting guard and center should be the Hornets’ next big positional targets in the 2020 NBA draft.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Heat guard Justise Winslow, in the first season of a three-year, $39MM contract extension, has been saddled with several maladies this season. He has appeared in just 11 of a possible 38 games for Miami. Ira Winderman of the Florida Sun-Sentinel opines that Winslow has an incentive to return to the court quickly and be effective for the Heat, as the third season of his extension during 2021/22 is a team option.
  • Evergreen Hawks veteran swingman Vince Carter, the 42-year-old surefire Hall of Famer who will retire this spring after spending parts of four decades in the NBA, isn’t letting his age detract from his effort on defense. Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington observes that Carter tried to draw a charge call at half-court against a charging Ish Smith, 31. “Trust me, I’ve been run over by Shaq,” Carter said. “So as he long as he doesn’t hit me in my knees I’m good.”
  • Heat rookie wing Tyler Herro is confident of his standing among his fellow NBA freshmen, according to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson. “I just know what me and [fellow Heat rookie] Kendrick Nunn got going on,” Herro said. “I think I’m one of the best rookies in this class for sure. Obviously there’s a lot of great rookies with Ja Morant and RJ [Barrett]… But I feel we have two of the best rookies.”

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Vinsanity, Magic, Wizards

Hornets player development coach Nick Friedman has been tasked with improving the on-court performances of young players like Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels, who spend time with both the Hornets and their G League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm, The Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell reports. Friedman operates as a liaison for Hornets head coach James Borrego.

Player development via the G League worked wonders in the 2018/19 season for Devonte’ Graham (who spent 13 games in Greensboro) and Dwayne Bacon (17 games). Graham is enjoying a breakout sophomore season in Charlotte, averaging 19.0 PPG and 7.9 APG for the 15-23 Hornets, who are just two games out of the No. 8 seed in the East.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • 42-year-old Hawks wing Vince Carter became the first NBA player to suit up for teams in four different decades when he stepped onto the hardwood for Atlanta’s 116-111 defeat of the Pacers, Tory Barron of ESPN writes. The eight-time All-Star, who is playing in his record-setting 22nd season, notched a +7 plus-minus rating in 18 minutes. Barron notes that 36 NBA players who have logged one minute or more in a game this season were born after Carter’s league debut on February 5th, 1999.
  • Following injuries to versatile forwards Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu, the Magic are considering filling their vacant 15th roster spot, according to The Athletic’s Josh Robbins (Twitter link).
  • Although several injuries have required 11-24 Wizards to adjust their bench, it has remained among the league’s best, as Candace Buckner of The Washington Post reports. The Wizards’ bench has averaged 70 points per contest in their last five games, 14.4 PPG clear of the next-most prolific bench over the same period, the Pistons. The bench scored 92 points against the Nuggets and 80 points against the Heat, the two highest second unit marks in franchise history. “No matter who we’re plugging in, that’s the way we want to play,” backup guard Ish Smith observed.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Huerter, Mahinmi

Coach James Borrego is losing patience with the Hornets‘ defense and he’s not afraid to shake things up, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer relays.

“You have to value your time on the floor. This isn’t a God-given right to step on the floor and just go through the motions,” Borrego said recently. “If you’re not doing your job, if you don’t have great effort, if you’re not engaged from Minute 1, then I need to make a change — bring someone in off the bench or make a lineup change.”

Charlotte is 6-12 and the team has already started 12 different lineups this season. Borrego is searching for the best combination of players that will help the team win games regardless of each player’s contract status or seniority on the team.

As the Hornets look to right the ship, let’s take a look at more from the Southeast Division:

  • Kevin Huerter has been cleared to begin some on-court activity, Marc J. Spears of ESPN.com tweets. Huerter, who suffered a left rotator cuff strain earlier this month, will not play on the Hawks‘ upcoming road trip.
  • Wizards center Ian Mahinmi, who is in the final year of his four-year, $64MM deal, is close to returning to the court and the big man wants to prove that he has something left in the tank, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports reports. “This cannot be the end of this story,” Mahinmi told Hughes. “I’ve always wanted to be a valuable piece in that puzzle. So, in my mind, there’s still a lot of chapters left to be written.”
  • In the same piece, which is worth a read, Hughes compares Mahinmi’s game in Washington to his previous stop in Indiana and finds that the center’s per-36 numbers are actually slightly better with Wizards. “I’m a guy that wants to anchor the defense and who understands defensive principles. That’s who I am and what I can do,” Mahinmi said.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Thomas, Waiters, Borrego

Magic guard Markelle Fultz is regaining confidence in his game as the start of the 2019/20 season nears, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes.

Fultz, who’s entering his third NBA campaign, has only appeared in 33 regular season games since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2017 due to a well-documented shoulder injury. He was acquired by Orlando in exchange for Jonathon Simmons, a first-round pick and a second-round pick this past February.

“Every day I go back out there I get more and more comfortable. I get used to being back out there,” Fultz said. “It’s been so long for me that I’m just happy to be out there and I’m just trying to learn and play as hard as I can.”

