Mitch Kupchak

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Langdon, Brand, Heat, Capela, Okongwu

With Mitch Kupchak shifting to an advisory role, the Hornets are seeking a lead executive with previous experience, Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer reports. Pelicans GM Trajan Langdon and Sixers GM Elton Brand are considered the early frontrunners to replace Kupchak, Boone adds.

Charlotte is likely to hire both a president of basketball operations and a GM, according to Boone, who also lists Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton, Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson and Knicks assistant GM Frank Zanin as potential candidates for the lead executive job.

Bulls GM Marc Eversley is another name under consideration, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat have won four of their last six games, following a seven-game losing streak. A team meeting in late January helped to turn their fortunes, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Numerous players spoke up, as well as coach Erik Spoelstra. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Heat swingman Duncan Robinson said of the team’s improved play. “If there’s anything I’ve learned during my time in the NBA, it’s that a big part of playing well is not necessarily about Xs and Os, but putting your own whatever sort of things you’re going through aside and just giving into the team. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.”
  • The Hawks’ top two centers are banged up heading into the All-Star break, according to a team press release. Clint Capela is showing progress in his rehab from a left adductor strain but he’ll be listed as out for Wednesday’s game at Charlotte. He’s expected to return to practice following the All-Star break. Onyeka Okongwu left Monday’s game against Chicago late in the fourth quarter with a left big toe injury. Okongwu underwent an MRI on Tuesday and has been diagnosed with a left big toe sprain. He’ll be re-evaluated in seven-to-10 days.
  • In case you missed it, there’s an update on Miles Bridges‘ latest legal situation.

Mitch Kupchak Moving Into Advisory Role With Hornets

Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak will leave his post to become an organizational advisor to the franchise, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The search for a replacement will begin immediately, and new owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin are expected to hire someone before the end of the regular season, Wojnarowski adds. Sources tell ESPN that Kupchak will continue his current duties until his successor is named.

Wojnarowski hears that several current general managers will be among the targets of the search, including the Sixers’ Elton Brand, the Pelicans’ Trajan Langdon, the Cavaliers’ Mike Gansey and the Clippers’ Trent Redden. Sources tell Woj that some assistant GMs will be considered too, such as the Nets’ Jeff Peterson, the Wizards’ Travis Schlenk and the Kings’ Wes Wilcox, all of whom worked for the Hawks when Schnall was a minority owner in Atlanta.

Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer also lists Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton and Knicks assistant GM Frank Zanin as potential candidates.

Schnall and Plotkin began plotting a new course after purchasing a majority interest in the Hornets in August, Wojnarowski states. They are focused on rebuilding around a young roster as the team parted with veterans such as Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington in recent trades. Plans are also in the works for a $275MM arena renovation and a $60MM practice facility.

Kupchak will leave behind a mixed record during his time with the Hornets, Boone observes. He was able to fix the cap situation and make the team competitive after taking over as general manager in 2018, but his signature move — the signing of Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $120MM contract in 2020 despite a history of injuries — didn’t pay off as Kupchak had hoped. Hayward was traded this week to Oklahoma City for a modest return.

Drafting LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller may leave the Hornets with a brighter future, but Boone notes that Kupchak had his share of draft misses, including in 2021 when Charlotte selected James Bouknight, Kai Jones and Scottie Lewis, who are no longer with the team.

Southeast Notes: Kupchak, Hornets, Hayward, Gueye, Krejci, Beal

The Hornets’ front office could get a shakeup after the trade deadline. According to The Athletic’s John Hollinger, the scuttlebutt around league circles is that their new ownership group is planning to soon make a change in the front office.

Whether that involves Mitch Kupchak remains to be seen. Kupchak has been the Hornets’ president of basketball operations and general manager since April 2018.

