Steve Clifford

Southeast Notes: Avdija, Jovic, Heat Struggles, Clifford

Wizards forward Deni Avdija signed a four-year, $55MM extension with the team last offseason. The fact that a new front office regime – rather than the one that drafted him – offered him that contract was a shot of confidence for Avdija, signaling the franchise’s belief in the former No. 9 overall pick, The Washington Post’s Ava Wallace writes.

Avdija, 23, has rewarded that faith with his best professional season yet, averaging career bests of 14.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while connecting on a career-high 50.9% of his shots from the field and 37.8% of his three-pointers. Avdija explained that getting that contract from the Wizards last year felt like a weight removed from his chest and allowed him to focus on basketball.

Deni’s been great,” interim coach Brian Keefe said. “Growth has been tremendous. We’ve put the ball in his hands to make plays for himself, for others. The rebounding has been great. We’re going to keep pushing Deni to do more because we think he can be — do — more.

In an otherwise poor season, Avdija has been a bright spot for the Wizards and looks like a centerpiece going forward as the club navigates a rebuild. Amid uncertainty, he led Washington in starts this season and recorded 24 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in the home finale on Friday.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • When the Heat first inserted 20-year-old Nikola Jovic into the starting lineup this season, it was seen as more of an experiment than a long-term solution, Ira Winderman of South Florida’s Sun Sentinel writes. Flash forward to April, and Jovic has held firm on a starting spot as the Heat approach the postseason. He’s averaging 9.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting 39.5% from three in his last 25 starts and has provided the team with a stretch big who can run the floor next to Bam Adebayo. “He’s improved in so many of the areas. It started with his work ethic,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I often have to remind myself that Niko is 20.” With Tyler Herro healthy, it’s possible Miami switches up its lineup in the postseason, but Jovic will likely remain a part of the rotation, starter or not.
  • Injuries and an inefficient offense continue to be a thorn in Miami’s side this season, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. The Heat entered Thursday with the fifth-most missed games in the NBA due to injury — and the most of any team with a winning record. Josh Richardson, Duncan Robinson and Terry Rozier are among the key rotation pieces currently absent for the Heat, and it doesn’t help that they’ve scored fewer than 100 points in a game 18 times this year, going 2-16 in such outings. “Ultimately, we have to figure out a way that we can try to play somewhat the same identity on the offensive end game to game,” Herro said. The Heat are left to scramble for answers whenever Jimmy Butler and/or Adebayo have an off night, according to Chiang.
  • Steve Clifford‘s tenure with the Hornets is ending, but the veteran coach isn’t taking his foot off the gas pedal even with his team long eliminated from the postseason, per The Charlotte Observer’s Roderick Boone. “We have good, young guys that can continue to grow,” Clifford said. Regardless of the lack of postseason appearances and the amount of injuries over the course of his second stint with Charlotte, Clifford is thankful for getting a second chance to coach this team. He’s set to move into a consultant position under the guidance of vice president of basketball operations Jeff Peterson after the season. “The consulting thing is tricky,” Clifford said, “… you have to pick your spots and figure out what areas you can most help in.

Hornets Notes: Miller, Clifford, Coaching Search, Staley

Brandon Miller vs. Scoot Henderson was the most debated topic heading into the draft last June, but their first on-court meeting didn’t happen until Wednesday, writes Shane Connuck of The Charlotte Observer. The Hornets opted for Miller with the No. 2 pick, even though Henderson was the more heralded prospect. Charlotte’s decision has paid off as Miller has been one of this season’s top rookies — averaging 17.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 70 games — while Henderson has taken longer to adjust to the NBA.

“Just to go against each other early in our careers — like, there’s gonna be even more fun in the long run,” Henderson said after the Trail Blazers pulled out a three-point victory at Charlotte. “(Miller) can shoot it really, really well. Off the dribble, catch and shoot. That really stuck out to me.”

Connuck notes that the Hornets hosted both players for individual workouts before making their final decision. They already have a dynamic lead guard in LaMelo Ball, even though he has missed most of the season due to injuries, and were intrigued by Miller’s size and shooting ability.

