James Borrego

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.

Hornets Notes: Monk, Staff, Bacon, Parker

After undertaking a limited and somewhat disappointing role last season as a rookie, second-year guard Malik Monk has been told by the Hornets’ new coaching staff that he needs to make quicker, more decisive choices with the ball in order to maximize his talent and athleticism, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.

Monk, 20, was selected 11th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft before suffering an ankle sprain that cost him summer league work before his first NBA training camp. Due in part to that lack of experience, Monk was in and out of the Hornets’ rotation all season long, finishing with an average of 6.7 points per game on 36 percent shooting from the field.

But despite whatever troubles he may have experienced during his rookie season, Monk will have plenty of opportunity to step into a bigger role this season, per head coach James Borrego.

“Malik Monk is a major player for us next (season)… I knew he was a shooter but being up close to him is impressive. This guy has a chance to be an elite shooter, a very consistent shooter. Someone we can play through for different stretches of a game.”

As for how Monk feels about Borrego and the new coaching staff, the good feelings seem to be mutual, with Monk saying, “I love them. They’re opening up the court for me and giving me a chance. That’s what I’ve been looking for.”

There’s more out of Charlotte this evening:

  • Speaking of the new coaching staff, the Hornets have officially hired Jay Triano, Chad Iske, Jay Hernandez, Ronald Nored, and Dutch Gaitley as assistant coaches under Borrego, per an official press release from the team.
  • Another young player the Hornets believe in is second-year player Dwayne Bacon, Bonnell notes in another piece. The new staff believes that Bacon, the 40th overall selection in last year’s draft, is both talented offensively and versatile defensively and that he will benefit from an increased pace of play.
  • As we relayed yesterday, the Hornets may be in the market for another guard to play alongside Monk and All-Star Kemba Walker, with free agent guard Tony Parker no longer necessarily a lock to return to San Antonio.

Hornets Notes: Monk, FA Targets, Coaching Staff

A disappointing 2017/18 put the Hornets in an awkward position, staffed with enough talent to compete for one of the East’s final playoff spots, yet financially compelled to blow things up and start fresh. This season stands to be different. In a recent interview with Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, newly appointed head coach James Borrego discusses his vision for the club heading forward.

The biggest change heading into 2018/19 is Borrego’s willingness to incorporate 2017 pick Malik Monk heavily in the team’s rotation. Whereas previous head coach Steve Clifford opted to play veterans over youth, Borrego sees Monk as “major player for the team” with the potential to be an elite shooter.

Borrego also notes that it’s a priority of the Hornets to add a ballhandler that can serve as the primary backup point guard to Kemba Walker.

There’s more out of Charlotte tonight:

Southeast Rumors: Thomas, Nored, Whiteside, Hawks

Free agent point guard Isaiah Thomas would be a good fit for the Heat but they probably don’t have the salary-cap space to sign him, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel speculates. Thomas’ ability to score in bunches would boost a team prone to scoring droughts, Winderman continues. But it’s doubtful that a former All-Star coming off an injury-marred season would take a short-term deal, Winderman notes, as the Lakers guard is more likely to pursue what could be his last significant contract.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets will hire Ronald Nored as an assistant coach on James Borrego‘s staff, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Nored served as the Nets’ G-League head coach this past season.
  • Pat Riley‘s silence over the Hassan Whiteside situation in recent weeks suggests a trade is more likely than reconciliation, Winderman opines in another blog. Though Winderman believes Whiteside and coach Erik Spoelstra would like to find some middle ground, a separation appears to be in order despite the issue of Whiteside’s contract, which has two years and over $52MM remaining. Whiteside was disappointed with his reduced playing time.
  • The Hawks will bring in six prospects for a workout on Tuesday, according to a team press release. That group includes  Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Kyran Bowman (Boston College), Dorian Pickens (Stanford), Kerem Kanter (Xavier), Tremont Waters (LSU) and Kenrich Williams (TCU).

Southeast Notes: Borrego, Wall, McGruder, Monk

As we wrote yesterday, the Hornets have no immediate plans to blow up their roster. Yet, a culture change is definitely in the works with new head coach James Borrego, who brings with him the winning culture of Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, a franchise with five championships and a sixth NBA Finals appearance since the 1998-99 season.

While Borrego is not Popovich, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer opines that there are four great habits he learned from Popovich that he can bring to the Hornets – great ball movement, getting the best out of your players, the ability to positively impact a locker room, and perhaps most importantly, develop talent.

As Bonnell notes, the more important quality the Hornets were looking for in its next head coach was player development. And while the Spurs front office gets a lot of credit for its ability in the draft, having a coaching staff adept at developing players is just as important.

Some examples of players who the Spurs drafted low and turned into serviceable NBA players include Tony Parker (28th overall), Manu Ginobili (57th), George Hill (26th), Tiago Splitter (28th), and Dejounte Murray (29th). Moreover, the Spurs developed Danny Green (46th) after acquiring him as a free agent. To that end, the Hornets hope that the hiring of Borrego will help develop its two young players drafted last summer – Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Candace Buckner of The Washington Post opines that although the leadership of John Wall was at times questionable this season for the Wizards, the situation would’ve been helped if Wall was able to play more, using his on-court leadership skills as opposed to trying to lead off the court.
  • Heat swingman Rodney McGruder is looking forward to returning to the hardwood next season and working to win back a spot in the rotation after missing 64 games during the 2017/18 campaign, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.
  • In another piece for The Charlotte Observer, Bonnell looks at how Monk will fit into the Hornets’ plans. According to new head coach Borrego, “I see him as a playmaker, who can play with Kemba (Walker) and also be on the court without Kemba, creating offense for us. (Or) pairing him and Nic Batum in a lineup where Nic is facilitating. He’s a combo (guard). I don’t know until I get my hands on him where I’m going to put him or how we’re going to play him. But he’s just going to be a very good basketball player who fits today’s NBA.”

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Haslem, Van Gundy

According to general manager Mitch Kupchak, the Hornets have no immediate plans to blow up their roster. As Steve Reed of The Associated Press writes, recently appointed head coach James Borrego will approach his first season with the team under the assumption that there is no dramatic overhaul right around the corner.

I’m excited about that current group as it stands right now. I think our biggest room for growth is the internal development piece,” Borrego said. Given the Hornets’ lack of financial flexibility – they have $120 already tied up for next season – they may not have any other choice.

There were several calls for dramatic action last season as a short-staffed Hornets team limped its way to a second consecutive lottery appearance. In fact, things were so dire that mid-season the club’s previous executive team even said the franchise would consider trading star guard Kemba Walker.

Among the young players that could be developed by Borrego and the rest of the Hornets staff in 2018/19 are 2017 lottery pick Malik Monk, as well as other established rotation players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 24, and third-year big man Frank Kaminsky.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards signed forward Otto Porter to a four-year, $107MM contract last offseason. With that increased salary has come increased scrutiny, Candace Buckner of The Washington Post writes. Porter excelled as a three-point shooter in 2017/18 but was criticized for lacking aggressiveness in the fourth quarter.
  • Veteran Heat big man Udonis Haslem hasn’t made a decision about retirement yet but he does know that when that time comes, he has no interest in coaching. He would, however, be open to serving in Miami’s front office, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes.
  • Some Magic fans have contemplated the idea of bringing back former head coach Stan Van Gundy. David Whitley of The Orlando Sentinel writes that a reunion with the bench boss who led Dwight Howard and company to the Finals back in 2009 would not be a good idea.