We have more on the Southeast Division:

  • With Terry Rozier traded to Miami and LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward sidelined by injuries, the Hornets are struggling to get settled on offense. They’re saddled with an eight-game losing streak entering Wednesday’s contest against Toronto. ‘We gotta learn to trust the pass more, trust each other,” coach Steve Clifford said, per Alex Zietlow of the Charlotte Observer. “You know, that’s part of how we have to evolve. But we’re playing without one of the most creative players in the world in Melo. Terry obviously creates a lot of shots. And Gordon. So when you get used to playing a certain way, (it’s tough). Now we just have to just flick the switch a little bit. Move the ball, move our bodies a little bit more. And we have more than enough offense on the floor to play well for four quarters.”
  • Hayward, who hasn’t played since Dec. 26 due to a calf injury, is listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game, the team’s PR department tweets.
  • Hawks forward Mouhamed Gueye (right low back stress fracture) has returned to modified practice with the NBA G League’s College Park Skyhawks, according to a team press release. He is traveling with the Hawks this week to continue his rehabilitation plan. Gueye has only appeared in two NBA games this season. Forward Vit Krejci (left shoulder subluxation) practiced Monday with the Skyhawks and is traveling with the Skyhawks for their games this week at Grand Rapids, Mich. Krejci, a two-way player, hasn’t appeared in an NBA game this season.
  • Bradley Beal returned to Washington and dropped a season-high 43 points on his former team on Sunday. The Suns wing said he has a lot of good memories regarding his former NBA home and has no ill will toward the Wizards organization, according to the Noah Trister of The Associated Press. “It was a mutual decision back in the summer. It wasn’t a spiteful or like a disgusting divorce,” Beal said of the offseason trade. “It was a good separation. No hard feelings in it.”

Scotto’s Latest: Raptors, Pacers, Hawks, Markkanen, Hornets, More

Rival executives believe Pascal Siakam is more likely to be traded than OG Anunoby if the Raptors decide to shake up their roster, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. In fact, teams looking for help on the wing think Toronto “will do whatever it takes” to retain Anunoby as a free agent in 2024 — he’s widely expected to decline his $19.9MM player option for next season.

Scotto reports that top front office executives from the Pacers and Hawks had extensive conversations with Toronto’s brass at the NBA G League’s Winter Showcase in Orlando this week. Both teams have consistently been linked to the Raptors for several months, Scotto notes.

If the Raptors trade Siakam, they’d be looking for young players and draft capital in return, according to Scotto, with the goal of retooling around Scottie Barnes and Anunoby.

To that end, Pacers forward Jarace Walker, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2023 draft, could be a name to watch in trade talks. He hasn’t played much as a rookie this season, but he’s had some strong performances in the G League. Scotto also hears the Hawks would prefer to keep Jalen Johnson, who was having a breakout third season before sustaining a fractured wrist (he was recently cleared to resume practicing in full).

Here are more rumors and notes from Scotto:

  • Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen has been the subject of some trade speculation this season, but Scotto is the latest reporter to reiterate that the Finnish star is expected to stay put. According to Scotto, there are three reasons for that: Markkanen wants to remain with the Jazz, the cost of acquiring him could be exorbitant, and he could renegotiate and extend his contract in the offseason, which would bypass 2025 free agency. Multiple executives told Scotto the idea of a possible Markkanen trade was “wishful thinking.”
  • There’s a “strong belief” among rival executives that the Hornets will make front office changes “by next season at the latest,” Scotto writes. If president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak is fired or moved to a different role, Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson and Wizards senior VP of player personnel Travis Schlenk are potential candidates to replace him, league sources tell Scotto. As Scotto writes, both Peterson and Schlenk previously worked with new Charlotte co-owner Rick Schnall in Atlanta.
  • Kings guard Keon Ellis and Cavaliers guard Craig Porter Jr. are among the top candidates to be promoted to standard deals from their current two-way contracts, per Scotto. Cleveland has an open roster spot and wouldn’t necessarily need to release anyone to give Porter a raise (and make him playoff-eligible), while Sacramento has Juan Toscano-Anderson on a non-guaranteed deal.