Miller was equally complimentary of Henderson after their first game.

“He can do a bit of everything, tonight he was knocking down threes,” Miller said. “A big physical guard who can get downhill and finish around the rim and create. I think it’s a good fit for him in Portland because he has pieces around him who can knock down shots. So you know he’s going to have a great career and I look forward to playing against him again.”

There’s more from Charlotte:

  • Miller achieved a shooting feat Friday night that only Stephen Curry has ever matched, per Alex Zietlow of The Charlotte Observer. Miller became just the second player to top 25 points by halftime without missing a shot from the field or the foul line while attempting at least five three-pointers. “You’ve been watching him all year,” coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s a very mature, very poised player. I mean, the things he does, you can’t teach. And it’s interesting watching him: All of the stuff that you want him to do as a team, he’s good at. But then all the things as a coach that you have no say over, he’s good at that too. We function well when he’s out there because the team stuff, he’s great at, and then he’s a talented guy. He’s a great competitor.”
  • Clifford’s decision to accept a front office role is the best move for him and the team, contends Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Boone points out that the Hornets faced an April 30 deadline to notify Clifford if they were planning to extend his contract. Resolving the issue early gives the organization a head start on hiring Clifford’s replacement.
  • At a press conference this week, executive vice president Jeff Peterson talked about the qualities he’s looking for in the team’s next head coach, Boone adds. “A lively energy to come in with a level of excitement to teach these guys,” Peterson said. “As Cliff was saying, it’s a different generation so the ability to teach them and help them retain information is important. (Also) player development. We are still relatively in this youthful phase and at the same time I feel like everyone can be better. I don’t care how old you are or how many years of service you have in this league, you can always find a way to be better.”  
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe believes the Hornets should consider South Carolina’s Dawn Staley as the NBA’s first female head coach. He states that the Celtics were interested in interviewing Staley during the coaching search that led to the hiring of Ime Udoka.

Southeast Notes: Clifford, Hornets’ Coaching Search, Bogdanovic, Magic

At a press conference this afternoon, Steve Clifford explained his decision to step down as head coach of the Hornets at the end of the season, write Roderick Boone and Shane Connuck of The Charlotte Observer. Clifford admitted that the team’s lack of success over the past two years, much of which can be attributed to a short-handed roster, played a major role. Charlotte is 45-112 since Clifford returned to the team last summer.

“I’ll just get right to it,” the 62-year-old coach told reporters. “There’s a certain energy level that you need to have a chance to coach effectively in this league. For me, the last couple of years with the losing had been a factor in it. But as we have been meeting and discussing things, I’m just not comfortable that I can — that I’m ready right now to — give the players what they need from a head coach in order to play well every night.”

Clifford is expected to move into a front office job, although the details of that position haven’t been finalized. He also coached the team from 2013-18 and has the most wins in franchise history. Executive vice president Jeff Peterson believes he’ll be an important addition to the management team.

“I think Cliff will become that person who (players) can go to and confide in at times,” Peterson said. “He always shoots it straight, regardless of who you are. You may not like it at the moment, but the players respect that. Having that familiar face and voice — still within the organization — is going to be very valuable.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • In a separate story, Boone evaluates five prominent candidates as the Hornets begin the search for their next head coach. In addition to Celtics assistant Charles Lee and Heat assistant Chris Quinn, who were mentioned earlier, Boone looks at Nuggets assistant David Adelman, Mavericks assistant Sean Sweeney and Nets assistant Will Weaver.
  • Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic had a heated exchange with coach Quin Snyder late in Monday’s game with Chicago that was audible on the Bulls’ broadcast, but they both dismissed the incident afterward and said their relationship is fine, per Lauren Williams of the Journal-Constitution. “We are doing this almost every other minute or we are verbally fighting all the time, which is normal,” Bogdanovic said. “That means we both care and everyone cares.”
  • The Magic continue to rely on defense as they fight for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, notes Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando posted a 103.1 defensive rating during its just-completed eight-game homestand, which was the best in the league during that time. The Magic limited opponents to 99.4 PPG over those eight games.

