Jay Hernandez

And-Ones: Garza, Robinson, USA Basketball, G League

Luka Garza projects as a second-unit center who can beat up reserve bigs with his offensive skills, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz (Insider link). While Garza is the most dominant scorer in college basketball this season, his defensive limitations will prove problematic at the next level. A best-case scenario would be for Garza to develop into an Enes Kanter-type player. ESPN currently ranks Garza as the 46th-best prospect in this year’s draft.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former No. 5 pick Thomas Robinson has parted ways with Bahcesehir in Turkey, he told JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link). It’s a matter of seeking another opportunity, with the 29-year-old looking to return to playing as soon as possible. He played 313 NBA games with six teams in 2012-17.
  • USA Basketball is planning to create a “bubble” in Las Vegas for Team USA, Australia and Spain where they can train and play exhibition games against one another prior to the Tokyo Olympics, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. Team USA is tentatively planning to open training camp the week of July 4 while the NBA playoffs are ongoing.
  • USA Basketball has petitioned the U.S. Olympic Committee, the IOC and FIBA — which runs the Olympic basketball tournament —  to change the rules for when rosters for the Games must be submitted, Windhorst adds in the same report. Normally, the rosters must be set several weeks in advance but the NBA playoffs may not end until three days prior to Team USA’s first Olympic game.
  • Greensboro Swarm head coach Jay Hernandez provides details in a HoopsHype post on how his team is preparing for the G League season in Orlando while under quarantine.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Okongwu, Fultz, Hornets

The Wizards are promoting Amber Nichols, naming her the general manager of the Capital City Go-Go, Washington’s G League affiliate, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Nichols, who had previously been the Go-Go’s assistant GM, becomes the second female general manager in the NBAGL, joining Tori Miller of the College Park Skyhawks.

The Capital City Go-Go opted out of this season’s G League bubble, so the team won’t be in action again until 2021/22. However, Nichols figures to be keeping a close eye in the coming weeks on the Erie BayHawks, New Orleans’ affiliate. The Wizards are sending four affiliate players and a player development coach to Erie for the upcoming NBAGL season.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Onyeka Okongwu, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 draft, has yet to make his NBA debut as he recovers from a left foot injury. However, he’s not on the Hawks‘ latest injury report, and Sarah Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) says Okongwu is excited to get back on the court. Now I’m really feeling good,” he said. “Now I’m really feeling like my old self.”
  • Magic officials and players have said that Markelle Fultz has remained upbeat as he begins the long process of coming back from a torn ACL, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “I think he’s got a great attitude about the whole thing,” head coach Steve Clifford said. “Let’s put it this way: He’s handling his injury a lot better than his coach is.”
  • Hornets assistant Jay Hernandez will be heading to the G League bubble to coach the Greensboro Swarm next month, according to a press release from the team. Hernandez will return to the Hornets when the NBAGL season ends. “This plays to my strengths, and is also something I want and need to do,” Hernandez told Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “… I know all (the Hornets’) teaching points, I know the talking points. I can go in there very confidently, knowing exactly what (Hornets coach James Borrego) wants to do and how he wants to do it.”

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.

Coaching Notes: Hornets, Hawks, Bucks, Blatt

After reaching an agreement to hire former Suns head coach Jay Triano as a top assistant, the Hornets are adding another coach to James Borrego‘s new staff in Charlotte. According to Michael Scotto of The Athletic (Twitter link), former Magic assistant Jay Hernandez has agreed to a deal with the Hornets.

Hernandez, who had been working under Frank Vogel in Orlando, was let go at the same time Vogel was fired by the Magic last month. Hernandez’s name surfaced as one to watch in New York when David Fizdale was hired, but he’ll land in Charlotte instead, teaming up with Borrego and Triano on the Hornets’ new-look bench.

