Michael Jordan

Hornets Coaching Candidate D’Antoni To Meet With Jordan

The Hornets are set to bring in another one of their head coaching finalists, Mike D’Antoni, for a meeting that will include team owner Michael Jordan, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

A previous report, identifying Kenny Atkinson as the frontrunner for Charlotte’s coaching vacancy, indicated that Atkinson would be the first of the team’s candidates to meet with Jordan. According to Wojnarowski, that sit-down is expected to occur on Tuesday, with D’Antoni’s meeting coming later in the week.

Both Atkinson and D’Antoni have already met twice with Hornets management, but Jordan wasn’t involved in those first two rounds, Wojnarowski explains. After conducting their final round of interviews in the coming days with Jordan in attendance, the Hornets are expected to finalize a decision on who will replace James Borrego on the sidelines in Charlotte.

A pair of reports in mid-May stated that D’Antoni was believed to be the favorite for the Hornets’ job, though Marc Stein – who published one of those reports – later said he received some “push-back” on that idea. Subsequently, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report suggested D’Antoni may be Jordan’s preferred choice, while Stein stated that the team was likely to decide between Atkinson and D’Antoni.

As of Friday, Terry Stotts was also believed to be in the running for the Hornets’ position, but it remains unclear whether he’ll get an opportunity to meet with Jordan.

D’Antoni, Atkinson, and Stotts all have previous head coaching experience, and all three have helped turn lottery teams into playoff clubs. D’Antoni did it in Phoenix and New York, while Atkinson did it in Brooklyn and Stotts did it in Portland.

Kenny Atkinson Frontrunner For Hornets’ Coaching Job

Kenny Atkinson is the frontrunner to land the Hornets‘ head coaching job, according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, who report that the Warriors assistant will soon have another meeting with Hornets team officials. It’ll be Atkinson’s third meeting with Charlotte and the first one with team owner Michael Jordan in attendance, per The Athletic’s duo.

Mike D’Antoni and Terry Stotts are among the other candidates still in play for the Hornets’ head coaching vacancy, though neither of them has been invited to meet with Jordan so far, sources tell The Athletic. It’s possible that could change in the coming days.

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report stated earlier this week that Atkinson and D’Antoni are among Charlotte’s finalists to replace James Borrego, noting at the time that Atkinson’s candidacy had gained momentum in recent weeks but D’Antoni was still believed to be favored by Jordan. Marc Stein reported today that he continues to hear the Hornets are likely to choose between Atkinson and D’Antoni.

The Hornets believe they’re on the verge of being a playoff team and want a head coach who will help the club take the next step, as well as providing “development and defensive structure” for key players like LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges, per Charania and Amick.

Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak has led the team’s head coaching search after recently signing a two-year contract extension. That deal features a trigger allowing him to transition to a consulting role if and when he wants to do so, sources tell The Athletic.

The Warriors have already lost one key member of Steve Kerr‘s staff this spring, as Mike Brown agreed to become the new head coach in Sacramento. If Atkinson departs for Charlotte, Golden State will be down a pair of top assistants.

Latest On Hornets’ Head Coaching Search

Darvin Ham was scheduled for a second interview for the Hornets‘ head coaching job prior to becoming the new head coach of the Lakers. With Ham off the table, former Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson are considered finalists for the position, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

President of basketball operations and general manager Mitch Kupchak has been busy preparing for the upcoming draft (the Hornets own the Nos. 13, 15, and 45 picks), which is partly why Charlotte’s search has progressed slower than the vacancies in Sacramento and Los Angeles. Kupchak’s new extension is a two-year deal, sources tell Fischer.

Another reason for the relative lack of progress is that none of the coaching candidates have met with owner Michael Jordan yet, as he was on vacation, but the final stage of interviews could occur this week once he returns, Fischer reports.

At the combine a couple of weeks ago, league personnel indicated Atkinson appeared to be gaining momentum for the position. The former Nets head coach “projected great confidence” that he’d ultimately land the job in calls with team staffers and other NBA figures with knowledge of the organization, according to Fischer. Atkinson is known as a detail-oriented person, and sources close to the coach indicate the research he’s done on the Hornets is reflective of that, Fischer says.