Steve Clifford To Step Down As Hornets’ Head Coach After Season

10:32am: The Hornets have put out a press release officially confirming the news.

“This is the appropriate time for me to step down,” Clifford said in a statement. “I believe this is best for me and the organization. I’m excited about the future of the Hornets – our young core of players, Jeff’s leadership of our basketball operations and Rick and Gabe’s vision for the organization. I want to thank all the Hornets players and staff for their work the past two seasons and our Hornets fans for their continued support of our team.”

In a statement of his own, Peterson thanked Clifford for his contributions to the franchise and said the search process for a new head coach will begin immediately.

“We will look to hire someone that shares our values and vision in developing our young core and creating a culture and identity based on teamwork, accountability and competitiveness,” Peterson said. “We will conduct a thorough search process to select the best head coach for the Hornets moving forward.”

9:48am: Hornets head coach Steve Clifford will step down from his current position with the franchise at the conclusion of the 2023/24 regular season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Clifford informed his players and assistants of the plan on Wednesday morning and will coach the team’s final seven games.

According to Wojnarowski, Clifford will likely remain with the organization in a front office role. He and the team are working to finalize the details of that potential transition — Woj suggests there’s a desire from management and ownership to have the 62-year-old serve in an advisory role that would allow him to “impact all parts of the organization.”

With the Hornets under new ownership heading into the 2024 offseason, there was a sense that a head coaching change was possible. Charlotte has already undergone an in-season front office overhaul after head of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak moved into an advisory position. He was replaced by former Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson, who was named Charlotte’s executive VP of basketball operations.

However, Wojnarowski says that co-owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin were open to the idea of bringing back Clifford. The veteran coach decided that he didn’t want to commit to the “year-round grind” of the job for another year and conveyed his intentions early so that the Hornets can immediately begin searching for his successor.

Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez, Celtics assistant Charles Lee, Heat assistant Chris Quinn, and Suns assistant Kevin Young are among the candidates expected to receive consideration for the permanent job in Charlotte, per Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Chris Mannix of (Twitter link) singles out Lee as a candidate to watch, noting that there’s been “a lot of chatter in coaching circles” indicating that he’ll be a strong contender to replace Clifford.

Clifford, who also coached Charlotte from 2013-18, had less success in his second stint with the club, posting a 45-112 (.287) record over the past two seasons. Multiple injuries to star point guard LaMelo Ball hamstrung Clifford and the Hornets, as did the domestic violence charges against Miles Bridges, which cost the forward the entire 2022/23 season.

The team entered ’23/24 with postseason aspirations, but essentially threw in the towel following an injury-plagued first half, trading away veterans Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, and P.J. Washington prior to February’s deadline.

The next Hornets’ head coach will take over a retooling club that has a few promising building blocks, including Ball, rookie wing Brandon Miller, and young center Mark Williams. Bridges will be an unrestricted free agent, though the team hopes to re-sign him. Charlotte also currently has the NBA’s fourth-worst record, putting the franchise in position to land a draft pick in the top half of this year’s lottery and add another core piece.

The Wizards and Nets, who have made in-season coaching changes and currently employ interim replacements, are expected to join the Hornets in seeking new head coaches this spring. It’s possible other clubs will join that list in the coming weeks.

Southeast Notes: Clifford, Windler, Houstan, Bagley, Vukcevic

Steve Clifford has seen a lot of losing since returning to the Hornets‘ sidelines last season, but Saturday’s blowout in Atlanta stood out because of a lack of competitiveness from his team, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte dropped its fourth straight game in the midst of a 17-53 season, and Clifford was upset that his players didn’t fight back after falling behind early.

“As soon as we started subbing, our intensity went downhill and we never really got it back,” he said. “That was just as poor an effort, and just for a team that’s tried all year, we didn’t try very hard. We’re not going to be able to do that. I thought Miles (Bridges) was really good. And in terms of effort, it ended there.”

