Rick Schnall

Hornets Notes: Chemistry, Bridges, Gibson, Jackson, M. Williams, Black

LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, Brandon Miller, Mark Williams, Grant Williams, and several other Hornets players were in attendance at Tuesday’s Summer League game alongside new president of basketball operations Jeff Peterson and player enhancement coach Kemba Walker, according to Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

Summer League head coach Josh Longstaff said it “speaks volumes” to have the team’s veterans in the building “coaching up” and “cheering on” the Summer League squad, while guard Nick Smith Jr. added that it felt good to have “my big brothers (there) to support us.”

“It’s special, man,” Grant Williams said. “We are just trying to support one another, make sure we understand that team is first and team matters and really, really just committed to getting better and improving and making it a premier organization in the league.”

There are other signs of positive vibes around the organization this summer, according to Boone, who notes that co-owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin hosted a dinner event on Monday night in Las Vegas that included all of the Hornets’ players as well as a significant number of team personnel. Veteran big man Taj Gibson, the newest member of the roster, was among those impressed, Boone writes.

“It was really nice,” Gibson said. “To be honest with you, just meeting the ownership alone … First you see the ownership, the ownership is so welcoming. Those gentlemen, their energy is just vibrant in how they move and how they already circled and brought all the pieces together last night. It was like a family reunion, because that’s how relaxed we were. Talking, laughing, talking about what it’s going to be like. It was great, just to have that dialect.”

Gibson added that the team’s budding chemistry was on display at the event: “I’ve been to many of those dinners where every guy is over there, guys are over there. But (Monday) night, everybody was mixing. Everybody.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Bridges’ new three-year, $75MM contract with the Hornets has a descending structure, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). The deal, which is fully guaranteed with no options, is worth $27,173,913 in 2024/25, exactly $25MM in ’25/26, and $22,826,087 in ’26/27.
  • Gibson’s one-year, minimum-salary deal is partially guaranteed, Hoops Rumors has learned. Gibson is assured of receiving at least $1,082,270 and would lock in his full $3,303,771 salary if he remains under contract through the league-wide guarantee deadline of January 7.
  • While the signings of Gibson and Seth Curry bring the Hornets’ roster count to 15 players on standard contracts, that number could dip to 14 soon, Boone writes for the Charlotte Observer, noting that Reggie Jackson is considered unlikely to open the regular season with the team. The expectation is that Jackson will be cut at some point to allow him to try to catch on with a team closer to contention, according to Boone.
  • In a pair of exclusive interviews, Boone spoke to Hornets center Mark Williams about his efforts to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2023/24 season and to two-way player Leaky Black about his desire to earn a place on Charlotte’s standard 15-man roster.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Schnall, Longstaff, Hawks

The Wizards will have plenty of draft options after landing the No. 2 pick in this year’s lottery, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. General manager Will Dawkins, who was inside the lottery drawing room to learn his team’s fate, admitted there was some slight disappointment in not getting the top selection, but he’s confident about adding another valuable piece to the rebuilding process.

“I would say that there’s a lot of optionality at the top of the draft, and there’s probably not the same level of instant gratification that you can see in year one with some of these rookies,” Dawkins said. “But if you really dive down and have some patience and have a forward-thinking outlook, these players are going to be pretty good players in the NBA a few years from now.”

Last year’s selection of Bilal Coulibaly, who Washington traded up one spot to get, indicates that the front office is prioritizing players who understand the game and possess a strong work ethic, Robbins adds. He identifies G League Ignite forward Matas Buzelis, Connecticut center Donovan Clingan, French wing Zaccharie Risacher, French big man Alexandre Sarr and Serbian point guard Nikola Topic as players in this year’s draft class who fit that description.

Coulibaly offered a scouting report on Risacher, whom he faced in France last season.

