Willy Hernangomez

Willy Hernangomez’s Opportunity Tied To Defense

With starting center Cody Zeller injured and out for the foreseeable future, the Hornets plan to give big man Willy Hernangomez a chance to grab the newly available minutes provided his defense holds up, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.

“I think my defense is getting way better,” Hernangomez said yesterday. “Really knowing all the coverages (and) knowing all the scouting for the defense. All the coaches have talked to me of late and said I’m doing good things. The offense will come. I know it’s really important to focus on defense, particularly if I start. To lock in.”

Because the Hornets are about to embark on a daunting January schedule that features 10 road games and 10 opponents with records of .500 or better, Hernangomez has the opportunity to show the Hornets’ brass just how valuable he can be to the franchise. And as he knows, his defensive performance will speak the loudest volume.

“He has to protect that paint for us now,” head coach James Borrego said. “He’s got to stay in front of the ball, and rebound and defend. Not just allow guards and bigs to come down and horse us inside. He has the ability to do that.”

Hernangomez, 24, is averaging 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in 13.0 minutes per contest so far this season. If things go as planned for the big man, all of those numbers should go up soon.

Eastern Notes: Boylan, Hornets, Saric, Yabusele

Former Cavaliers assistant coach Jim Boylan has filed an age-discrimination lawsuit against the franchise, which the team has labelled “frivolous” and a “shameless cash grab,” according to an Associated Press report. Boylan, 63, worked five seasons under former coaches David Blatt and Tyronn Lue but did not have his option picked up this summer. Boylan contends GM Koby Altman told him owner Dan Gilbert wanted a younger coach.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hornets have used a committee approach at the center spot and that position is likely to remain in flux, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports. Starter Cody Zeller, Willy Hernangomez, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum, Frank Kaminsky and Bismack Biyombo have all taken turns in the middle but first-year coach James Borrego isn’t worried. “We’re still searching (but) I like the dilemma I have,” he told Bonnell.
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown is allowing forward Dario Saric to work through his shooting slump, Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Saric has scored in single digits in each of the last three games while shooting 2-for-13 from long range. Brown has no plans to reduce Saric’s workload. “If he came to me and said, ‘I need some time,’ I would listen,” Brown said. “But I don’t feel like I’m force-feeding anything, I do not feel like I’m hurting him. In fact, I feel like I’m helping him.”
  • Guerschon Yabusele’s option was picked up for next season because his game fits the modern NBA, according to coach Brad Stevens, and the Celtics believe the 22-year-old has high upside, the team’s PR department tweets. Boston’s brass decided to retain Yabusele despite a cap hit of $3,117,240, a figure that could grow if Boston pays the luxury tax. The 6’8” Yabusele has played just 18 minutes this season after seeing action in 33 games in his rookie campaign. But with several players hitting the free agent market next summer, the Celtics felt Yabusele was too valuable to give up, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald notes. “Having Guerschon gives us continuity. He knows our system,” GM Danny Ainge said. “He’s loved by everybody. It’s just not easy to find that type of player.”

Southeast Notes: Dedmon, Anderson, Wade, Pope, Hornets

Center Dewayne Dedmon and swingman Justin Anderson will not be cleared for Hawks training camp, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets. Dedmon suffered an avulsion fracture in his left ankle earlier this month and shed his walking boot last week. Dedmon, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, will be reevaluated next week, Vivlamore continues.  Anderson had surgery June 29th on his left leg due to recurring tibial stress syndrome. Anderson, who was acquired from the Sixers in a three-team deal in July, will be re-evaluated in two weeks, Vivlamore adds.

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

And-Ones: Long, LiAngelo Ball, Spain

Ex-Sixers forward Shawn Long has signed a contract with New Zealand Breakers, according to a Sportando report. Long played 18 games with Philadelphia in 2016/2017, averaging 8.2 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 13 MPG. He toiled in the G League last season with the Delaware 87ers, averaging 14.6 PPG and 7.7 RPG in 33 games following a seven-game stint in China. The Timberwolves took a look at Long during a free agent mini-camp in June.

