Michael Jordan

NBA Conducting Investigation Of Tampering

In response to tampering complaints, the NBA is investigating some of the earliest agreements reached in free agency, according to Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The process will include interviews with players and possibly agents and team employees as well.

Suspicions were raised as some free agent deals were announced immediately upon the arrival of the negotiating period, which began at 6pm Eastern Time on June 30. A few agreements were leaked ahead of that hour, prompting questions about the legality of the process.

The announcement of the investigation came after a “tense” owners meeting in Las Vegas in which everyone present was encouraged to express their grievances. Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who lost Kemba Walker to a quickly announced deal with the Celtics, suggested the need to alter the way free agency is conducted in the next collective bargaining agreement. Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, who could have the top free agent in 2021 when Giannis Antetokounmpo hits the market, discussed “gray areas” of the current rules against tampering.

NBA general counsel Rick Buchanan reminded teams that they are all expected to abide by the rules and promised a revised set of regulations that will be strictly enforced. He mentioned “seizing servers and cellphones” to track any illegal contact that teams might make.

Other possible solutions being considered by the league include:

  • Allowing teams to negotiate with their own free agents after the Finals have concluded. Some executives and agents admit that the free agent process now unofficially begins at the draft combine in May when meetings over potential picks expand into talk about free agent clients.
  • Holding free agency before the draft. The Rockets submitted a formal proposal to enact this change last year, but only got support from 10 teams, sources tell Lowe and Windhorst.
  • Cutting back the moratorium, which extended this year from June 30 to July 6. It exists to give the league time to account for all its revenue from the previous season and set an accurate salary cap.
  • Granting teams more time and more freedom to talk with free agents before they officially reach the market.

Several teams also complained about the new trend toward family members serving as virtual agents and making requests not covered by the CBA. Some used Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle, Dennis Robertson, as an example, but the authors point out that there have been many other similar cases. Commissioner Adam Silver admitted that “things are being discussed that don’t fall squarely within the collective bargaining agreement.” There was sentiment at the meeting to require family members who assume that role to go through the union’s agent certification process.

Hornets Notes: Jordan, Kemba, Quiet Deadline

Michael Jordan‘s successes as a player and as a Nike ambassador outshine his track record as an NBA team owner, but the transaction that allowed Jordan to buy a majority stake in the Hornets was one of the best deals the six-time NBA champion ever made, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.

As Windhorst details, despite a reported sale price of $275MM, Jordan put up just $30MM in cash to buy the then-Bobcats in 2010, in an arrangement the league likely wouldn’t approve today. Since then, Jordan has continued to purchase more shares in the franchise and now owns about 90% of the team. Forbes’ franchise valuations, released last Wednesday, suggest the Hornets are currently worth $1.25 billion.

While Charlotte isn’t a huge market and the Hornets haven’t had much postseason success since their inception, the NBA’s revenue sharing model has paid off in a big way for the club. According to Windhorst, league documents show that the organization received more than $130MM in revenue sharing money between 2012 and 2017.

Windhorst’s piece, which includes a look at how LeBron James wants to follow in Jordan’s footsteps when it comes to owning an NBA franchise, is worth checking out in full.

Here are a few more Hornets-related notes:

  • In an interesting piece for USA Today, Jeff Zillgitt spoke to Hornets players and head coach James Borrego about what it’s like to have Jordan as the team’s owner. “It’s actually really cool,” Marvin Williams said of playing for Jordan. “It’s not like people think. For the most part from what I hear, most people think it’s a lot tougher playing for him than it really is. He’s the total opposite. … He just wants you to compete. That’s not a lot to ask. If you compete, he’s going to live with the wins and the losses.”
  • After a fairly quiet trade deadline, Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak looked ahead to the rest of the season and the upcoming offseason in his comments to reporters, including Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Kupchak believes Charlotte can make the playoffs and spoke in positive terms about the odds of re-signing Kemba Walker in the summer. “I’m optimistic and I’m hopeful, as I always have been, that Kemba starts his career in a Hornets uniform and ends it in one,” Kupchak said.
  • In a post-trade-deadline mailbag for The Charlotte Observer, Bonnell answered questions on whether a quiet trade deadline would have an impact on Walker’s free agent decision, why the Hornets elected to claim Shelvin Mack off waivers using their open roster spot, and why Kupchak didn’t make any deals at the deadline.