Here are a few more coaching-related updates from around the basketball world:

  • Lloyd Pierce has begun to fill out his coaching staff in Atlanta, with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated reporting that former Mavericks assistant Melvin Hunt will join the Hawks at Pierce’s lead assistant, while former Suns assistant Marlon Garnett will also be part of the team’s staff. Marc Stein of The New York Times first reported (via Twitter) that the Hawks were in advanced discussions with Hunt.
  • Many of the Hawks‘ former assistants are preparing to relocate to Milwaukee along with Mike Budenholzer, leaving the Bucks‘ old staff in the lurch. Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times looks at what’s next for those Bucks assistants.
  • Darussafaka head coach David Blatt is receiving some interest from EuroLeague powerhouse CSKA Moscow, according to a report from La Gazzetta dello Sport (via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Blatt, who interviewed for multiple NBA coaching jobs this spring, has an extensive international résumé that includes a stint as head coach of the Russian national team.
  • At Sportando, Carchia passes along another La Gazzetta dello Sport story, as the Italian outlet reports that Sergio Scariolo – the coach of Spain’s national team – is pursuing an opportunity to become an assistant in the NBA.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Hernandez, Mudiay, Kanter

Building a productive relationship with Kristaps Porzingis and devising a plan for his three point guards are among the questions facing new Knicks coach David Fizdale, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Fizdale plans to travel to Latvia in the near future to meet with his franchise player, who is rehabbing his knee injury there.

Juggling the minutes of Emmanuel Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke will be a challenge for the ex-Grizzlies coach, Berman continues. Learning from his mistakes in Memphis, particularly in the way he dealt with veteran center Marc Gasol, is another thing Fizdale must do in order to be a success in New York, Berman adds.

In other Knicks-related news:

  • Former Magic assistant coach Jay Hernandez is a name to watch as Fizdale selects his staff, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets. He has a solid reputation in player development and player relationships after working with several NBA players as a trainer, Scotto adds.
  • Mudiay said the coaching change has energized the team, as he told Berman in a separate story. “Nobody has played with him yet over here except Troy Williams. But I’m not the only one excited. Everyone else is, too,’’ he said. Mudiay believes Fizdale, a point guard during his playing days, can help with his development.
  • Center Enes Kanter, who exchanged barbs with LeBron James this season, playfully challenged the Cavaliers superstar to sign with the Knicks during a Twitter Q&A session, Ian Begley of ESPN relays. “You really want to be king of New York? Come and prove it. I’ll see you July 1st, brother,” Kanter said in the Twitter video. James is expected to opt out of his contract this summer but the Knicks are an extreme long shot, considering their salary-cap issues and their rebuilding status.

Magic Fire Frank Vogel

The Magic are making a change at head coach, announcing today in a press release that they’ve parted ways with Frank Vogel. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report that Vogel has been fired.

“We would like to thank Frank for his contributions to the Orlando Magic,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said in a statement. “We appreciate the sacrifices he made as head coach and certainly wish him and his family well going forward.”

In addition to Vogel, lead assistant coach Chad Forcier and assistants Corliss Williamson and Jay Hernandez have also been let go by the Magic, per Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.

Like Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, who was also fired once the 2017/18 regular season came to an end, Vogel was hired just two years ago but found himself on the hot seat after his team overhauled its front office during the 2017 offseason. Having been brought aboard by former head of basketball operations Rob Hennigan, Vogel will be replaced by Weltman and new GM John Hammond, who will hire their own candidate in the near future.

After compiling a 250-181 record (.580) with five playoff appearances during six years as the head coach of the Pacers, Vogel was unable to replicate that success in Orlando. His team failed to reach 30 wins in either of his two seasons — overall, the Magic had a 54-110 mark (.329) during Vogel’s tenure.

The Magic will begin a search for a new head coach immediately. Previous reports have linked the franchise to various candidates with Toronto connections — Raptors assistants Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian have been identified as possible targets for Orlando, and Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse has been cited multiple times as a viable candidate. Weltman was the general manager in Toronto before arriving in Orlando.

The Magic are the fifth NBA team known to be seeking a permanent head coach this offseason, joining the Suns, Grizzlies, Bucks, and Knicks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.