We have more from around the pro basketball world:

Hornets Notes: Borrego, Batum, Howard, Zeller

Nicolas Batum may benefit more than anyone from the Hornets’ coaching change, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Spurs assistant James Borrego is expected to install the motion offense used in San Antonio, which plays to Batum’s strengths of handling the ball and making quick decisions.

Charlotte’s approach under Steve Clifford this season was heavy on postups for center Dwight Howard, which restricted Batum’s effectiveness. His scoring average dropped to 11.6 points per game, the lowest in his three years with the Hornets, and Bonnell speculates that he needs a new approach on offense to become productive again.

Bonnell addresses more Hornets topics in a mailbag column:

  • New GM Mitch Kupchak would like to move at least one big contract this summer to provide cap relief, but the organization might be wise to hold onto Howard. Bonnell states that the team may be in a better long-term position by allowing Howard’s $23.8MM contract to expire next summer rather than trading it for other expensive assets. However, he questions how much Howard will play next season, especially if the Hornets fall out of contention early.
  • Of the five players with large contracts, Cody Zeller may be easiest to trade. Zeller is signed for the next three seasons at an average of about $14MM per year, but he is only 25 and could develop into an effective center if he can overcome his injury history.
  • Young players Malik Monk, Willy Hernangomez and Dwayne Bacon may get a better chance to prove themselves under Borrego than Clifford. Bonnell says all three will be closely watched and supervised over the offseason, although Hernangomez will spend a large part of the summer with the Spanish National Team.
  • Borrego may try to add a former NBA head coach to his staff, just as Clifford did with Bob Weiss and Eddie Jordan.
  • The most pressing offseason need is finding a point guard to back up Kemba Walker. Monk played there late in the season, but Bonnell notes that it’s too early to say if that’s his best position. It’s also a long-term concern because Walker is headed for free agency in 2019.

Hornets Notes: Howard, Hernangomez, Walker

The Hornets shouldn’t have any regrets when it comes to their offseason acquisition of Dwight Howard, but despite the 32-year-old veteran’s admirably productive season, the team should look into trading him, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes.

Howard has been impressively consistent and durable and the move that the club made to acquire him was worth the risk. Unfortunately for Hornets fans, Charlotte seems destined to rebuild, something that Howard may not be all that interested in and that his arduous $23.8MM 2018/19 contract may complicate.

In 76 games for the Hornets this season, Howard has averaged 16.8 points – his highest scoring output in four seasons – and 12.4 rebounds.

There’s more out of Charlotte tonight:

  • Midseason acquisition Willy Hernangomez has had his work cut out for him appeasing Hornets coach Steve Clifford but the young big man appears to be taking the constructive crticisim to heart, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes. “With every player, you have to find a way that you’re comfortable talking with them and they are comfortable talking with you. Serious players, they want a coach who can help them play better,” Clifford said.
  • A year of setbacks and injuries has continued into the final month of the regular season. Most recently, the Hornets have watched big man Cody Zeller shut things down for the remainder of the season. “I would say we’re at the stage now where it almost becomes, ‘Why [ask him to play]?‘” head coach Steve Clifford told Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “It’s so hard to not play for long stretches off the season. Why, with five games left, would we even play him? It makes more sense to me to let him get back to 100 percent and then just start again next [season].”
  • A dramatic year has resulted in another disappointing, playoff-less season for the Hornets and now it seems as though Kemba Walker‘s future in Charlotte is far from certain. This week we asked readers what they think will come of Walker’s tenure with the organization. Could Hornets fans be nearing the end of an era?

Knicks Notes: Van Gundy, Hernangomez, Thomas, Burke

Jeff Van Gundy has been mentioned as a possible candidate if the Knicks make a coaching change, but his brother wonders how serious their interest is, relays Al Iannazzone of Newsday.