Fischer’s Latest: Washington, Stewart, Hornets, Herro

After Miles Bridges put himself on track for unrestricted free agency in 2024 by accepting his qualifying offer as a restricted free agent last week, the Hornets will probably want to avoid putting P.J. Washington on a similar path, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. However, it remains to be seen whether the Hornets and Washington will be able to find common ground on a multiyear deal.

According to Fischer, coming into Summer League, league personnel believed that Washington and the Hornets remained far apart in their discussions on a four-year contract, though there was some optimism they’d come to terms after Summer League.

Marc Stein has reported that Washington is seeking $18MM+ annually, while Fischer previously suggested that the Charlotte forward may be looking for $20MM per year. In his latest article, Fischer says Washington still hasn’t received an offer from the Hornets that matches or exceeds what Isaiah Stewart got on his new extension with Detroit ($15MM in guaranteed money per year; up to $16MM annually with incentives).

Because teams around the NBA are essentially limited to mid-level money at this point, a sign-and-trade would be necessary to get Washington his desired salary from a non-Hornets team. While it’s not clear whether there’s a club out there with serious interest in such a scenario, Fischer says Charlotte would probably prefer a sign-and-trade over Washington accepting his qualifying offer.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • Before he signed his extension, Stewart had generated more trade inquiries in 2023 than any player on the Pistons‘ roster besides Cade Cunningham, sources tell Fischer. The fact that the big man signed a rookie scale extension so early in the offseason indicates that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
  • With the Hornets undergoing an ownership change, there’s a sense in league circles that president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak and head coach Steve Clifford could be on the hot seat in 2023/24, Fischer writes. Even if the Hornets’ new owners aren’t eager to make an immediate change, Kupchak and Clifford are each entering the final guaranteed year of their respective contracts, Fischer notes, so next offseason might be a logical time to shake things up anyway.
  • According to Fischer, league personnel are optimistic that if Tyler Herro is included in a Damian Lillard trade with the Heat, the Trail Blazers will be able to flip Herro to a third team for at least a first-round pick.
  • In case you missed it, we passed along several notes and rumors from Fischer on Wednesday.

Hornets Notes: Miller, Ball, Bridges, Washington, Free Agency

For all the outside speculation about who the Hornets would take with their No. 2 pick, general manager Mitch Kupchak says the team never wavered in its commitment to Brandon Miller, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Kupchak admits serious consideration was given to G League Ignite star Scoot Henderson, as both players were brought in Monday for a second workout and a meeting with team owner Michael Jordan. Miller solidified his status at that session, Kupchak confirmed in a post-draft press conference Thursday night.

“It wasn’t the easiest of decisions, but Brandon was our favorite all along,” he said. “A lot of spirited discussion the last three or four days, which I welcome, and I think it’s good for the basketball department to discuss pros and cons, pluses and minuses, argue a little bit. So, obviously, our opinion from the beginning did not change.”

The Hornets were attracted to Miller because he’s a better fit alongside point guard LaMelo Ball and he gives the team another outside shooting threat, connecting at 38.4% from long distance at Alabama this season. Although Charlotte was firm in its decision to take the freshman forward, he wasn’t told before the pick was announced by Commissioner Adam Silver.

“I found out literally when they were calling my name,” Miller said. “I was still on the phone. My reaction was a lot of excitement, smiles, hugs and handshakes. I knew my mom was going to cry, she was going to shed a tear. But there’s nothing wrong with crying, I think it happens to the best.”