When Clifford became the Hornets’ coach last season, he inherited a team that was already off to a rough start in its rebuilding process. None of its draft picks from 2021 panned out — including first-rounders Kai Jones and James Bouknight — which creates a difficult situation for a franchise that’s not in position to attract top free agent talent.

“I remember we used to say all the time, ‘It gets late early in the NBA,’” Clifford said. “You bring a guy in who had been in college four years and he doesn’t play well in his first year, those guys would be gone. But you’re crazy to do that now because the guys are so young. Everything used to be, you drafted in performance. Now, you’re drafting by potential and it’s much, much harder. Younger players are not as ready to play, and it makes it harder on coaches, but it makes it much, much harder on management.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Injuries have forced the Hawks to go deep into their bench, notes Lauren Williams of The Journal-Constitution. That included 19 minutes Saturday night for Dylan Windler, who made his home debut after signing a two-way contract earlier this month. “I felt pretty comfortable for the most part,” Windler said. “Obviously, I haven’t had any live extended minutes like that in a while. So, it just feels good to get up and down for a little bit, try to get my legs back. But for the most part it felt comfortable. Just trying to add a little bit of energy to us, add a spark, crash the boards hard and make shots for us.”
  • Caleb Houstan made a rare start for the Magic on Saturday with Gary Harris unavailable due to a right plantar fascia strain, per Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. However, the second-year small forward experienced soreness in his left ankle and didn’t play in the second half. Coach Jamahl Mosley said Houstan will be evaluated today.
  • Wizards big man Marvin Bagley III returned Saturday after missing nearly three weeks with lower back spasms, according to Stephen Whyno of The Associated Press. Tristan Vukcevic, who signed with Washington 11 days ago, played three minutes in his NBA debut. “It was amazing, a dream come true,” Vukcevic told Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports Network (video link).

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Bridges, Fultz, Coulibaly

Injuries and losses continue to pile up for the Hornets after a brief upturn last month, but head coach Steve Clifford won’t consider tanking over the final 21 games, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

With five rotation members sidelined, Charlotte dropped a close game at Toronto on Sunday night for its fifth loss in the last six games. At 15-46, the Hornets have the league’s fourth-worst record and are two games ahead of San Antonio for a chance to become one of three teams with the best odds at the No. 1 pick, but Clifford doesn’t want to approach the rest of the season that way.

“Look, we’re shorthanded and there’s a big difference between in some of the games you play, there’s going to be a real challenge to win,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean you play losing basketball. And there’s a big difference between teams that just pack it in and teams that play the right way and win. And I think as an organization, I think trying to win every game is a big thing.”

Seth Curry, Cody Martin and Nick Richards are the latest additions to Charlotte’s injured list, and they were on the bench in street clothes Sunday along with LaMelo Ball and Mark Williams. Boone notes that two-way players Amari Bailey and Leaky Black have been called up to provide some depth, and Marques Bolden was re-signed to a two-way contract last week two days after being waived.

Clifford points out that the remainder of the season will be crucial for those inexperienced players as they try to establish themselves in the NBA, and he doesn’t want to expose them to a culture that’s focused on losing.

“With younger players, to me, it’s absolutely critical that they understand the importance of getting better every day,” Clifford said. “I’m a firm believer, especially for younger guys, that their first experience is the way they view the league, the way they have to be taught how to be a good NBA player. I think they have to gain an understanding of how to win.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Miles Bridges didn’t experience any customs issues during this trip to Canada, Boone tweets. The Hornets forward was denied access to the country during the team’s December 18 visit because of his legal issues.
  • Markelle Fultz was the only Magic reserve to score in double figures Sunday night as he continues to come off the bench after missing three games due to an aching left knee. Fultz told Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel that he isn’t concerned about not starting (Twitter link). “If I’m in the game, [I’m] playing as hard as I can,” Fultz said. “But I don’t really care about that, man. I care about winning any way possible.”
  • After missing three games with a pelvic contusion, rookie Bilal Coulibaly isn’t on the Wizards‘ injury report for tonight’s game at Utah, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

Eastern Notes: Hornets, Peterson, Clifford, Bridges, Pistons, Murray, Raptors

By all accounts, the Hornets made a strong choice in reportedly deciding on Nets executive Jeff Peterson to run their front office, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

One source who has spent plenty of time around Peterson called it a “great, great get” for the Hornets, while a high-ranking executive who previously worked with Peterson referred to him as “incredibly intelligent and super genuine,” Boone reports.

