Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Hornets Rumors: Kemba, Vets, Future Plans, McDaniels

Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak tells Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer that the team was somewhat blindsided by Kemba Walker earning All-NBA honors and becoming eligible for a super-max contract earlier this year. Although Walker wasn’t demanding the full super-max (approximately $221MM over five years), the gap between what he sought and what Charlotte was willing to offer was too significant to bridge the gap.

“We had great years with him, and we didn’t get into the playoffs,” Kupchak said of the All-Star point guard. “What makes us think that next year (would) be different? I’ve got to step back and look at where we’ve been and where we’re going. Chart out a course that gives us the best chance to build something that is sustainable for more than a year or two.”

The Hornets have faced criticism for not getting what they could for Walker in a pre-deadline trade in February, but Kupchak tells Bonnell that the club was confident in its chances of re-signing Kemba at that point and wasn’t impressed with the offers it received on the trade market.

“Almost every offer revolved around draft picks. It was always lottery-protected,” Kupchak said. “When you do something like that, you’re saying you’re going to draft a player in the teens, we don’t know how good he’s going to be, and it’s going to take three or four years (to realize value). We wanted to keep Kemba — under the right conditions.”

We don’t know the specifics on what the Hornets were offered for Walker, so we’ll take Kupchak at his word that those offers didn’t provide enough value to be worthwhile.

Still, it’s fair to take the front office to task for the assertion that it didn’t see Walker’s All-NBA nod and super-max eligibility coming. The former UConn standout scored 41 points on opening night last fall and played at an elite level all season, singlehandedly keeping Charlotte in the playoff hunt. To claim the team was blindsided by Kemba’s super-max eligibility is either disingenuous or signals a worrisome lack of foresight.

Here’s more from Bonnell on the Hornets:

  • Head coach James Borrego is under no obligation to give significant minutes to Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who will earn a combined $85MM in 2019/20. “I’m not going to coach a team based on contracts, what you’re making, where you were drafted, if you were drafted,” Borrego said. “To me, that’s not my job. My job is to get the most out of them, whether they were drafted or not drafted.”
  • While those veterans will get a chance to compete for roles, Borrego wants to make sure the team’s young prospects play consistent minutes, either in Charlotte or in the G League. “We’re not going to have draft picks on our bench who are just sitting there,” the head coach told Bonnell. “If they’re not playing meaningful minutes for us in Charlotte, I promise you they will be playing minutes in Greensboro.”
  • The Hornets “didn’t even contemplate” using their mid-level exception this offseason, according to Kupchak, who explained to Bonnell that no one in that price range would have “changed the course of this organization.”
  • The Hornets also won’t rely on free agency going forward to reshape their roster, preferring instead to use any future cap flexibility to re-sign young players or to accommodate trades. “Free agent signings, for us, are not something we need to concentrate on going forward. We’re not going to get the ‘Big Fish,'” Kupchak said. “We have to create a culture where those kinds of players would want to come here. And, quite frankly, we’re not there yet. For us to hoard cap room (for that purpose) is not in the best interest of the organization.”
  • In a tweet, Bonnell adds a couple more Hornets-related items, reporting that there’s no indication the club is involved in ongoing trade talks that would jettison a veteran contract. Additionally, Charlotte would like to get unsigned second-rounder Jalen McDaniels locked up in a developmental role, per Bonnell. It sounds like the team’s preference may be for McDaniels to sign a G League contract.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Opting In For 2019/20

Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has picked up his 2019/20 player option, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). The move ensures that Kidd-Gilchrist locks in his $13MM salary for next season, putting him on track to reach unrestricted free agency in 2020.

Kidd-Gilchrist’s decision doesn’t come as a surprise. The former second overall pick is coming off a down year in which he averaged 6.7 PPG and 3.8 RPG in a career-low 18.4 minutes per contest. Having started all but four of 357 career games for the Hornets heading into the season, he came off the bench for 61 of his 64 contests this past year.

Kidd-Gilchrist is also currently recovering from a surgical procedure which he underwent last week to address a chronic groin strain. The 25-year-old is expected to be ready to return to action in time for training camp, according to the Hornets.

With Kidd-Gilchrist opting in, the Hornets will now have to account for three pricey player options on their 2019/20 cap, as Bismack Biyombo and Marvin Williams previously picked up theirs as well.