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 Expand Search For New GM

The Hornets are expanding their search for a new GM even though former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak remains a leading candidate, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports.

The Hornets are looking to replace Rich Cho after announcing last month they wouldn’t extend his contract.

The club has received permission to interview Sixers VP of Player Personnel Marc Eversley, Rockets Executive VP of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas and Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, league sources told Wojnarowski.

However, Kupchak’s longstanding relationship with owner Michael Jordan could still tip the scales in his favor, Wojnarowski adds. The Lakers replaced Kupchak with Magic Johnson last season.

Assistant GM Buzz Peterson is currently running the day-to-day operations for the Hornets and is expected to remain with the organization once a new GM is hired. Charlotte hopes to fill the position by the end of the regular season, Wojnarowski adds.

Michael Jordan Explains Stance On Kemba Walker

With trade rumors swirling around Kemba Walker over the last several days, Hornets owner Michael Jordan spoke to local beat reporter Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer on Monday night to set the record straight. While Jordan acknowledged that Walker’s name has come up in trade talks, he told Bonnell that he’s not looking to trade his star guard unless he gets a marquee player in return.

“Obviously, the season has been a disappointment so far, and there have been teams asking about players. Also, we’ve been asking about players,” Jordan said. “We ask teams who they like on our roster and they always say Kemba. … It’s not like we are shopping him. We would not just give him up. I love Kemba Walker. I would not trade him for anything but an All-Star player.”

Although they’ve played a little better in January, the 19-26 Hornets remain out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference for now. Acknowledging that the club’s record is disappointing, Jordan tells Bonnell that he has not given up on the season yet. In other words, he’s not looking to sell off Walker in order to kick-start a full-fledged rebuild. In fact, the Hornets’ owner reached out to Walker on Friday to assure the 27-year-old that the franchise is “not predisposed to moving him,” according to Bonnell.

Still, while some teams would deny the trade rumors outright, Jordan did admit that there have been some discussions centered around Walker — and some of those talks were instigated by the Hornets, Bonnell writes. If Jordan and the Hornets really hope to attach an unwanted contract to Walker and land an All-Star caliber player in return, a deal may not be realistic, but the club isn’t closing the door on the possibility of moving its best player.

“We bred him, we chose him, we groomed him to be a good player for us,” Jordan said of Walker. “I’m not looking to trade Kemba, but I would listen to opportunities.”

And-Ones: Ayton, Thunder Trades, Wagering, Ball

Arizona freshman center DeAndre Ayton could be the No. 1 overall pick in June, according to Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. The 7’1” Ayton has proven to be a highly productive for the otherwise disappointing Wildcats, averaging 20.4 PPG, 11.4 RPG and 1.4 BPG in his first eight college games. He has a 7-foot-5 wingspan and has shown a high basketball IQ, Brigham continues. At worst, Ayton should be a top-three lock, Brigham adds.

In other news involving the league:

  • The trade packages the Knicks and Pacers received from the Thunder in blockbuster deals this offseason have proven to be far better than expected, as ESPN’s Kevin Pelton notes. Center Enes Kanter, the best player the Knicks got back in the Carmelo Anthony trade, is a good fit as Kristaps Porzingis frontcourt partner, while Porzingis has thrived as a No. 1 option in Pelton’s analysis. Victor Oladipo has actually outperformed Paul George in his expanded role with Indiana, according to Pelton’s metrics. The other player the Pacers received in the deal, center Domantas Sabonis, has improved sharply while playing more often in the post than he did in Oklahoma City, Pelton adds.
  • The league and several owners have positioned themselves to cash in on expanded betting on its games, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst examines in an in-depth piece. The league would prefer changes in current federal laws and the creation of a unified commission to oversee the expanded betting operations, Windhorst continues. The Hornets’ Michael Jordan, the Wizards’ Ted Leonsis and the Mavs’ Mark Cuban have recently invested in a company focused on real-time data distribution, which would facilitate in-game wagering, Windhorst adds.
  • Lonzo Ball‘s younger brother LiAngelo Ball has no chance of being selected if he declares for next June’s draft, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. LiAngelo Ball would have trouble finding a spot in any professional league, including the G-League, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter links). UCLA announced on Monday that the younger Ball intends to leave the program, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic tweets. The freshman was arrested along with two teammates in China on shoplifting charges and suspended by the school after being allowed to return to the United States.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Wizards, Jordan