Peterson will have many items on his to-do list in the coming weeks and months once he’s officially hired, according to Boone, who points to head coach Steve Clifford‘s future as one major decision awaiting the new head of basketball operations. The Hornets don’t owe Clifford any additional guaranteed money, Boone writes, so if they decide not to retain him beyond the season, they could simply turn down his team option for 2024/25.

Peterson will also face an important free agency decision this summer on Miles Bridges, who has picked up where he left off on the court this season but has been the subject of multiple domestic violence accusations in the past two years. His most recent legal case was dismissed last month. Multiple league sources tell Boone that Charlotte could face competition from the Pistons for the former Michigan State forward.

In the shorter term, Peterson may look to start filling out his new front office. According to Boone, one candidate for a possible assistant general manager role is Matt Tellem, Brooklyn’s director of strategic planning and an assistant GM for the G League’s Long Island Nets. Tellem is considered a salary cap expert, says Boone.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Although the Pistons envision trade-deadline acquisitions Quentin Grimes and Simone Fontecchio as key pieces of next season’s team, they plan to bring both wings off the bench for now and take a look at five of their recent first-round picks as starters, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required). Healthy and back from his three-game suspension, Isaiah Stewart will continue to be part of Detroit’s starting five alongside Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson, and Jalen Duren for the foreseeable future, barring injuries. The hope is that Stewart’s defense will make up for the first unit having less spacing, Sankofa explains.
  • Hawks guard Dejounte Murray has locked in a $500K bonus on top of his base salary this season after making his 125th three-pointer of the season on Saturday, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The bonus had been deemed likely and already counted against Murray’s $18.2MM cap hit because he earning that incentive last season by making 133 threes.
  • Raptors star Scottie Barnes is out indefinitely after fracturing his hand on Friday and may have played his last game of the 2023/24 season. However, Warriors forward Draymond Green believes Barnes is capable of great things next year and beyond, as Michael Grange of relays. “Scottie is an incredible player,” Green said on Friday. “… Me playing the point forward position, I’m not going to sit up here and act like I was the first one to ever do it, but I think I’ve done it a little differently than most. And he’ll take that to another level. … I think Scottie will do way more than I ever did.”
  • Barnes’ injury was unfortunately timed, given that the new-look Raptors were beginning to show some promise, according to Josh Lewenberg of, who explores what the All-Star’s absence means for the team going forward.

And-Ones: Holiday, N. Young, J. Parker, 2024 Draft, More

The Heat and Clippers are believed to be the other teams that were seriously in the mix for Jrue Holiday before the Trail Blazers accepted the Celtics’ offer for the All-Defensive guard, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said during the latest episode of his Hoop Collective podcast.

“I’m not sure exactly where are the offers were at the end for the Blazers before they decided on the Celtics’ offer, but based on my conversations, my feel was there was at least three teams who were making significant bids.” Windhorst said, according to RealGM. “… The teams I really think were there in the end were the Celtics, Heat and the Clippers.

“The reason I think those three teams were there because I think those were the three teams Jrue Holiday was really focused on at some point being able to sign a longer-term contract (with). And that message kind of went out in recent days. Other teams made offers but it was sort of a three-team, aggressive race at the end. Only the Blazers know exactly what the offers were.”

