Matt Hill

Kemba Walker Returns To Hornets In Coaching Role

The Hornets have officially announced Charles Lee‘s staff for the new head coach’s first season in Charlotte, and the group includes one particularly notable name. According to a press release, former Hornets star Kemba Walker has been hired as a player enhancement coach.

Walker officially announced his retirement as a player on Tuesday and wasted no time transitioning into the next stage of his career. He hinted in Tuesday’s announcement that a new job in the NBA might be coming, writing, “Basketball will forever be a part of my life so this isn’t goodbye. I’m excited for what’s next.”

The ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Walker became the Hornets’ full-time starting point guard in his second NBA season and maintained that role through the 2018/19 campaign. He earned three All-Star berths and averaged 19.8 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.8 rebounds in 34.1 minutes per game across 605 total regular season games during his time in Charlotte before leaving for Boston in a sign-and-trade in 2019.

Lee is a former Celtics assistant, but his time in Boston didn’t overlap with Walker’s.

Most of the rest of Lee’s staff has been previously reported. It includes assistant coaches Lamar Skeeter, Josh Longstaff, Chris Jent, Blaine Mueller, Ryan Frazier, Matt Hill, and Jermaine Bucknor, the Hornets confirmed.

Zach Peterson has been hired as an assistant coach and director of player development, while Zeke Chapman has been named head video coordinator.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Outlaw, Caporn, Heat, Jovic

Not only did the Hornets have a head coaching change, the entire staff has been overhauled, Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer reports.

As previously noted here, Lamar Skeeter, Chris Jent and Josh Longstaff have been hired away from other organizations to head up Charles Lee‘s staff with the Hornets. They’ll be joined by Ryan Frazier, Zach Peterson, Matt Hill and Blaine Mueller, according to Boone. The training staff is also undergoing changes, as the Hornets have decided to part ways with longtime director of health care and sports performance Joe Sharpe.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • In more coaching news, J.J. Outlaw, who spent the last three seasons as a Cavaliers assistant coach, and Adam Caporn, who spent the last two seasons as a Nets assistant, are strong candidates to join Brian Keefe‘s Wizards staff, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets.
  • The Heat own the No. 15 pick in the draft and The Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang takes a deep dive into the prospects that might be available at that spot. The list is comprehensive, omitting only those prospects who seems likely to go in the top 10.
  • If finding another shooter is a priority, Kentucky’s Rob Dillingham, Duke guard Jared McCain, Colorado’s Tristan de Silva and the University of Miami’s Kyshawn George are potential targets with the Heat‘s first-rounder, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
  • In a separate draft-related piece, Winderman notes that virtually every position on the Heat roster could use a boost, with only shooting guard currently having enough quality depth.
  • Nikola Jovic suffered a postseason left ankle sprain and he’s still in recovery mode, which makes the Heat forward’s status for Serbia’s pre-Olympic matchups uncertain. “I’m doing great,” he told Mozzartsport, as relayed by BasketNews. “The injury I got is getting better, the swelling is almost gone. But we’ll wait a few more days for the control scan and after that we’ll see how things are. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure that I’ll play, but I really believe in it.

Scotto’s Latest: J. Smith, Toppin, Weaver, Hartenstein, Huerter, O’Neale, More

Early indications suggest that Pacers power forward Jalen Smith will decline his $5.4MM player option for next season and become an unrestricted free agent, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports in his latest aggregate mock draft. Sources tell Scotto that a final decision hasn’t been made, but Smith appears to be leaning toward testing the free agency waters. He has a June 29 deadline to opt in for 2024/25.

Smith, 24, appeared in 61 games this season and posted a career high in scoring at 9.9 PPG, along with 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 17.2 minutes per night. He was selected 10th overall by Phoenix in the 2020 draft and was acquired by Indiana at the 2022 trade deadline.

Scotto notes that rival teams are watching to see whether the Pacers will re-sign restricted free agent Obi Toppin. If the fourth-year power forward reaches a new deal, there’s a belief that Indiana might be willing to trade Jarace Walker, who was a lottery pick last June.