After his Pistons defeated New York Saturday, head coach Stan Van Gundy noted that the organization has only recently begun to acknowledge Jeff on the jumbotron when he comes to town to broadcast its games. He coached the Knicks for nearly seven seasons and took them to the NBA Finals in 1999. Stan compares Jeff’s situation to Patrick Ewing‘s.

“I used to walk in here and Patrick would be sitting next to me on the bench [as an assistant in Orlando] and they would put him up on the jumbotron and everyone would clap and then he could never get an interview for any freakin’ job they had,” Stan said. “That’s sort of fake appreciation in my opinion. I don’t know what it is in Jeff’s case. If it’s genuine appreciation then that’s great. If it’s just a way for them to appease their fans, a little bit different.”

There’s more today out of New York:

  • The Knicks will regret trading young center Willy Hernangomez for a pair of second-round picks, Iannazzone writes in a separate story. Hernangomez got a measure of revenge this week with 12 points and five rebounds in 17 minutes against his former team. “He’s been so much better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “What I’ve talked to him about is the team part. Everybody views player development as the shot, the post move, the one-on-one ‘iso’ play. None of that matters if the team can’t function when you’re out there.”
  • Another 50-loss season is taking its toll on Lance Thomas, notes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Thomas, who was acquired in a January 2015 trade, has been with the Knicks longer than anyone on the current roster. He’s also a native New Yorker who grew up in Brooklyn. “I hate losing,’’ he said after Saturday’s game. “Anyone who has God-given ability to make it to this level hates losing. Myself being the long-tenured Knick here, I’ve been part of some losing teams and it doesn’t sit well with me. I want to find a way to turn it around. I lose sleep when we lose.”
  • Trey Burke‘s connections with Knicks GM Scott Perry helped him earn another shot at the NBA, writes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Perry is a Detroit native and former assistant coach at the University of Michigan, where Burke played two seasons. They bonded over their Michigan connections while Burke was preparing for the 2013 draft and Perry was an executive in Orlando, so Burke reached out to him earlier this season when he was looking for a G League contract. “I knew that he would give me a fair shot, fair opportunity to reinvent myself,” Burke said, “to come in and go through a process where I would have an opportunity to play consistent minutes at the highest level.”

Hornets Notes: Hernangomez, Front Office, Offseason

Willy Hernangomez has not played much since he was traded from the Knicks to the Hornets. Following a strong rookie season in New York, Hernangomez fell out of the rotation and rode the bench for the most the season. He has played fewer minutes in Charlotte and head coach Steve Clifford said there’s a reason for that, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

“Unfortunately, in the world the players live in, they don’t hear that,” Clifford said. “It’s the organization, it’s the coach, the assistant isn’t working with him right . . . No, come on. The reality is this: He wasn’t playing here for a reason. You know, he’s going to have to change things.”

Hernangomez, 23, has appeared in 10 games with the Hornets, averaging just 2.0 PPG and 2.4 RPG. The production and playing time has waned, but Hernangomez said he likes the environment from Charlotte because of the blunt honesty on where he needs to improve.

“He tells you things that’s going on and what he wants,’’ Hernangomez said of Clifford. “He wants to you to improve if you want to play. It’s very clear. Here, everybody follows rules, defense and offense. Maybe in New York, it was a little freer, defense, offense. Here, everyone follows rules, everybody helps each other. I’m really surprised when I came here to see the difference.’’

Check out more Hornets notes below:

  • The Hornets promoted Fred Whitfield to president and vice chairman, Pete Guelli to executive vice president and chief operating officer and James Jordan to executive vice president and chief administrative officer, the team announced in a press release.
  • Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer examines how the Hornets can escape the middle class of the NBA. The team is headed for another losing season but possesses too much talent to dwell among the league’s non-contenders. Sorensen writes that getting rid of high-priced guaranteed contracts on the payroll and targeting Miles Bridges, Mikal Bridges or Kevin Knox in the draft is a crucial first step.
  • Shane Rhodes of Basketball Insiders gives his take on how Charlotte can improve for the 2018/19 season. Rhodes writes that the Hornets need to accept their strengths (Kemba Walker) and acknowledge their weaknesses (lack of cap space) to make the right moves.