[RELATED: NBA Player Option Decisions For 2019/20]

In total, those three options tack on about $45MM to Charlotte’s team salary for next season, increasing the club’s total guaranteed commitments to $94MM+. That figure doesn’t include new contracts for free agents like Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky, or – most notably – Kemba Walker.

Kidd-Gilchrist Undergoes Surgery To Address Groin Issue

Hornets swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist underwent a surgical procedure on Tuesday, the team announced in a press release. The surgery, which was performed in Philadelphia, addressed a chronic groin strain, according to the Hornets.

Kidd-Gilchrist is expected to make a full recovery in time for training camp this fall, per Charlotte’s announcement.

The Hornets’ press release makes it sound as if the team expects to have Kidd-Gilchrist on its roster for the start of training camp in September. He technically has a $13MM player option that he could turn down to become a free agent, but it’s probably a safe bet to assume that won’t happen after a down year and today’s surgery.

Kidd-Gilchrist, 25, averaged just 6.7 PPG and 3.8 RPG in a career-low 18.4 minutes per contest in 2018/19. Having started all but four of 357 career games for the Hornets heading into the season, he came off the bench for 61 of his 64 contests this past year.

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer tweeted today that he recently asked an NBA executive if he thought Kidd-Gilchrist could make back the $13MM guarantee on his 2019/20 player option if he opts out. The executive’s response? “No way.”

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.

Hornets Notes: Parker, Kemba, Lamb, Kaminsky, MKG

Speaking today to reporters, including Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link), veteran point guard Tony Parker said he’s 50-50 on playing for the Hornets next season. Parker would like to return, but only if he can play on a competitive team.

“I don’t want to play on a rebuilding team,” Parker said (Twitter link). “I want to play for a team that’s fighting to make the playoffs at least.”

The contract Parker signed with the Hornets during the 2018 offseason is a two-year deal, but next year’s $5.25MM salary won’t become guaranteed until July 4, per Basketball Insiders. In other words, even if Parker – who will turn 37 next month – decides he wants to stick around, that interest will need to be mutual.

However, the former Spur said today that the Hornets want him to come back, tweets Bonnell. Parker also admitted that the opportunity to play a regular-season game in Paris is an incentive to return.

As we wait to see what happens with Parker, here are several more Hornets-related notes:

  • As Bonnell relays for The Observer, Kemba Walker said after the Hornets’ regular-season finale on Wednesday that he’s unsure whether he expects to remain in Charlotte long-term. Walker did reiterate today that “this is where I want to be” (video link via Rod Boone of The Athletic), but also said that winning will absolutely be his number one priority (Twitter link via Bonnell).
  • Asked if the Hornets have done enough to convince him they’re serious about winning, Kemba said that’s still in action, according to Bonnell.
  • Walker isn’t the only key Hornet with an uncertain future. As Brendan Marks of The Charlotte Observer details, it’ll be a big summer for veterans like Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky as well.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has a $13MM player option for 2019/20, said today that he hasn’t thought much yet about his decision, per Bonnell (Twitter link). He did say that “happiness” – rather than money – is his main concern going forward, though it’d still be a surprise if he opts out.
  • As we explained earlier today, a random drawing on Friday will go a long way toward deciding where the Hornets will pick in the first round of this year’s draft.
  • Marvin Williams said today that he plans to opt into the final year of his contract. Here’s the full story.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Waiters, Graham, Hornets

Despite missing out on the playoffs, Wizards star Bradley Beal refuses to blame his team’s shortcomings on owner Ted Leonsis or upper management.

Washington fell to 31-46 on the season by losing to the Jazz on Friday, holding just a 22-16 record at home and 9-30 record on the road. Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld — overseen by Leonsis — put together a roster that many league observers were confident would make the playoffs when the season started. However, a series of injuries, shuffled pieces and bad chemistry eventually ended the team’s chances at making the tournament this year.

“And for me, my higher calling – I’ve let people down this year with the Wizards,” Leonsis said, according to NBC Sports Washington. “I want every one of our teams to make the playoffs and win a championship.”

Coming into the season, the Wizards sported a projected starting lineup of John Wall, Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard. However, Wall underwent season-ending heel surgery in December (in addition to rupturing his Achilles in January), Porter was traded to Chicago, Morris was traded (and then waived by New Orleans), and Howard has been forced to miss all but nine games due to injuries this year.

“He’s not playing, so I can’t sit here and just allow him to take all the credit for it,” Beal said of Leonsis. “We can just continue to move forward, continue to get better, but it’s not just on him, it’s on everybody.”