The Hornets struggled to keep leads when their starters – particularly Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller – were on the bench last season. The question ahead of 2017/18 then, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer asks, is whether or not that will change this season.

Gone are all of Walker’s and Zeller’s backups, a veritable laundry list of players from Ramon Sessions, Brian Roberts and Briante Weber to Spencer Hawes, Roy Hibbert and Miles Plumlee. In their place are Michael Carter-Williams and Dwight Howard, both of whom were attained by the Hornets at relative bargains over the summer.

Of course the addition of Carter-Williams will provide size and defense to the Hornets’ second unit but the real draw is Howard, not because of what he’ll add off the bench but because of what his addition to the starting lineup entails.

As we’ve already written, head coach Steve Clifford has already committed to starting Howard when the season begins, that means Zeller himself will be able to work directly with the Hornets’ second unit to help do for them what he did for the starting five in 2016/17.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards will have a number of players to replace Markieff Morris with when the season tips off. The forward is currently expected to miss six to eight weeks with a sports hernia. “We have versatility and we have depth. We can go in many different directions. We can go small. We can throw Kelly Oubre]in there. We can throw Jason Smith in there. Mike Scott we can put in there. There’s a lot of players that we can throw into the mix,” head coach Scott Brooks told Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic.
  • Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan will soon have a stake in another professional sports franchise. Jordan is part of Derek Jeter‘s group that has been approved to buy the Miami Marlins, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.
  • Only time will tell how Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer and new general manager Travis Schlenk mesh over the next few years but the dynamic between the two could be worth watching as the organization’s priorities shift from winning ball games to developing for the future. Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Budenholzer will embrace the rebuild, whether that’s his preference or not.

Hornets Notes: Howard, Monk, Zeller

The Hornets added a pair of players who will factor into their core rotation this season and with change comes curiosity. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer recently answered a handful of fan questions in a mailbag article, suggesting that he doesn’t anticipate seeing Malik Monk in the starting lineup barring a significant injury ahead of him.

Monk is an undersized shooting guard who will help shoulder some of the offensive load but his diminutive stature begets defensive shortcomings that may be compounded by the fact that any Monk promotion into the starting lineup would force somebody like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the bench.

Bonnell also weighs in on another reader’s suggestion that Dwight Howard could be used off the bench. Despite Cody Zeller‘s strong performance at the five, Bonnell says that it’s unlikely Howard would come off the bench. Howard is familiar with being a starter (he’s only come off the bench once in his career) and will earn $23MM this season.

There’s more out of Charlotte:

  • In the same Q&A article, the Bonnell writes that the Hornets can only expect so much improvement in their three-point shooting. While the addition of Monk will help and veterans like Marvin Williams and Nicolas Batum should bounce back slightly, there’s only so much fans can expect when the club’s core features Howard and Kidd-Gilchrist.
  • There’s no inclination that he would sell the franchise any time soon, but Michael Jordan‘s investment in the Charlotte Hornets has been a lucrative one thus far, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The agreed-upon value of the franchise when Jordan bought out founding owner Robert Johnson was said to be $287MM. These days, given the Clippers‘ $2 billion sale in 2014 and the Rockets‘ sale for $2.2 billion this year, the Hornets ought to be worth at least $1 billion.
  • While it’s been rather easy to overlook Zeller given the fact that players drafted after him – like Giannis Antetokounmpo, C.J. McCollum and Rudy Gobert – have blossomed into stars, the sharp-shooting big man has been one of the game’s most efficient centers, Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype writes. Zeller also provides intangible contributions that make life easier for his teammates.