Knicks Notes: Hernangomez, Beasley, Point Guards

Entering the 2017/18 season, Willy Hernangomez seemed to be the exact type of the player the Knicks wanted on their roster. A talented, young and cheap big man who needed more work but had tremendous upside. Instead, he fell out of the rotation and was sent to Charlotte before the trade deadline.

Hernangomez will return to New York on Saturday, this time as a member of the Hornets. The Spaniard has found even less playing time in Charlotte, seeing the court less than five minutes per game. Former teammate Enes Kanter spoke glowingly of Hernangomez and his potential, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

“I still talk to him,’’ Kanter said. “He’s doing an unbelievable job working out and an unbelievable job of working on his body. I think he’s a young version of Marc Gasol. If he works hard enough, he can be as a good as Marc Gasol.”

The 23-year-old averaged 8.2 PPG and 7.0 RPG in 72 games for the Knicks last season but his numbers have dropped to 3.5 PPG and 2.4 RPG in 35 games split with New York and Charlotte.

Check out more Knicks notes below:

  • Leo Sepkowitz of SLAM Magazine profiled Knicks swingman Michael Beasley, who had one of his best games of the season, posting 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists in a loss to the Sixers. Beasley has carried a reputation as a potential liability due to his off-court exploits earlier in his career. However, Beasley tells Sepkowitz he hopes the reputation is changing.
  • The Knicks could be on the verge of shaking up their point guard situation, Berman writes in a separate story. Deadline acquisition Emmanuel Mudiay has struggled as the starting point guard since the All-Star break. Meanwhile, Jarrett Jack has not played one minute since the break and Trey Burke — who has not started a game yet — has continued his strong performance. “Kind of everything is on the table,’’ head coach Jeff Hornacek said.

Southeast Notes: Hernangomez, Mahinmi, Charlotte’s GM Search

Midseason Hornets acquisition Willy Hernangomez isn’t familiar enough with Charlotte’s way of business to see more action than the 5.3 minutes per game he’s been seeing since coming over from New York, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes.

Head coach Steve Clifford says that it’s not fair for either Hernangomez or the rest of his teammates to have him thrown him out on the court before he’s able to mesh with the rest of the players.

[He] will play some, but it’s hard for the other guys [to function well] when he’s not up to speed,” Clifford said. “With younger players, you don’t just throw guys in there just to watch them. It’s not fair for them, and it’s not fair for other guys on the floor. The team has to be organized, and we’re not as organized with him.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • After pursuing a larger role (and the inherently larger contract), Jonathon Simmons is getting his first taste of losing basketball. That’s made for a bit of an adjustment, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel writes. “I think he’s definitely tried to rally guys at certain times and make sure that we’re all understanding that it’s not acceptable to lose at the rate we’ve lost this year,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “But, at the same time, he hasn’t short-circuited, either. Sometimes guys short-circuit when they haven’t experienced losing like this. He’s been a team guy.
  • The Wizards will still owe Ian Mahinmi north of $31MM after this season, a troubling thought considering the way his usage has been trending over the course of the year. Mahimni’s playing time this season is down from last year and, as Candace Buckner of The Washington Post writes, he logged the first DNP-CD of the season over the weekend.
  • The Hornets hope that their search for a general manager wraps up in early April, Katherine Peralta of The Charlotte Observer writes. “We’re going through an exhaustive process,” recently promoted team managing partner Curtis Polk said. “We started with quite a few names that we collected and put together a spreadsheet on these people and have been narrowing it down.