The Wizards only have four players under contract entering the 2019/20 season, with forward Jabari Parker holding a $20MM team option and Howard holding a $5.6MM player option. Trevor Ariza, Wesley Johnson, Tomas SatoranskyJeff Green, Thomas Bryant and Chasson Randle are all set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, with Bobby Portis and Sam Dekker likely to become restricted free agents.

There’s more today out of the Southeast Division:

  • Heat guard Dion Waiters plans to vigorously focus on his weight once the season comes to an end. Waiters, who underwent a major transformation after his first season in Miami, has taken a step back in his overall health since undergoing ankle surgery. “My whole mindset after the playoffs is getting right to it,” Waiters said, according to Ira Winderman of the Sen Sentinel. “I took a year and a half off. This season for me is more about getting back in the feel and things like that, trying to find my rhythm and get acclimated by playing.”
  • Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham is proving to be a keeper for the team, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer contends. Graham’s development has been boosted by the veteran presence of Tony Parker, with the 24-year-old point guard improving on both ends of the floor in his rookie season. Charlotte’s future at point guard is mostly uncertain outside of Graham, with Kemba Walker reaching free agency in July and Parker set to turn 37 in May.
  • With less than two weeks left of the regular season, the Hornets‘ biggest challenge might be finding definitive roles for Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bonnell wrote in a separate story for the Charlotte Observer. “Where they fit in the rotation, I don’t know,” head coach James Borrego said when asked about the two players. Batum has missed each of the last four games (largely due to an illness), while Kidd-Gilchrist has played in just one of his last five outings because of a concussion. Kidd-Gilchrist saw just eight minutes in a loss to the Lakers on Friday.

Southeast Notes: Carter-Williams, Hornets, McRae

A familiarity with Magic coach Steve Clifford and his staff made signing with Orlando an easy decision for Michael Carter-Williams, relays Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Carter-Williams, who played for Clifford last season with the Hornets, inked a 10-day deal with the Magic yesterday to provide point guard depth after the loss of Isaiah Briscoe.

“Knowing the coaches and having a relationship with them makes it definitely easy for me to fit in, just to come in right away and already know some of the plays and defensive schemes and be ready to go,” Carter-Williams said.

He had been out of the NBA since being waived by the Bulls on January 7, shortly after being acquired in a trade with the Rockets. He is thrilled to get another shot at the NBA after averaging just 9.1 minutes in 16 games with Houston.

“Orlando was one of my places that I actually wanted to go,” Carter-Williams added. “I felt like it was a good spot for me. I felt like I could come in right away and help. And then having Coach Cliff, I know the system already, so when they called it was kind of a no-brainer.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hornets fan may have to wait another year before management can drastically remake the team, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Bismack Biyombo ($17MM), Marvin Williams ($15MM) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13MM) all have player options they are expected to exercise this summer. Bonnell expects the team to keep all three for another year rather than trying to seek trades, which would involve giving up other assets.
  • The Hornets will take another look at whether to use a $7,819,725 trade exception in early July, Bonnell adds in the same piece. The exception expires on July 6, and the team will likely know the fate of free agents Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb by then. If both decide to leave Charlotte, the trade exception could be an easy path for the team to acquire a veteran replacement.
  • Wizards coach Scott Brooks told reporters before tonight’s game that Jordan McRae could be spending a lot of time with the team through the end of the season, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. McRae is on a two-way contract, but his 45-day NBA limit won’t matter once the G League season ends on March 23.

Marc Gasol Talks Between Hornets, Grizzlies Not Dead

The trade discussions involving Marc Gasol between the Hornets and Grizzlies aren’t completely dead yet, sources tell Jake Fischer of SI.com (Twitter link). We heard on Tuesday night that Charlotte and Memphis were becoming skeptical that they’d get something done, but according to Fischer, the two teams remain hopeful of completing a deal.

While Gasol doesn’t really have a say in his destination, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer hears from a source close to the veteran center that he expects to ultimately end up with the Hornets (Twitter link).

With talks between the two teams apparently heating up on Tuesday, the Grizzlies held Gasol out of their game against Minnesota. According to Fischer (via Twitter), some people involved in the process believe Memphis may have forfeited some leverage by prematurely sitting Gasol while the Hornets played all their veterans.

There are a number of different player combinations the Hornets could use to match Gasol’s $24MM+ salary, but Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported today that the Charlotte’s offer would likely include Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and a protected first-round pick.