“Risacher, he’s got a lot of talent, a lot of talent,” Coulibaly said. “I played against him, like, two times last year. A great shot-maker. He can create his own shot. Yeah, a really good player.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • There wasn’t any lottery luck for the Hornets, who had the third-best odds for the top pick but dropped to No. 6 when three teams leapfrogged them, notes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Even though he didn’t get the result he wanted, co-owner Rick Schnall enjoyed his first look inside the lottery room. “It happens really fast and they run it in an incredibly efficient way,” he said. “And your disappointment comes really quickly. But it was interesting and it was good to see who was in the room, watch how the NBA runs it and understand — it might be my last time in there.” Schnall expressed confidence that Charlotte can find a productive player at No. 6 and called the lottery “just another step” in the process of building a competitive team.
  • Assistant coach Josh Longstaff will leave the Bulls to become part of Charles Lee‘s staff with the Hornets, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He joins former Jazz assistant Lamar Skeeter, who was hired last week.
  • Hawks executive David Starkman, the team’s representative in the lottery drawing room, didn’t know how to react when Atlanta overcame long odds to win the No. 1 pick, per Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. The vice president of player personnel wasn’t familiar with what is considered acceptable behavior inside the lottery room. “I wasn’t sure what the protocol is,” Starkman said. “This isn’t the room to celebrate.” 
  • The lottery win adds $7MM to the Hawks‘ projected team salary and pushes that figure above the first tax apron, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link).

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.

Hornets Vice Chairman Fred Whitfield Steps Down From Position With Team

Longtime Hornets executive Fred Whitfield is stepping down from his position with the team and leaving the organization, the club announced today in a press release.

Whitfield isn’t on the basketball operations side of the organization, but has been the head of business operations for 17 years and is the president and vice chairman of Hornets Sports & Entertainment, the team’s ownership group. He has also long held a minority stake in the franchise.

Whitfield’s departure from the Hornets comes just a few months after new co-owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin took control of the franchise, having purchased majority control from former owner and chairman Michael Jordan.

A North Carolina native, Whitfield worked closely with Jordan through several different stages of his career, having held positions at David Falk’s player representation agency, in the Wizards’ front office, and with Nike and Jordan Brand.

“We thank Fred for all he has done for our organization and for the role he has played in helping get our ownership group up to speed over the last several months,” Schnall and Plotkin said in a statement. “His experience, knowledge and relationships in this industry, league and community have been invaluable to our franchise. We appreciate his hard work and dedication and wish him all the best.”

Whitfield cited health and family reasons in his statement confirming his departure from the Hornets.

“Over the last 18 months I have successfully battled a serious case of throat cancer,” Whitfield said. “I’ve also been focused on supporting my mother, who has her own health issues. As these priorities have occupied more of my time and energy, I realized that now is the right time to leave my role with the Hornets, who are on a tremendous path to success with the energy and ideas brought by our new owners, Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin.

“I’m grateful to them for their support during this challenging time, and I also want to thank the prior ownership groups under the leadership of Bob Johnson and Michael Jordan for giving me such a tremendous opportunity.”

Whitfield first joined the franchise in 2006, just two years after Charlotte had returned to the NBA as an expansion franchise. He oversaw the name change from the Bobcats to the Hornets in 2014.

Neither the Hornets’ announcement nor Whitfield’s statement says anything about divesting his shares in the team, so it’s not clear whether he’ll hang onto that minority stake or whether he’s selling it to Schnall and Plotkin (or another minority shareholder).

Hornets Notes: Schnall, Plotkin, Jordan, Roster

New Hornets co-chairmen Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin gave an exclusive interview to Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer on Thursday following their introductory press conference.

The chat covered a number of topics, including the duo’s desire to build a sustainable winner, fan engagement, the team’s roster, and their respect for former majority owner Michael Jordan, who retained a minority stake in the franchise and recently penned an open thank you letter following the finalized sale.

Here are some highlights from Boone’s interview, with is worth checking out in full for Hornets followers:

On Jordan initiating the conversation about selling the team last August:

The way he has dealt with us in this process — he told us a year ago, ‘You two guys are the right guys to buy the business,'” Schnall said. “You are basketball guys. I believe you can do this, and I want you to do this.’ And he stuck to his word. He was committed. That’s when we started down this path.”

How Schnall’s experience as a minority owner of the Hawks will impact his decision-making with Charlotte:

I think being in and around the NBA for eight years, watching how owners make decisions, how general managers make decisions, how the CBA works, how trades work, how you build a roster. And I’m a business builder as a living, and I take all that in to think about and work with Gabe, and the rest of the group on how do you build a team? What’s the strategy for building a team over the long term, and create success over the long term?

Obviously, I wasn’t making the decisions in Atlanta, but I was in the room. And we went through a rebuild. We made a decision to break it down. … Now you can debate if we did everything right. I don’t think we did. But we did a lot of things right. We had the right idea at that time.

“… I think all of that is information and Gabe and I spent a lot of time talking about it. Now that we are in the position of making those decisions or helping make those decisions, what are the right decisions to make at different times in order to try to build a sustainably successful franchise. And that’s what we are trying to do. We are not trying to win the title in one year and then be terrible two years later. Like any sustainable business, how do we build something that is a contender year-in and year-out.