Fultz failed to live up to the high expectations with Philadelphia, but at just 21 years old and finally healthy, he could help propel Orlando in the race for the Eastern Conference playoffs this season.

In six preseason games with Orlando, Fultz averaged 6.7 points, four assists and 1.8 steals per contest off the bench. Despite his exact role being immediately unclear, both Fultz and the Magic recognize that he’s headed in the right direction.

“I mean, we’ll see,” coach Steve Clifford said of Fultz’ role in the rotation. “Markelle needs to do, in my opinion, what Markelle has done since he got here: have good days. Have a good day tomorrow. That’s what the best players do. That’s what the best teams do: is have good days, [and] put good stretches of days together. Be better Friday than he is Tuesday. I think that in my experiences that’s what the best players do, [and] that’s what the best teams do.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas participated in a full practice Saturday and hopes to play in Wednesday’s season opener against Dallas, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link). However, head coach Scott Brooks isn’t ready to commit on a potential Thomas return just yet. “I’d love to have him for the first game,” Brooks said on whether Thomas would play. “We’ll see. Probably not, but we’ll see.”
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel provides additional details on Dion Waiters suspension, including his decision to make some rather questionable posts on social media in wake of the announcement. The suspension stems from a heated conversation between Waiters and head coach Erik Spoelstra after Waiters played only 10 minutes in the Heat‘s final preseason game on Friday.
  • Hornets coach James Borrego is taking a different approach entering his second season with the team, asserting his authority more while ensuring that he remains a good listener and keeps a positive attitude, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. “I feel like J.B. probably too much, to an extent, last (season) tried to keep everybody happy,” Marvin Williams said of Borrego. “I think this (season), he’s much more comfortable with people. He understands who we are as people and players. He’s just in a better place because of that.”

Hornets Notes: Batum, Walker, Offseason Plans

Hornets coach James Borrego isn’t sure how Nicolas Batum fits into his plans for next season, Borrego admits to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Batum was placed in a variety of roles but had another disappointing season and was briefly benched by Borrego. The team’s highest-paid player has two years and $52.5MM remaining on his contract, making him virtually untradeable unless Charlotte sweetens the pot with a first-round pick or young player. Bonnell suggests making Batum a utility player where he sees minutes at shooting guard, small forward and power forward.

We have more on the Hornets:

  • Unrestricted free agent Kemba Walker was unhappy that an attempt to acquire veteran center Marc Gasol from Memphis before the February trade deadline fell through, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (hat tip to NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman). The outline of the proposed deal would have sent out center Bismack Biyombo, forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a protected first-round pick for Gasol. Memphis instead chose to make a deal with playoff-bound Toronto.
  • If Walker re-signs with the club, Jeremy Lamb will likely be a cap casualty, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out in his offseason preview. Getting a commitment from Walker would push Charlotte past the luxury tax threshold. Re-signing Lamb for a conservative estimate of $11MM in the first year would trigger an approximate $27.5MM in additional luxury tax penalties. The team also has to make some hard decisions on non-guaranteed contracts, including Tony Parker‘s deal. The Hornets are unlikely to give forward Frank Kaminsky a $4.5MM qualifying offer before the June 30 deadline, Marks adds.
  • Walker’s chances of returning are pegged at 30% by Bonnell in his player-by-player breakdown of the roster. Those odds will rise only if GM Mitch Kupchak can pull off a blockbuster deal before free agency to entice Walker to stay.

Southeast Notes: Brooks, Satoransky, Bacon

Despite a rough 3-9 start for the Wizards this season, Candace Buckner writes for The Washington Post that head coach Scott Brooks doesn’t appear to be at risk of losing his job as a result of his strong relationship with the front office and the support he has from his players.

Buckner also points out that it doesn’t hurt Brooks that he is owed $21MM over the remainder of his contract as the team’s roster soars past the luxury tax. Furthermore, Brooks oversees a coaching staff that doesn’t have assistants with much coaching experience in the league, making it more difficult to put one in charge on an interim basis. Finally, Bucker notes that Wizards’ owner Ted Leonsis has practiced patience when it comes to making changes regarding basketball operations.

With that being said, should the Wizards continue underperforming, there will likely be significant changes made to the organization.

There’s more from the Southeast division:

  • With the aforementioned struggling Wizards looking for solutions at any turn, Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington writes that an increased role for Tomas Satoransky may be part of the solution. The team’s ball movement increased when Satoransky was running the point briefly last season, which may be the way to get everyone involved in the offense.
  • New Hornets‘ head coach James Borrego may have more complicated rotational decisions to make moving forward, as Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer points out that sophomore wing Dwayne Bacon has stood out in the recent playing time he has received.
  • Ben Nadeau of Basketball Insiders continues the series of “Areas of Concern” for the Southeast, as he tackles the issues plaguing each team in the division.

Southeast Notes: Lamb, Whiteside, Rivers

As James Borrego entered his first regular season as a non-interim head coach, he made a significant change to the Hornets‘ starting lineup by slotting Jeremy Lamb alongside Kemba Walker in the backcourt. As Rick Bonnell writes for The Charlotte Observer, so far Lamb has made that decision look like a good one, as he has improved as a defender and provides more scoring and ball-handling in the starting lineup.