There’s more from Charlotte:

  • Kupchak also offered an update on Ball, who underwent surgery on March 1 for a fractured right ankle, Boone states in a separate story. “His rehab, the bone was probably 100% healed six weeks ago,” Kupchak said. “In terms of MRIs and X-rays, it’s 100% healed. He’s been on the basketball court for four to six weeks, running, shooting, jumping. He has not scrimmaged yet. He’s not played one-on-one, two-on-two. He could, but we are not even July 1 yet. What’s the rush? So, he’s … I can’t say ahead of schedule. This is exactly what the doctor expected, so we are good.” 
  • Kupchak refused to talk about the possible return of Miles Bridges, who sat out all of last season after pleading no contest to felony domestic violence, Boone adds. However, Kupchak told reporters that re-signing free agent forward P.J. Washington remains a priority for the offseason.
  • The Hornets will try to find a veteran leader for their young team in free agency, tweets Mike Kaye of The Charlotte Observer. Kupchak said there are players on the roster who can eventually grow into leaders, but he doesn’t see anyone who’s ready for that role yet.

Hornets Notes: Miller, Henderson, Clifford, Kupchak, Jordan, Cole

Before making a final decision on the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Hornets have invited Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson to return to Charlotte on Monday for a second round of workouts and interviews, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

Team owner Michael Jordan will be present at the workouts and will get his first in-person look at the two prospects, the authors add. Jordan has agreed to sell his majority stake in the team, but he remains in charge until the sale is finalized.

Miller is still considered the favorite to be selected by the Hornets, sources tell Wojnarowski and Givony, but Henderson made a strong impression during his session with the team last week. Their sources also say Miller didn’t exhibit the same intensity or conditioning level that Henderson did in their first workout, Givony tweets, so Monday’s gathering might be viewed as a second chance for him.

Wojnarowski and Givony also hear that both players are hoping to be selected by Charlotte because the city is much closer to their homes than Portland is, and they are excited about the new ownership group.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The pending sale shouldn’t affect the jobs of either head coach Steve Clifford or general manager Mitch Kupchak, according to Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Clifford was hired last June and had to deal with numerous injuries to key players this season. He’s expected to get at least one more year on the job before a coaching change is considered. Kupchak signed a multi-year extension last year, and Boone states that this offseason will be important to his future, starting with making the right choice in the draft.
  • The high prices being fetched by sports franchises, along with Jordan’s legendary competitive nature, were likely factors in the sale, Boone adds. Jordan will reportedly sell the franchise for a $3 billion valuation and will get to retain a minority share of the team. Boone also suggests that Jordan doesn’t want his legacy to be affected by being associated with a losing franchise, as the Hornets have compiled a 423-600 record under his ownership.
  • Victoria Hernandez of USA Today looks at three potential ways that rap star J. Cole, who is part of the new ownership group, can use his connections in the music industry to benefit the team.

Fischer’s Latest: Hornets, Blazers, Sharpe, Middleton, Pacers

Many league executives believe the 2023 NBA draft could feature several first-round trades, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Fischer writes that there is widespread uncertainty surrounding the draft outside of Victor Wembanyama at No. 1, and examines the situations for the Nos. 2-10 picks.

The Hornets, who control the No. 2 pick, will be hosting Overtime Elite twins Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson for workouts on Friday, followed by G League Ignite’s Scoot Henderson on Sunday and Alabama’s Brandon Miller next Tuesday, league sources tell Fischer.

Charlotte is widely expected to ultimately choose between Miller or Henderson, with the twins ranking just behind them on ESPN’s big board. However, it’s certainly not a consensus like No. 1.

The Hornets have an additional layer of certainty as well, with rumors that owner Michael Jordan might look to sell his majority stake in the franchise. A new ownership group could look to hire a new president of basketball operations and head coach.

That has some Charlotte staffers wondering about the fates of Mitch Kupchak and Steve Clifford, as they each only have one guaranteed season left on their respective contracts, per Fischer.