However, D’Antoni’s name has been linked to the Hornets most often, and a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking told Fischer that D’Antoni appears to be favored by Jordan, which contradicts the “push-back” that Marc Stein received after reporting that D’Antoni appeared to be a strong candidate. Stein also recently said that if D’Antoni is hired, the offensive-minded coach could bring former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen, who’s known as a defense-first coach, along with him as an assistant.

As Fischer observes, Atkinson’s strong background in player development seemingly fits well with a young team trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015/16 (the Hornets were eliminated in the first game of the play-in tournament as the No. 10 seed each of the past two seasons). Having said that, Atkinson’s player development background is similar to James Borrego, who was fired after the season ended, leading to league speculation that Charlotte might opt to hire D’Antoni instead.

Hornets Rumors: Jordan, Kupchak, Head Coach Candidates

The decision to fire former Hornets head coach James Borrego apparently came from owner Michael Jordan, not president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. This contradicts a report last month that Kupchak was the driving force behind the move.

Sources tell Fischer that Jordan was unhappy with Charlotte’s poor defense, which fell from 16th in 2020/21 to 22nd this season. The Hornets also gave up 144 points to Indiana in last season’s play-in tournament and then 132 to Atlanta this season, both blowout losses.

The Hornets are in the early stages of their search to fill the coaching vacancy, Fischer writes. Kupchak has been mulling over candidates and is acting as though he’ll remain in charge of the team’s basketball operations even though his contract expires after the season, sources tell Fischer.

The team has discussed finding someone to eventually succeed Kupchak for years, but the Hornets want him to remain in place for at least the short term, assuming the two sides can work out their difference of opinion regarding salary, which sounds like a formality.

Prior to Adrian Wojnarowski’s report that the Hornets will interview Mike D’Antoni, Kenny Atkinson, Darvin Ham and Sean Sweeney for their head coaching job, Fischer explored some possible candidates, including D’Antoni and Atkinson.

Like the Kings, the Hornets are also searching for someone with previous head coaching experience. League sources tell Fischer that former Rockets head coach D’Antoni, Warriors assistants Mike Brown and Atkinson, and Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse are potential candidates for the opening. Brown holds previous head coaching experience with the Cavaliers and Lakers and is a finalist for Sacramento’s job, while Atkinson was Brooklyn’s lead coach from 2016-20.

Fischer notes that D’Antoni has frequently been linked to the Sixers since Daryl Morey became president of basketball operations, but the team has consistently maintained that head coach Doc Rivers and the front office are aligned on their shared vision of the future. Rivers still is still owed an additional $24MM over three years following this season, so even if Morey did want to fire him, that would be a bitter pill for Philadelphia’s ownership to swallow, Fischer observes.

Echoing a report from Marc Stein, Fischer says one more name to keep an eye on for the Hornets is Jazz coach Quin Snyder, who still has one year remaining on his contract with Utah. Synder previously worked under Kupchak’s front office as a Lakers assistant and has ties to North Carolina — he played for Duke in college and was an assistant coach there prior to becoming Missouri’s head coach.

Snyder has repeatedly been linked to the Lakers‘ opening, but several sources tell Fischer that L.A. doesn’t appeal to Utah’s head coach.

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.

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Knicks, Jordan, Burks, Birch

Nets superstar James Harden still isn’t close to returning from a hamstring injury that has forced him to miss 11 straight games, Brian Lewis writes for the New York Post. Harden has taken minor steps in his recovery, but hasn’t done any high-intensity work.

“He’s here with us traveling,” coach Steve Nash said of Harden. “He was shooting (Tuesday) morning and just starting to build up what his capacity is. He’s not doing any high-intensity stuff, but he’s shooting and doing all his strength and rehabilitation work.

“So positive signs there, but still, I think, a ways to go.”