According to O’Connor, a difference in opinion over the protections on that first-rounder was the main hold-up, though Fischer suggests that the two sides may also not have agreed on the contracts required for salary-matching purposes. Memphis’ proximity to the luxury tax line could also be an issue — assuming the Grizzlies take on Biyombo and Kidd-Gilchrist, they’d likely want to attach at least one more player to Gasol to avoid going into tax territory.

The Grizzlies have less than 24 hours to determine whether they’ll move Gasol and/or Mike Conley before this season’s trade deadline. What Memphis does with those two players could have a ripple effect on the rest of the roster, with veterans like JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple, and Justin Holiday also believed to be on the trade block.

Hornets, Grizzlies Skeptical Over Completing Gasol Trade

FEBRUARY 6, 9:54am: The trade the Grizzlies and Hornets have discussed would see Gasol head to Charlotte in exchange for Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and a protected first-round pick, league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. However, the two sides haven’t been able to agree on the protections for the draft pick, according to O’Connor, who confirms that the impasse might be enough to derail the deal entirely.

FEBRUARY 5, 11:06pm: There is “increasing skepticism” that a trade sending Gasol to the Hornets will happen, sources tell Sean Deveney of Sporting News. Deveney notes that a deal has “not progressed” despite Charlotte’s interest in the veteran center.

9:25pm: While the Hornets and Grizzlies have discussed Gasol, no trade has been agreed upon yet, tweets Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. Gasol joined his Memphis teammates on the bench for tonight’s game against Minnesota.

5:01pm: The Grizzlies are in “strong talks” to send veteran center Marc Gasol to the Hornets, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). As both sides negotiate the framework of the deal, including Gasol’s $24.1MM salary, the Grizzlies will sit the big man tonight against the Timberwolves, Charania adds.

Gasol, along with longtime Memphis teammate Mike Conley, has been at the forefront of trade rumors since the team put both players on the trade block last month. We relayed earlier today that the Raptors reportedly expressed interest in both Gasol and Conley. The Kings and Pistons have previously expressed interest in Conley.

The 34-year-old has spent his entire 11-year career with the Grizzlies, making three All-Star teams. While injuries have slowed the Spaniard in recent years, he’s still an above average contributor, averaging 15.7 PPG and 8.6 RPG in 53 games this season.

Per Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link), Hornets owner Michael Jordan wants the team to make the playoffs. Therefore, he has let teams know that the team intends to be a buyer approaching Thursday’s trade deadline. At 26-26, Charlotte is currently the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Nets by half a game.

Southeast Notes: Kidd-Gilchrist, Hornets, Satoransky, Waiters

Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will likely exercise his $13MM player option this summer rather than testing the free agent market, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer opines in his latest mailbag. Kidd-Gilchrist has been moved to a reserve role this season and has an injury history, Bonnell notes. He’s also well-liked in the organization, Bonnell adds. Marvin Williams ($15MM) and Bismack Biyombo ($17MM) also have player options this summer.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets have an open roster spot but Bonnell says there’s no rush to fill it. GM Mitch Kupchak likes the flexibility of having 14 players on the regular roster and it hasn’t been an issue from an injury standpoint through the first 30 games, Bonnell continues.  The opportunity to make a two-for-one deal means they probably won’t fill that spot with a free agent in the coming weeks, Bonnell adds.
  • The trade with the Suns for forward Trevor Ariza forced Tomas Satoransky out of the lineup but he now has a more defined role with the Wizards, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington points out. Satoransky has become the team’s primary backup guard, guaranteeing him steady minutes. Satoransky played 48 minutes in a triple-overtime thriller against Phoenix on Saturday and 20 minutes in a loss to Indiana on Sunday. The Wizards traded Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers for Ariza. “I think definitely it changes the dynamic of the game,” Satoransky told Hughes. “Those two were our first scorers off the bench, so now we have to adjust. Obviously, there is some bigger responsibility that I will have.”
  • Heat guard Dion Waiters has returned to practice but his surgically-repaired left ankle still causes him discomfort, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. Waiters, who is signed through the 2020/21 campaign, hasn’t played this season but says he’s ready for action, though the ankle still feels “funny” at times. “Probably a couple of weeks, probably a couple of months,” he said of when he’d be 100%. “It’s how your body adjusts to it. As long as I continue to get treatment every day, take care of my body, and make sure I’m doing the little things, I feel like it’d be OK.”