Southeast Notes: Howard, Billups, Frazier, Wade

Dwight Howard, recently traded to the Hornets from the Hawks, discussed his excitement to be in Charlotte, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Howard spoke glowingly about his new owner, Michael Jordan:

“I’d just done a 2 ½-hour workout. After I was done talking to him, I wanted to jump back into the gym. That’s how he motivated me. You’re talking about the greatest basketball player to ever play. For him to call you on the phone and say, ‘I believe in you!’ ”

Howard also discussed his reunion with head coach Steve Clifford, his disappointment of lasting just one season with him hometown team, and how he will make a difference in the Charlotte community.

Here’s more from the Southeast division:

  • Hawks GM Travis Schlenk says that three or four teams were interested in trading for Dwight Howard, but the Hornets made the best offer, tweets Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal- Constitution.
  • While the Cavaliers await a decision from Chauncey Billups, another team covets the former NBA Finals MVP’s wisdom in the front office: the Hawks, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Billups recently interviewed for a front-office position with Atlanta.
  • Hornets GM Rich Cho says the team will be looking for a backup point guard and more overall depth in free agency, tweets Jordan Greer of The Sporting News.
  • The Magic‘s new president of basketball operations, Jeff Weltman, explains why the team traded two picks in a deep draft, reports Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Weltman explained:  “We felt that at a certain point that the draft flattened out, and once we got past that point, we had three more picks, and we didn’t want to bring four rookies in. So what we did is we tried to identify kids that we thought could possibly be there later that we liked as much [as a] higher [pick]. And could we defer those assets [and] move them along to maybe turn them into future pieces and still come up with something that we liked?”
  • The Wizards believe that Tim Frazier can contribute right away, reports Chase Hughnes of CSN Mid-Atlantic, in an interesting piece full of great quotes from Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks.
  • Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes that Dwyane Wade, who has come up often as a Heat target this offseason, is not necessarily leaving Chicago so soon despite the Bulls’ obvious entrance into rebuilding mode after dealing Jimmy Butler on draft day.

Eastern Notes: Cavs, Van Gundy, Waiters, Hornets

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue and forward LeBron James believe the team has shown a lack of toughness in recent weeks, Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The Cavs have fallen to 22nd place in the defensive efficiency ratings and are in dangerous of losing the top seed in the East. Their latest loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday had both of them lamenting about the team’s lack of desire to defend. “It starts with the coaches but the players gotta look at themselves in the mirror, too,” Lue told Vardon and other members of the media. “They gotta be more physical, they gotta bring a physical presence and they’ve got to take pride in guarding their man.” James adds: “It ain’t about a group, it’s about individuals. … You can’t preach toughness, you’ve got to have it.”

In other news around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Pistons are in danger of sliding out of the playoff race and coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy is groping for solutions, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. Detroit has lost five of its last six, including a last-second defeat to the Eastern Conference’s worst team, the Nets. “I think it’s pretty clear from these six games that I’m not finding the answers and not doing a very good job, so it starts with me. I’m the person in charge,” Van Gundy told Langlois and the assembled media. “I selected everybody in that locker room. I’m the one who wanted them in there. I decide who plays. I put lineups out there. I decide on defensive coverages. I call plays. So it’s all on me.”
  • Dion Waiters left ankle sprain has shown progress, so the Heat have not scheduled an MRI, Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post tweets. Waiters wanted an MRI if he hadn’t felt improvement, Chiang adds. Waiters has missed the last two games after suffering the injury on March 17th.
  • The Hornets will not participate in the trend of resting players, according to David Scott of the Charlotte Observer. That would go against the philosophy of owner Michael Jordan and assistant coach Patrick Ewing, who didn’t take games off when they played, Scott adds. “It’s easy for me, because I’m working for an owner who just doesn’t believe in it,” coach Steve Clifford told Scott. “And I have an associate head coach who would kill me if I started doing it.”