Rich Cho

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.

Hornets Expand Search For New GM

The Hornets are expanding their search for a new GM even though former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak remains a leading candidate, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports.

The Hornets are looking to replace Rich Cho after announcing last month they wouldn’t extend his contract.

The club has received permission to interview Sixers VP of Player Personnel Marc Eversley, Rockets Executive VP of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas and Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, league sources told Wojnarowski.

However, Kupchak’s longstanding relationship with owner Michael Jordan could still tip the scales in his favor, Wojnarowski adds. The Lakers replaced Kupchak with Magic Johnson last season.

Assistant GM Buzz Peterson is currently running the day-to-day operations for the Hornets and is expected to remain with the organization once a new GM is hired. Charlotte hopes to fill the position by the end of the regular season, Wojnarowski adds.

Latest On Hornets’ Front Office Changes

The Hornets issued a press release today confirming that general manager Rich Cho won’t have his contract extended beyond this season. The club will begin its search for a new GM immediately, according to that announcement.

Speaking to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Hornets vice chairman Curtis Polk said that Cho asked the team over the weekend if he could expect an extension on his current contract. Once Polk and controlling owner Michael Jordan decided that wouldn’t happen, the club “made a clean break” from Cho.

That means, as Bonnell writes, that assistant GM Buzz Peterson will run Charlotte’s front office on an interim basis. However, Polk indicated that Peterson likely won’t be considered for the permanent GM job, as he expects that person to come from outside the organization.

Here’s more from Bonnell and Polk:

  • According to Polk, the Hornets’ goal is to have a new GM in place by the end of the season. He expects about four to six candidates to receive interviews, though he acknowledged that some potential targets may not be available until their teams finish their respective seasons. “We’d like it to be as soon as possible, but we don’t want to handicap our choices,” Polk said.
  • Asked specifically about Mitch Kupchak, who is rumored to be Charlotte’s top target, Polk said that the former Lakers GM is “a good name,” but cautioned that he’s not sure what Kupchak’s level of interest in the position would be.
  • Polk said that networking skills and an ability to adapt to the changing times are two important traits for the next Hornets GM. “We need a strong leader who is well respected in the organization and within the industry,” Polk said. “Someone who can build on the tools Rich (provided): Analytics and also be a great evaluator (of talent). … The way basketball has evolved, we have to be careful about (someone who is) too set in their ways. We need to experiment in some regards, (not be saddled with) how basketball was eight years ago or 10 years ago.”

Hornets Won’t Retain Rich Cho, Begin Search For New GM

10:44am: The Hornets have officially confirmed they won’t extend Cho’s contract, announcing in a press release that they’ll begin searching for a new GM immediately.

“I want to thank Rich for all of his hard work with the Charlotte Hornets organization through the years and wish him and his family the best in the future,” controlling owner Michael Jordan said in a statement. “Rich worked tirelessly on behalf of our team and instituted a number of management tools that have benefited our organization. We are deeply committed to our fans and to the city of Charlotte to provide a consistent winner on the court. The search will now begin for our next head of basketball operations who will help us achieve that goal.”

9:57am: The Hornets are expected to shake up their front office after the 2017/18 season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that general manager Rich Cho is unlikely to receive a new contract from the team.

Per Wojnarowski, former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is expected to be the top target for Charlotte. The Hornets figure to pursue Kupchak in the hopes of partnering him in their front office with assistant general manager Buzz Peterson.

Cho, formerly the general manager of the Trail Blazers, was hired by the Hornets in June 2011. His tenure in Charlotte got off to a good start, as he made Kemba Walker his first draft pick with his new team later that month. However, the Hornets’ draft results since then have been mixed, at best, and the club has failed to become a contender.

In Cho’s seven seasons, the Hornets have an overall regular season record of 212-321 (.398). The team has made the postseason twice during that stretch, but was eliminated in the first round each time. Currently, Charlotte’s cap is overrun with expensive role players — Dwight Howard, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Cody Zeller are earning nearly $85MM combined this season, and all have guaranteed salaries beyond this year. The Hornets reportedly considered moving Walker this season as a means of clearing one or two of those contracts from their books.

With Cho’s tenure as Hornets GM potentially nearing an end, Kupchak’s name has come up more than once as a potential replacement. Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times wrote several weeks ago that the ex-Lakers GM is likely to be hired by an Eastern Conference team this summer, and Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports later linked Kupchak specifically to the Hornets.

Kupchak, who headed up for the Lakers’ basketball operations department for the better part of two decades, saw his tenure come to an end last year when the franchise replaced him and Jim Buss with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Although the Lakers won multiple titles under Kupchak, his personnel decisions drew heavy criticism in recent years — the massive contracts handed out to Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov in 2016 were among his most significant missteps.