Scotto shares more inside information in his aggregate draft:

  • Washington is believed to be a potential destination for former Pistons general manager Troy Weaver, who recently parted ways with the team, Scotto writes, noting that Weaver was once part of Oklahoma City’s front office along with Wizards executives Michael Winger and Will Dawkins.
  • Scotto talked with some NBA executives who believe the Magic should be considered a threat to sign Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein. Orlando could have close to $50MM in cap space to work with.
  • Executives also expect the Kings to explore deals involving Kevin Huerter and Harrison Barnes, Scotto adds.
  • The Raptors plan to work out an extension with Scottie Barnes this summer, sources tell Scotto. The versatile swingman made his first All-Star appearance this year.
  • Scotto echoes other reports in stating that Royce O’Neale is likely to reach a new contract with the Suns. The 31-year-old forward, who was acquired from Brooklyn at the trade deadline, is expected to receive about $10MM per year, according to Scotto.
  • Vice president of basketball operations Brent Barry isn’t expected to return to the Spurs next season, sources tell Scotto. The longtime NBA player has been an executive with San Antonio since 2018.
  • Assistant coach Jason Love will likely leave the Sixers and join Doc Rivers’ staff with the Bucks, Scotto states. Love previously worked for Rivers in Philadelphia.
  • The Hornets are assembling a staff of assistants for new head coach Charles Lee. Scotto hears it will include Lamar SkeeterJosh LongstaffChris JentRyan FrazierZach PetersonMatt Hill and Blaine Mueller.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Wade, Simons

If the Hornets are going to turn the fate of their franchise around, they’ll have to improve how they handle lottery picks. Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes that only one of their seven different top-11 picks since 2011 has been an All-Star.

Bonnell breaks down ex-general manager Rich Cho‘s underwhelming draft portfolio noting that beyond Walker, only one of the remaining six players they’ve drafted in the top-11 has even gone on to be a consistent starter (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist).

To Cho’s credit, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky and Malik Monk can all be valuable rotation pieces for the foreseeable future but it’s hard to justify the selections of Bismack Biyombo and Noah Vonleh.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Pending free agent Dwyane Wade has not decided if he’s going to retire or not. If he returns, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports tweets, he’d want to return with the Heat.
  • Not surprisingly, Anfernee Simons was particularly excited to work out for the Magic, the franchise with whom his namesake made his mark. John Denton of the team’s official site writes about the Florida native’s connection to the team and his decision to enter the draft directly out of prep school.
  • It’s official, the Hawks have made Melvin Hunt, Chris Jent, Greg Foster, Marlon Garnett and Matt Hill assistant coaches under new head coach Lloyd Pierce, the team announced on its website.

Southeast Notes: Olynyk, Hill, Wizards

One year after being part of a Celtics team that made a strong push towards a championship, Heat forward Kelly Olynyk is upset that his season is over, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. Miami was eliminated from the postseason by the Sixers in five games.

Olynyk signed a four-year pact with the Heat last summer as the Celtics shifted focus to acquiring Kyrie Irving and signing Gordon Hayward. Olynyk was honest in the fact that going home early was a disappointment, but that he is using it as motivation to come back stronger next season.

“Unfortunately, I wish it was us and it was something that makes you leave that taste in your mouth where you want that, you want to experience that,” Olynyk said. “I want that next year to be Game 5 [of the Eastern Conference finals] in Miami, at AmericanAirlines Arena, either playing them or somebody else. That’s the goal. That’s what it’s all about.”

In his first season with the Heat, Olynyk posted career-best totals of 11.5 PPG and 5.7 RPG in 76 games (22 starts).

Check out more Southeast Division notes below:

  • Matt Hill, the only assistant coach retained by the Magic from Frank Vogel‘s staff, is headed to the Hawks as an assistant coach, tweets Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Hill originally started as a video analyst in the Magic’s basketball operations department.
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examined the Wizards‘ possible draft strategy as the team prepares to select players for the first time since 2015. Hughes writes that Washington could use its first- and second-round picks to select either a modern big man, wing player or backup point guard.
  • It may be enticing for the Wizards to shop their first-round pick, but the team should learn from previous seasons and retain that pick to draft a young player, Hughes writes in a separate story.