Plotkin’s thoughts on the current state of the roster:

I think it will be a competitive team. When you look at the Eastern Conference, it’s pretty powerful at the top of the conference and there’s a bunch of teams somewhere in the middle parts where I think we can compete within. And we’ll see how that plays out. I think there are really a lot of good parts on the roster. Really, we liked what we saw out of Brandon (Miller) at summer league. His shot wasn’t falling, but that is not something that we are really worried about. He’s got great mechanics, he’s got a great release, he shot the ball incredibly well at Alabama.

And we just signed LaMelo (Ball) to the max. And he was playing great basketball last year before he got injured. Usually that third, fourth year is an inflection year and we just didn’t get to see it from him because he wasn’t really on the court. And we were just speaking with Mark Williams. When he came into the starting lineup, there was a palpable difference on how this team defended. Being a part of this team for the last four or five years, there’s been no rim protection.

And so to anchor yourself with a really high basketball IQ player on the back end of your defense, who can alter shots and shoot the basketball a little bit and rim run, that’s really important. The pieces are all there. We’ll see how Miles (Bridges) looks as he comes back. He was great the last season we had him, and there are other young parts that can elevate. And, of course, you have Gordon (Hayward) and Terry (Rozier), who are kind of consummate professionals. There’s a lot of pieces. They’re young and we think they will continue to develop.”

Sale Of Hornets Finalized

The purchase of Michael Jordan’s majority stake in the Hornets by a group led by Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall has been finalized, the team announced in a press release. The sale was approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors last month.

Plotkin and Schnall will immediately take over controlling interest in the team. They will serve as co-chairmen of Hornets Sports & Entertainment and will rotate the governorship every five years, starting with Schnall.

“Our vision is to take the Hornets to the next level, both on and off the court,” the new owners stated in the release. “We will look to build a highly competitive basketball team, develop innovative business practices, give back to our community and connect with our fans. We plan to further invest in the team, the facilities and the fan experience, with the goal of delivering a winner to our fans throughout the Carolinas. We are confident that our successful business backgrounds and our previous experience as NBA minority owners will be beneficial as we shape the future of the franchise as a best-in-class organization.” 

Schnall had been a minority owner of the Hawks and an alternative on the league’s Board of Governors since 2015. Plotkin has held a minority stake in the Hornets since 2019 and served as a Board of Governors alternate as well. Their ownership group includes entertainers J. Cole and Eric Church, who are both from North Carolina.

Jordan, who has owned the team since 2010, will remain a minority owner and an alternate governor, the press release confirms. The purchase price isn’t disclosed, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that the franchise is being valued at $3 billion for the sale.

“The opportunity to be the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets in my home state of North Carolina for the last 13 years has been a tremendous honor,” Jordan said. “I’m proud of all that the organization accomplished: the exciting on-court moments, the return of the Hornets name, Charlotte hosting the 2019 NBA All-Star Game and HSE becoming a true pillar of this community. Through the years, the unwavering commitment, passion and loyalty of our Hornets fans has been incredible.

“As I transition into a minority ownership role, I’m thrilled to be able to pass the reins to two successful, innovative and strategic leaders in Gabe and Rick. I know the Hornets organization is in great hands moving forward. I’m excited about the future of the team and will continue to support the organization and the community in my new role in the years ahead.” 

NBA’s Board Of Governors Approve Sale Of Hornets

The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved the sale of the Hornets to a group led by Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

Michael Jordan agreed to sell his majority stake in the franchise last month after a 13-year run as the team’s majority owner. The Hall of Famer is expected to remain involved with the franchise as a minority shareholder.

The completed sale of the team, which was purchased at an approximate $3 billion valuation, is expected to be formally executed within the next two weeks. Jordan, who had been the league’s lone Black majority owner, paid $275MM for a majority stake in the franchise in 2010.

Schnall, the co-owner of a private equity firm, and Plotkin are not newcomers to NBA ownership. Schnall had been a minority owner of the Hawks, while Plotkin had a minority share of the Hornets. They’ll now serve as the franchise’s co-governors.

Plotkin, founder and chief investment officer of Melvin Capital, acquired his minority share from Jordan in 202o. Another minority owner of the franchise, Daniel Sundheim, is also part of the purchasing group.

Michael Jordan Agrees To Sell Majority Share Of Hornets

9:45am: The Hornets have put out a press release confirming that Jordan has reached an agreement to sell the majority share of the franchise to a group led by Plotkin and Schnall. According to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), the team is being valued at approximately $3 billion in the sale.