Hornets Notes: Walker, Graham, Cho, Hernangomez

The Hornets haven’t changed their public stance about trading Kemba Walker, according to Rick Bonnell and Brendan Marks of The Charlotte Observer. In a conference call earlier today, GM Rich Cho emphasized that the team is open to offers but isn’t actively trying to deal its leading scorer.

“We’re not shopping Kemba, but it’s our job to listen,” Cho said. “It would take something really great to move him. We love Kemba. He’s a great player, All-Star caliber. It wouldn’t surprise me if we did do something, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t do something.”

The Hornets are frequent dealers near the deadline, acquiring Courtney Lee, Josh McRoberts and Mo Williams in recent years. Team owner Michael Jordan recently said he “would not trade (Walker) for anything but an All-Star player,” but financial considerations may affect that stance. Walker has one more season left at the bargain price of $12MM and will likely be seeking a max deal in the summer of 2019.

There’s more news today out of Charlotte:

  • Second-year forward Treveon Graham has been a pleasant surprise this season, but cap concerns may prevent the Hornets from keeping him in free agency, Bonnell writes in a separate story. Graham is making a little more than $1.3MM this year, but Charlotte has to be careful about any spending with more than $116MM in guaranteed money already committed for next season. “If I were a coach, Treveon Graham would be on my team every single time,” said teammate Marvin Williams. “I know [coach Steve Clifford] has a certain level of comfort with him, and we do, too, as players.”
  • Cho may have concerns about his future in Charlotte if the Hornets don’t make the playoffs, Bonnell adds in a mailbag column. Former Lakers GM and North Carolina alum Mitch Kupchak has been floated as a possible replacement, and Bonnell suggests ex-Cavaliers and Hawks GM Danny Ferry and Pistons GM Jeff Bower as well.
  • The Hornets are happy to take a chance on second-year center Willy Hernangomez, who was acquired today in a trade with the Knicks, according to a story on the team’s website. Hernangomez has found playing time hard to come by this season, but Charlotte is encouraged by the numbers he put up as a rookie. “We’re excited to add a player of Willy’s caliber to our team,” Cho said. “He showed last season that he can contribute when given the opportunity and we believe that the added depth he provides will benefit our frontcourt rotation.”

Mannix’s Latest: G. Hill, Hornets, Hawks, Suns

The Cavaliers continue to engage the Kings about a possible George Hill trade, sources tell Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. However, the Cavs would like to include both J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in their package for Hill, and taking on multiple expensive non-expiring contracts doesn’t appeal to Sacramento. Meanwhile, the Kings are quietly looking to get a third team involved in a potential deal, according to Mannix.

Mannix’s latest trade rumor roundup features several more tidbits of interest related to Thursday’s deadline, so we’ll pass along the highlights…

  • The future of GM Rich Cho in Charlotte is uncertain, which may complicate the Hornets‘ deadline plans. According to Mannix, there are rumblings about former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak being a candidate to join the Hornets’ front office in the offseason. Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times wrote last week that Kupchak is considered likely to be hired by an Eastern Conference team this summer.
  • Some teams with interest in Marcus Smart view the Celtics‘ asking price of a first-round pick as “unrealistic,” says Mannix.
  • The Hawks have made “everyone” available, and while much has been written about the club’s veteran trade candidates, second-year swingman Taurean Prince is another player who has drawn interest, according to Mannix.
  • The Magic have shopped Mario Hezonja “hard” in recent days, per Mannix.
  • According to Mannix, the Suns are willing to move veterans like Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley. Neither player’s contract is particularly team-friendly though, so it may be tough for Phoenix to find any value.
  • The Clippers say they’re okay with holding onto DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams through the deadline, but rival clubs are skeptical, says Mannix.

Hornets Notes: Clifford, Cho, Walker

The Hornets will welcome head coach Steve Clifford back to the bench next week, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The coach has been out of action with an undisclosed medical condition since early December.

Per Bonnell, The Observer has learned that Clifford has struggled with severe headaches since prior to the season and has been seeking to establish the best course of preventative treatment going forward with doctors.

When Clifford left his post, the Hornets were 8-13. Under the tutelage of associate head coach Stephen Silas, the squad went 7-11.

Clifford is expected to return for practice with the Hornets next Tuesday and make his first return to the sidelines on Wednesday night.

There’s more out of Charlotte tonight:

Southeast Notes: Howard, Billups, Frazier, Wade

Dwight Howard, recently traded to the Hornets from the Hawks, discussed his excitement to be in Charlotte, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Howard spoke glowingly about his new owner, Michael Jordan:

“I’d just done a 2 ½-hour workout. After I was done talking to him, I wanted to jump back into the gym. That’s how he motivated me. You’re talking about the greatest basketball player to ever play. For him to call you on the phone and say, ‘I believe in you!’ ”

Howard also discussed his reunion with head coach Steve Clifford, his disappointment of lasting just one season with him hometown team, and how he will make a difference in the Charlotte community.