While Lamb’s traditional statistics are down from his breakout 2017/18 season, he is still a good fit in the starting lineup and a much-improved defender. As Bonnell points out, Borrego praises Nicolas Batum for helping Lamb on that end of the floor through consistent effort that has rubbed off on Lamb.

So far, the numbers tell the story, as the Hornets’ defense is nearly 5 points per 100 possessions better when Lamb is on the floor.

Borrego made the initial decision to start Lamb as a result of his desire for more scoring options in the starting lineup. The change led to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming off the bench as the team’s best wing defender, thereby putting more defensive responsibilities on Batum and Lamb. So far, the results have been promising as the Hornets look to return to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

There’s more from the Southeast division:

  • Much hasn’t changed for Hassan Whiteside and the Heat this season, as his spurts of strong statistical outputs are mixed in with inconsistent playing time. As Ira Winderman points out for The Sun Sentinel, Whiteside is near the top of the league in rebounds and blocks per game, yet will still receive the short end of the stick from game-to-game, which will be something to monitor moving forward.
  • With the Wizards off to a disappointing 1-7 start, Austin Rivers has been frustrated by his own play this season, notes Ben Standig for NBC Sports Washington. Rivers is down to just 6.5 points per game while shooting 37.3 percent from the field, a far cry from his production in recent seasons.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Winslow, Waiters, Howard

Hornets coach James Borrego is seeking to give his team a fresh identity this season, labeling pace and ball movement as two important factors that can help the team, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer relays. Borrego was hired by the Hornets in May after spending the last three years under Gregg Popovich with the Spurs, plus a stint with San Antonio from 2003 to 2010.

“When the ball is just being pounded and one guy has it in his hands for five or six seconds – when we’re just seeing him dance with the ball – the rest of the defense just gets to relax and load up,” Borrego said. “You’re not going to be perfect all the time, but let’s put pressure on the defense constantly. … We demanded it in San Antonio. My job is to sell that to the players to do what’s best for the team.”

The Spurs are known for picking apart defenses with crisp passing, spacing and off-ball movement, and that’s exactly what Borrego hopes to bring to the Hornets this season. Charlotte helped alleviate this issue by allowing Dwight Howard, a paint-oriented player, to depart for the Wizards this summer.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Although Heat forward Justise Winslow is eligible for a contract extension, it remains unclear how the team plans to use the 22-year-old, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel notes in an “Ask Ira” mailbag. The Heat signed Winslow’s teammate and starting forward Josh Richardson to an extension last summer.
  • Heat guard Dion Waiters continues to work his way back from an ankle injury that sidelined him for most of the 2017/18 season, but the Syracuse product has yet to be cleared by a doctor for full-contact play. “Once I’m cleared from the doc it’s on,” he posted on social media, according to the Sun Sentinel.
  • Dwight Howard could be the missing piece the Wizards have been seeking for quite some time, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington contests. Should he buy in, Howard’s ability to defend the rim, set effective screens and play in the pick-and-roll could pay dividends for Washington.

Hornets Notes: Kidd-Gilchrist, Howard, Bridges, Jordan

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will likely have a reduced role under new coach James Borrego and may not last the entire season with the Hornets, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer in a question-and-answer column. Since being taken second overall in the 2012 draft, Kidd-Gilchrist has started all but four of the games in which he has appeared during his six seasons in Charlotte, but his position may be in jeopardy.

Bonnell cites “offensive limitations” that will make him less appealing with Borrego in charge. In a league where most forwards are expected to help stretch the defense, Kidd-Gilchrist only attempted two 3-pointers last season and is 7 for 36 from long distance for his career.

With a $13MM contract for this season and a $13MM player option for 2019/20, Kidd-Gilchrist won’t be easy to move. Bonnell speculates that GM Mitch Kupchak might have more success around the trade deadline, but still may have to take on long-term salary in return.

Bonnell passes on more Hornets information in the same piece:

  • Borrego emphasizes quick decision making on offense, which is among the reasons Dwight Howard was traded away after a productive season. The new coach wants constant movement and doesn’t like to see players holding onto the ball while deciding their next move. Howard is often criticized for slowing down the offense with his low-post game.
  • The Hornets may not be in a hurry to make trades before training camp opens next month because Borrego would like some time to evaluate his players to see who best fits his system.
  • First-round pick Miles Bridges will be used primarily at small forward, but Borrego may experiment with him as a stretch four during preseason. Bonnell notes that Bridges dropped about 20 pounds between college and Summer League, where he showed that he can distribute the ball and create mismatches.
  • Team owner Michael Jordan shouldn’t be judged harshly for the Hornets’ failure to attract free agents. The organization is well over the salary cap, and Charlotte doesn’t offer the natural advantages that some other cities do. Bonnell states that if Jordan were running the Lakers, he would have been just as successful as Magic Johnson when it came to luring LeBron James.
  • Jordan can’t circumvent the salary cap to give extra money to impending free agent Kemba Walker through his shoe deal. Walker is a paid endorser of the Jordan Brand, as are some other Hornets, but the league laid out rules against using that to get around the cap way back when Jordan first got a stake in the Wizards.