The Clippers came close to acquiring Malcolm Brogdon back in June, so it will be interesting to see if they make any effort to re-engage the Trail Blazers in talks for Brogdon after missing out on Holiday.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard Nick Young is resuming his playing career overseas, having signed with the Macau Black Bears of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), according to the team (Instagram link; hat tip to Sportando). A former first-round pick, Young has appeared in 720 regular season NBA games, but has been out of the league since being waived by Denver in 2018.
  • Speaking to Alex Molina of Eurohoops following his move to FC Barcelona, former No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker said he believes the NBA is getting “watered down” because so many teams are trying to tank for draft picks each season, and expressed dismay that players like Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, and John Wall can’t find NBA homes.
  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) has updated his mock draft for 2024, moving USC guard Isaiah Collier up to No. 2 and Perth Wildcats big man Alexandre Sarr up to No. 4. While Ron Holland of the G League Ignite is still considered the early favorite to be next year’s No. 1 pick, Givony says Sarr has done enough to join the small group of prospects with a legitimate case for the top spot in the 2024 draft.
  • With a series of holes in its programming schedule this winter due to the writers’ and actors’ strikes, ABC will air NBA games on every Wednesday night in January, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. That slate of games will includes matchups between the Pelicans and Warriors, Mavericks and Lakers, and Suns and Nets, among others.
  • Kurt Helin of NBC Sports believes that Jason Kidd (Mavericks), Steve Clifford (Hornets), and Billy Donovan (Bulls) are three head coaches who will be on the hot seat this season.

Steve Clifford “Really Optimistic” As Hornets Prepare For Camp

In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, coach Steve Clifford describes himself as “really optimistic” as he prepares for his second season since returning to the Hornets. Clifford had a full offseason to get ready for the upcoming campaign, unlike last year when everything felt rushed as he got hired shortly after the draft.

Clifford is particularly encouraged by the level of commitment he saw during the summer, with as many as 13 players showing up for optional workouts last month. Veterans Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward had a hand in organizing those sessions, which Clifford believes will set the tone for training camp.

“Terry, Gordon, they were great,” Clifford said. “They kind of set the whole thing up. When we do the drills — because you are limited to what you can do — they are the first guys in. So I really feel like we got a lot out of September.

Charlotte was just 27-55 in Clifford’s first year back with the team, but the season was derailed by injuries to key players and the suspension of Miles Bridges. Clifford has a much healthier roster heading into camp and hopes to fully instill his vision for the team, which involves an up-tempo approach and stresses good decision making with the ball. He points out that the Hornets ranked eighth in transition opportunities a year ago, but only 27th in efficiency.

“This team was built to run, and so last year we actually did a good job in terms of our pace, getting the ball up and down the floor,” he said. “But we were inefficient in the first eight seconds of the clock.”

Clifford touches on a few other topics in the interview:

On Bridges’ performance after being out of the league for an entire year:

“I thought he’d be a lot further behind, But he’s obviously spent a lot of time in the gym. You can see it when he works out. I think his individual skills and stuff are good and he’s on it, but also playing. He was in a lot better shape and everything. So he’s already getting back to where he was. And we still have training camp and then we have to have a good plan for him through the first 10 games (as his suspension continues). But he’s put himself in a good spot.”

On second overall pick Brandon Miller and how he’s fitting in with his teammates:

“They like playing with him already just because to me it’s his decision-making. To me, everything makes sense when you watch him. And he can really shoot. But he can really pass. He knows how to play without the ball. He’s been coached. He plays in a way that helps his teammates play better. So even in pickup games, the ball moves quickly. He knows who he’s on the floor with, where they want the ball and he’s a very quick learner. So he’s also coming off the mono. His Summer League, he wasn’t quite back to full strength. He’s done a good job in the weight room. He’s gained a lot of that weight back and you can tell he’s getting more and more confident here as we get through September.”

On the importance of having Cody Martin back after missing almost all of last season because of knee issues:

“Yeah, look guys like him, there’s just not many of them. Tough-minded, very smart player, plays well at both ends of the floor. He’s a winning-type player. He’s a throwback. He’s got great toughness and his teammates love him when he’s on the floor. So, obviously we miss him, we missed him last year. He’s worked really hard all summer to get ready, and I think he does feel a lot better about where he’s at right now. We just have to be smart because he’s had a couple times where he felt good and then we’d have a setback. So, we’ve got a great performance staff here and they are all over it and we just hope for the best.”

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.