Here’s more from the Southeast division:

  • Hawks GM Travis Schlenk says that three or four teams were interested in trading for Dwight Howard, but the Hornets made the best offer, tweets Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal- Constitution.
  • While the Cavaliers await a decision from Chauncey Billups, another team covets the former NBA Finals MVP’s wisdom in the front office: the Hawks, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Billups recently interviewed for a front-office position with Atlanta.
  • Hornets GM Rich Cho says the team will be looking for a backup point guard and more overall depth in free agency, tweets Jordan Greer of The Sporting News.
  • The Magic‘s new president of basketball operations, Jeff Weltman, explains why the team traded two picks in a deep draft, reports Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Weltman explained:  “We felt that at a certain point that the draft flattened out, and once we got past that point, we had three more picks, and we didn’t want to bring four rookies in. So what we did is we tried to identify kids that we thought could possibly be there later that we liked as much [as a] higher [pick]. And could we defer those assets [and] move them along to maybe turn them into future pieces and still come up with something that we liked?”
  • The Wizards believe that Tim Frazier can contribute right away, reports Chase Hughnes of CSN Mid-Atlantic, in an interesting piece full of great quotes from Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks.
  • Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes that Dwyane Wade, who has come up often as a Heat target this offseason, is not necessarily leaving Chicago so soon despite the Bulls’ obvious entrance into rebuilding mode after dealing Jimmy Butler on draft day.

Hornets Pick Up 2017/18 Option On GM Rich Cho

The Hornets have exercised their option on general manager Rich Cho’s contract, sources tell ESPN’s Marc Stein. The move will keep the Charlotte GM locked up through the 2017/18 season.

Cho, who has been the Hornets’ general manager since June 2011, helped build a roster that made the playoffs in 2013/14 and again in 2015/16. During Cho’s time in Charlotte, the front office has drafted players such as Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, and Frank Kaminsky.

Still, the Hornets will miss the postseason this season, and the team’s cap situation going forward isn’t all that flexible. Currently, the club has $102MM in guaranteed money committed to team salary for 2017/18, and the roster lacks any legit star-power beyond Walker, unless a player like Kaminsky can take a major step forward.

According to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press (Twitter link), there was “a lot of intrigue in league circles” about what team owner Michael Jordan would do with Cho’s contract and the Hornets’ front office. While Charlotte will stay the course for now, the 2017/18 season figures to be a crucial one for the front office as the club looks to get back into the playoffs a year from now.

Eastern Notes: Okafor, Porzingis, Clifford

The Sixers weren’t aware of the second altercation that allegedly involved Jahlil Okafor on the night of November 25th, coach Brett Brown told reporters, but the team maintains its faith in the No. 3 overall pick even as it suspended him for two games beginning with Wednesday’s loss to the Knicks, as Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv details. Brown said Okafor is “ashamed” and “embarrassed,” but Mike Krzyzewski, the former Duke center’s college coach, maintains that Okafor is of high character even amid a tide of disturbing reports.

“Let’s make our point. There is hard luck,” Brown said. “There are mistakes that have been made, he does own it, and nobody’s proud of this right now. And so we will support him, he’s ours and we will move on.”

Okafor reportedly plans to give strong consideration to signing his qualifying offer at the end of his rookie scale contract, so time will tell how he’ll regard the way the Sixers organization is treating him now. Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Knicks team president Phil Jackson sees a “magical element” to Kristaps Porzingis, but in Jackson’s first public comments of the regular season Wednesday on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Rick Fox (audio link), he deflected credit for having taken the 7’3″ Latvian sensation with the No. 4 pick in June. Marc Berman of the New York Post provides a partial transcription. “It’s not me, it’s all on him,’’ Jackson said. “This is the young man that’s done it. You sit in those spots [in the draft] and analyze what you can do and have control of. … We made a choice, a logical choice, and not having seen him but once in person, just in a shooting exhibition, I felt comfortable making the choice. I’m just happy the personality, drive and work ethic goes along with that talent level.’’
  • Hornets GM Rich Cho cited a desire for continuity and Steve Clifford‘s organization, work ethic and rapport with his players in a statement from the team that confirmed Clifford has put pen to paper on the extension they agreed to last week.
  • Hassan Whiteside appears to be a lock to sign a maximum-salary contract when he hits free agency in July, opines Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, who takes a look at the rapid ascent of the Heat big man who’s in the final season of a two-year, minimum-salary deal.