Despite dealing with injuries throughout the season, Brooklyn currently holds the best record in the Eastern Conference at 42-20. The team will be seeking its fourth straight win in a road game against the Pacers on Thursday night.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division today:

  • Anthony Olivieri of ESPN.com details the Knicks‘ secret pursuit of Bulls legend Michael Jordan during his playing days. Jordan ultimately bypassed joining New York, spending 13 seasons with Chicago and two seasons with Washington.
  • Knicks guard Alec Burks has rejoined the team after a stint in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the club announced on social media. Burks has averaged 12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds in 44 contests (25.8 MPG) this season, but has missed the team’s last six games.
  • Raptors center Khem Birch has fit in well with his new club in limited time, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes. Birch most recently finished with 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks in a win over the Cavaliers, playing well on both ends of the floor. “He’s been a good factor here,” coach Nick Nurse said postgame. “I thought he was solid, too, defensively. I can remember maybe one double-team he went a little too quick on that they cut back door on us, but other than that, he was pretty mistake-free down there, too. So good game for him. He’s stringing ’em (together), playing well.”

And-Ones: Adebayo, Olympics, NBA Foundation, Tsai

Although he didn’t make the final 12-man squad that took part in the 2019 World Cup, Heat center Bam Adebayo participated in Team USA’s training camp leading up to that event and received consideration to represent the U.S. in the international competition.

With the Tokyo Olympics on tap for the summer of 2021, however, another national program is hoping to recruit Adebayo away from USA Basketball, according to Colin Udoh of ESPN, who says Nigeria wants to add the big man to its Olympic roster. Adebayo’s father is Nigerian, Udoh notes.

“Having Bam in our national team is a possibility that we are considering as a federation ahead of the 2020 Olympics and beyond,” Nigeria Basketball Federation president Musa Kida said in a statement to ESPN. “We are excited about how far he has gone and what he can achieve in his career with D’Tigers if he chooses to play for Nigeria.”

Nigeria has already earned an Olympic berth and – assuming next season’s schedule allows for it – is expected to feature NBA players such as Josh Okogie, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chimezie Metu, and potentially Spencer Dinwiddie. It remains to be seen if the team will be able to land Adebayo, but he has said in the past that he’d consider Nigeria if asked. He also may be more open to the idea after being cut from last year’s Team USA roster.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA and NBPA issued a joint press release today announcing the board of directors for the NBA Foundation, a new organization dedicated to driving “economic empowerment for Black communities through employment and career advancement.” In addition to Harrison Barnes and Tobias Harris, whose involvement was previously reported, the NBA Foundation’s board of directors will be made up of Adam Silver, Michele Roberts, and four team owners (Gayle Benson, Tony Ressler, Larry Tanenbaum, and Michael Jordan).
  • As we relayed earlier today, China’s CCTV has lifted its year-long ban on NBA broadcasts, citing the league’s role in fighting COVID-19 in China as a primary reason for that decision. NetsDaily suggests Nets owner Joe Tsai may have played a key part in that effort, having sent a $3.7MM donation to China in February to help fight the pandemic.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks lists the trade assets held by all 30 teams, including moveable players, surplus draft picks, and trade exceptions.

Michael Jordan Acting As Key Liaison Between Players, Owners

His team hasn’t played a game since March, but Hornets owner Michael Jordan has emerged as an important go-between for NBA team owners and the players at the Walt Disney World campus, writes Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.

As MacMullan explains, Jordan is the NBA’s only Black majority owner, and his experience as a player allows him to connect with current players in a way that other franchise owners may not be able to. According to MacMullan, Jordan spoke to NBPA president Chris Paul before this morning’s player and owner meetings to get a better understanding of what players hope to achieve going forward.

“Michael is the perfect person to be in this role,” one league official told ESPN. “He’s been a high-profile player who has won championships. He’s also the owner of a small-market team. He has great credibility both with the players and the owners.”

During Thursday morning’s Board of Governors meeting, Jordan was a “voice of reason,” according to MacMullan, who says the former Bulls superstar urged his fellow owners to listen to players’ frustrations and concerns before offering their own solutions. League sources tell ESPN that team owners unanimously supported the players and spent much of their meeting discussing how to amplify player voices.

The NBPA had been scheduled to meet this afternoon at 4:00pm eastern time – with two or three reps from each team participating in the discussion – to iron out the issues they want to address with team owners, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. A meeting between players and owners will follow at 5:00pm, with Jordan – who is the chair of the labor relations committee – set to participate.