Here’s more from Fischer on the draft and free agency:

  • Rival front offices are skeptical that the Trail Blazers will have a deal lined up to trade No. 3 before they’re on the clock on June 22, Fischer writes. Part of that is the uncertainty at No. 2, because a team trading up to No. 3 would presumably be targeting either Miller or Henderson, and they don’t yet know who will be available. In early trade talks, the Blazers are sending signals to rivals that Shaedon Sharpe will not be part of a possible package with the No. 3 pick, per Fischer’s sources. Sharpe was the No. 7 overall pick last year and showed flashes of brilliance with his incredible athleticism and smooth shot-making, but he’s inconsistent and just turned 20 years old, while star Damian Lillard is 32.
  • Although he has been linked to the Rockets, who are fielding offers for No. 4, looking to improve, and project to have the most cap room in the league this summer, rival executives believe Bucks wing Khris Middleton is likely to sign a long-term contract with Milwaukee this summer, according to Fischer. The three-time All-Star has a $40.4MM player option for next season. As Fischer notes, Middleton reportedly met with finalists for the Bucks’ coaching vacancy before they hired Adrian Griffin.
  • The Pacers continue to express interest in finding a starting power forward, sources tell Fischer. Indiana controls five picks in the upcoming draft, including No. 7 overall.

Hornets Notes: Offseason, Bridges, Ball, Clifford, DSJ, FAs

Whether or not Michael Jordan remains in his position as the Hornets‘ controlling owner through the current offseason, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak doesn’t expect the team to get too aggressive on the free agent market this July, according to Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Kupchak anticipates the front office’s focus to be on re-signing Charlotte’s own free agents and making roster upgrades in the draft and on the trade market.

“Although we have a lot of financial flexibility, we don’t typically go big-game hunting with our free agent money,” Kupchak told reporters on Tuesday.

Kupchak, who has said repeatedly since arriving in Charlotte that the team won’t be active in free agency on an annual basis, said the day could come when that approach changes, but insists it won’t happen in 2023.

“Maybe one day we will get to the point where a marquee free agent would look at our team and we’re winning a bunch of games and he’ll say, ’Hey, that’s a place I really want to go,” he said. “But right now, I don’t think that’s realistic. We’ve got to do it through the draft primarily.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Kupchak believes that the Hornets, who went 27-55 this season, would have won 40 games “if we had our team intact this year,” as Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer relays. He expects to enter next season with greater aspirations. “In the exit meetings, I made it clear that next year playoffs are our goal,” Kupchak said. “And I feel great. I do want to see this through. I don’t know if I’ll be sitting here 10 years from now. But I’d like to be sitting here a year from now, two years from now, three years from now and watching this team that our staff has put together perform. I think it’s realistic that next year will be a playoff (season).”
  • One reason the Hornets didn’t have their team “intact” in 2022/23 was because Miles Bridges remained unsigned all season long due to the fallout from a domestic violence incident. While Charlotte may still end up re-signing Bridges, it sounds like it would happen sometime during the ’23/24 league year if it happens at all. “The NBA is conducting an investigation and that’s the status of the situation right now,” Kupchak said, according to Boone. “… Even when they complete their investigation there are going to be steps that need to be taken, whether that’s us or other teams. … Maybe there was some thought that somebody or us would sign him during the season. But that’s not possible. So, this whole issue will roll over to July 1st.”
  • Kupchak also spoke in his end-of-season media session on Tuesday about a desire for LaMelo Ball to continue growing into a leadership role for the Hornets and expressed support for Steve Clifford, praising the job the head coach did in his first year back with the team.
  • Dennis Smith Jr., who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, has hired new representation. Octagon Sports published a tweet this week welcoming Smith to the agency.
  • Smith, P.J. Washington, and Kelly Oubre, all of whom are headed for free agency, each expressed interest this week in re-signing with the Hornets, Boone writes for The Observer. “I definitely want to be here in Charlotte,” said Washington, who will be a restricted free agent. “This is like home to me now, so this is where I want to be. I haven’t thought about being anywhere else.”
  • In yet another story for The Charlotte Observer, Boone looks for silver linings in a difficult year for the Hornets, identifying five reasons why the team’s future could be bright.

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.