In addition to the names listed below, the new ownership group will include tech investor Ian Loring and several North Carolina natives, including recording artists J. Cole and Eric Church, per the Hornets.

The team added that Schnall is in the process of selling his minority stake in the Hawks, which will likely be completed within the next few weeks.

9:04am: Hornets owner Michael Jordan is selling his majority share of the franchise, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports that Jordan is in the process of finalizing a deal with a group led by Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall.

Plotkin is a current minority stakeholder in the Hornets, while Schnall held a minority share of the Hawks. They’ll become the new team governors in Charlotte once the sale is completed and approved by the NBA, says Wojnarowski, adding that an agreement is expected to be reached soon.

Jordan assumed majority control of the Hornets back in 2010, completing a deal that was based on a reported valuation of $275MM. While it’s not clear yet what he’ll sell for, Forbes estimated last October that the franchise was worth $1.7 billion, and those projections often undershoot actual sale prices.

Charlotte’s NBA franchise, which reentered the NBA as the expansion Bobcats in 2004 before being rebranded as the Hornets in 2014, made the playoffs just three times during Jordan’s tenure as majority owner and didn’t win a postseason series.

According to Wojnarowski, Jordan will remain involved with the Hornets, at least in the short term. He’ll continue to oversee basketball operations during the draft and the start in free agency in the coming weeks. Even after completing the sale, the six-time NBA champion is expected to retain a minority stake in the team, sources tell ESPN.

Word broke three months ago that Jordan was mulling the possibility of giving up control of the Hornets to a group led by Plotkin and Schnall. A story last month indicated that he may have been waiting until after the draft lottery to make a decision, since landing the No. 1 overall pick and the right to draft Victor Wembanyama would’ve increased the value of the franchise.

Charlotte didn’t win the draft lottery, but did come away with the next-best thing — the team controls the No. 2 pick, which could be used to draft a potential star like Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller or as the centerpiece in a trade for an established veteran star. For now, there doesn’t appear to be traction on a trade involving the No. 2 pick, though that could change by the time the Hornets are on the clock next Thursday.

Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported yesterday that Charlotte is trying to bring Henderson and Miller back to town this coming Monday to meet with Jordan, adding that all signs point toward the club choosing between those two players if it keeps its lottery pick. The Hornets have kept the reps for Henderson and Miller apprised on the ownership situation, tweets Fischer.

Besides Plotkin and Schnall, the Hornets’ new ownership team will include Hornets minority owner Daniel Sundheim, who is part of the purchasing group, says Wojnarowski.

A source tells Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link) that private equity form Dyal HomeCourt Partners is also expected to be involved in the group. Dyal also has stakes in the Hawks and Kings and had one in the Suns before cashing out in February when Mat Ishbia bought the franchise, says Vorkunov.

It remains to be seen how the Hornets’ ownership change might affect the team on and off the court going forward — head coach Steve Clifford and president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak are among those in leadership roles whose futures could be impacted. For what it’s worth, Fischer notes (via Twitter) that Schnall was believed to be involved in basketball operations during his time as a Hawks minority owner.

Michael Jordan In Discussions To Sell Majority Stake In Hornets

Longtime Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan may soon be giving up control of the franchise. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Jordan is currently “in serious talks” to offload a majority stake in the Hornets to another ownership group fronted by Hawks minority owner Rick Schnall and current Charlotte minority owners Gabe Plotkin and Daniel Sundheim.

While a deal is not imminent, there’s momentum toward an agreement that would eventually make Schnall and Plotkin co-governors of the Hornets, Wojnarowski adds.

Woj hears that Jordan intends to hold on to at least a minority piece of the club if a sale agreement is reached.

Jordan purchased his initial majority stake in the Hornets for $275MM in 2010, but has been at least a partial owner since 2009. The Hornets’ value as a franchise has only increased since Jordan bought that initial stake. Sportico’s most recent valuation of the team estimated its worth at $1.77 billion (Twitter link).

With a new television deal on the horizon, it seems like a wise investing decision to maintain at least some portion of Charlotte for the immediate future.

The rebuilding Hornets currently occupy the East’s No. 14 seed with a 22-49 record. The team is in prime position to add a major talent in what is expected to be an exciting 2023 draft. During the 2021/22 season, Charlotte did qualify for the East’s play-in tournament, but lost a 132-103 blowout to the Hawks.