Reports have indicated that many players favored continuing the season due to the platform the restart has created to raise awareness of social injustices, and MacMullan writes that a number of owners – including Jordan – expressed a similar sentiment.

Of course, it’s worth noting that financial considerations will also incentivize the two sides to remain on the same page going forward. Sources tell The Athletic that players would have lost approximately 15% of this year’s salary if they’d chosen to end the season, and would have been risking about 35% of their salaries for next season. The lost revenues associated with a stoppage would have hit team owners hard as well.

Adam Silver Addresses NBA Return

NBA commissioner Adam Silver appeared on TNT’s Inside The NBA this evening to discuss the league’s officially confirmed 22-team return this summer. Silver touched on a potpourri of topics.

Though more radical season structuring options were discussed, Silver hailed Hornets owner and former five-time NBA MVP Michael Jordan as being an important voice in helping pass the current resumption plan. Silver mentioned that Jordan did not want the league’s return to feel “gimmicky” with excessive playoff format tweaks, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

Hall of Fame player-turned-broadcaster Charles Barkley asked Silver about the NBA’s protocol for dealing with a player testing positive for COVID-19, as cited by Tania Ganguli of the LA Times (Twitter link). Silver mentioned that this had been discussed with health officials. The league would not need to pause play, but instead would isolate the player and use contact tracing and daily testing to contain the spread.

Silver delicately handled questions about how the league would deal with older coaches on team benches, mentioning that “certain coaches” might not be able to be present on the sidelines, per an exchange captured by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich are the three head coaches who, at 65 and older, would be at elevated risk of serious COVID-19 complications were they to contract the virus. Assistants like Jeff Bzdelik (Pelicans) and Lionel Hollins (Clippers) also fall within that age bracket.

Gentry voiced his displeasure with the notion of being separated from his team, per Ramon Shelburne of ESPN (Twitter link). “That doesn’t make sense,” Gentry said. “How can I coach that way?”

D’Antoni also questioned the idea of singling out older coaches with more protective measures, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). “I am sure they want to keep everyone safe,” D’Antoni said. “But to start singling people out with more risk, well, I would hope they wouldn’t want to get into that.”

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle tells Woj (Twitter links) that he talked to Silver and the commissioner “admitted that he jumped the gun” with his comments on older coaches.

“It’s entirely possible that an NBA coach in his 60s or 70s could be healthier than someone in their 30s or 40s,” Carlisle said. “The conversation should never be solely about a person’s age. Adam assured me that we would work through this together to help determine what is both safe and fair for all of our coaches.”

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Jordan, Heat, Wizards

After the final two episodes of The Last Dance aired on Sunday, Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer writes that the second act of Michael Jordan‘s life in basketball has been “the polar opposite” of the first. While ESPN’s 10-part documentary series accurately portrayed Jordan as a wildly successful player on the court, he has been largely unsuccessful as a team owner since gaining control of the Hornets.

As Fowler acknowledges, a team owner doesn’t have nearly the same impact on night-to-night results as a star player would, but Jordan has been heavily involved in the Hornets’ personnel decisions. Since Jordan took over as the organization’s majority owner, Charlotte has just three winning seasons and hasn’t advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Fowler wonders if Jordan has any more appreciation for former Bulls GM Jerry Krause than he did during his playing days, since the current Hornets owner could have used his own version of Krause since arriving in Charlotte.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • There are teams in the NBA that wouldn’t be significantly affected if the NBA’s cap projection for 2020/21 (and potentially 2021/22) dips by a few million dollars. However, the Heat would feel the impact of such a change. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald examines how the NBA’s new financial reality could alter the club’s approach to free agency in 2020 and 2021.
  • Two sources close to Heat players praised the way the franchise has been handling the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Team president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra have both remained in constant contact with players and have advised them to put their health and families’ health first, Jackson writes. “Guys consistently have been getting attended to,” one source told The Herald.
  • Due to a positive trend in COVID-19 cases in D.C., Washington’s stay-at-home order may no longer extend through at least June 8, as previously anticipated. That could be good news for the Wizards, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, who notes that the team is still waiting for government clearance to reopen its practice facility.