Willy Hernangomez

Hornets Notes: Hernangomez, MKG, Point Guard

Willy Hernangomez played just 72 total minutes in the Hornets‘ first 40 games, but he has seen fairly regular playing time off the bench for the team over the last month. As Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes, head coach James Borrego attributes Hernangomez’s increased role in large part to his improved effort on the defensive end.

“The video and the numbers demonstrate to me that he’s making a bigger impact at that end of the floor than he has in the past,” Borrego said. “(He’s) challenging more shots at the rim.”

Hernangomez will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and while his modest overall role may suggest he’s not in the Hornets’ future plans, he still has an opportunity to make a good final impression on the team over the last 20 games or so this season. Charlotte will also have plenty of cap flexibility moving forward if the club wants to re-sign him. For his part, the 25-year-old big man says he’s just happy to be getting the opportunity to show what he can do.

“You always want to play a lot of minutes, you always want to play in all the games, you want to help your team win,” Hernangomez said. “So in the beginning, it was a very disappointing season because we were losing and I could not help the team. But I think after the trade deadline, I got a new, fresh start.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who spent seven-and-a-half seasons in Charlotte before being bought out last month, wrote a farewell letter to the city and Hornets fans at The Players’ Tribune. Kidd-Gilchrist, who said that “a true love affair developed between me and the city of Charlotte” after he was drafted second overall by the team in 2012, wrote that he’ll “always remember how good you all were to me” despite the Hornets’ lack of playoff success.
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer argues that the Hornets should seriously consider signing a veteran point guard to help ease the workload on Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier down the stretch. Joe Chealey, on a 10-day contract, is currently filling a backup role, but Bonnell makes the case that Charlotte could use a more experienced option — Chealey has appeared in just four career games.
  • In case you missed it, Bismack Biyombo said earlier this week that he could have gotten a buyout from the Hornets after the deadline, but opted not to. Here’s our full story on that.

Southeast Notes: Monk, Hornets, Capela, Heat

Speaking to reporters before tonight’s game, Hornets coach James Borrego pledged his support for Malik Monk, who has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of the NBA’s anti-drug program, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Borrego said he hasn’t talked with Monk since the suspension was announced this morning.

“All of us face different things in life; it’s how you respond,” Borrego said. “It’s my belief, knowing Malik, that he’ll respond the right way. (The suspension) does put us in a bind. But in the end, this could be a very positive story. I look forward to talking to him.”

Bonnell points out that Monk has turned in some of the best performances of his career recently, averaging 17.8 PPG over the past 11 games while shooting 47% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. Tuesday marked the first start of his three-season career.

While Monk is unavailable, Bonnell expects more playing time for rookies Cody Martin and Caleb Martin and possibly an early return from the G League for Dwayne Bacon.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • It appears Borrego will give opportunities to all three of the Hornets‘ centers for the rest of the season, Bonnell tweets. Cody Zeller, who has appeared in 53 of the team’s 58 games, was active for tonight’s game but didn’t play. Bismack Biyombo got the start with Willy Hernangomez as his backup.
  • Clint Capela has shown progress with running and movement, but there’s still not a definite plan for his Hawks debut, writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal Consitution. Capela, who was acquired from the Rockets at the trade deadline, is dealing with plantar fasciitis and a right calcaneus contusion. He will be re-evaluated on March 4. “He felt he came back too soon, and re-injured it, now he’s being cautious,” coach Lloyd Pierce said. “He thought it was a setback when he re-injured it as opposed to just coming back and taking his time and letting it completely heal.” 
  • The Heat still may be active on the buyout market, suggests Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. He mentions Solomon Hill, who has barely played since being acquired from the Grizzlies earlier this month, as a possible buyout candidate if Miami wants to open a roster spot. Winderman adds that the Heat can offer a portion of their mid-level or bi-annual exceptions, giving them an edge over teams that can only offer minimum contracts.

New York Notes: Ntilikina, Mills, Shumpert, Claxton

A starter in seven straight games, Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina is finally trending in the right direction, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv, largely because of his newfound mental approach to the game that began last season and continued this summer.

“I think the work I put in all summer and even last season while I was injured, allows me to be more comfortable and everything else in life be more comfortable here in this country, this situation as an NBA player, said Ntilikina. “And everything is set now, so my mind is all the way into basketball and do what it takes to get to the next level.

There’s more from the Big Apple this afternoon:

  • Lesser-used players like Theo Pinson and Dzanan Musa rewarded Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson with his trust in them during the team’s recent win over Chicago, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “That’s what we’re about,” Atkinson said. “We’ve got to trust these guys. They put in the work, they’ve been in our program a while so they understand what we’re doing. We can’t burn out our other guys, our top eight. We can’t play them 45 minutes. So, those guys’ contributions were huge.”
  • Stefan Bondy of the Daily News opines that allowing president Steve Mills to choose the Knicks’ next head coach (should David Fizdale be fired) is a silly proposition, as Mills has already failed time and time again to find the right candidate to lead the team moving forward.
  • Atkinson says the Nets are looking for new addition, veteran swingman Iman Shumpert, to fill a need with his perimeter defense, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “He fits a need right now. Perimeter defense, that’s always been his calling card. I … know him well, know the personality. He gets after it defensively. That will be his role for us.”
  • According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, at least one former Knicks player did not like how MSG fans booed his former teammate, Mavs’ forward Kristaps Porzingis. “I think everybody can think what they want but I feel bad for KP,” said Hornets’ big man Willy Hernangomez. “He’s my brother. We spent too many nights in this amazing arena. I understand what people [do]. The people always treated me good when I was here and appreciated. But I was sad when I saw that.”
  • SB Nation’s Nets Daily takes a look at how Nets rookie power forward Nicolas Claxton is set to earn additional minutes at the NBA level as a result of the recent poor play of teammate Rodions Kurucs. “We’ve got to get our best talent on the floor,” Atkinson said Friday. “I think (Claxton’s) a talented guy. We need to find a way to play him.”

Hornets Notes: Graham, Monk, Hernangomez, Washington

Devonte’ Graham is outplaying free agent addition Terry Rozier through the first two games, but the Hornets‘ best option might be to use them together, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Graham, a second-year guard, is Charlotte’s leading scorer at 23.5 PPG while sinking 12-of-16 shots from beyond the arc. He’s also handing out three assists for every turnover.

The Hornets gave Rozier $58MM over three seasons this summer, so they don’t plan to take him out of the starting lineup. While Graham will likely remain a reserve, coach James Borrego expects to utilize them together in a smaller backcourt, especially while Nicolas Batum is sidelined with a broken finger. He took a similar approach last season, frequently closing games with Kemba Walker and Tony Parker on the floor.

“We can play them together,” Borrego said. “We can play Terry off the ball some with Te’ out there. We’ll look at that lineup.”

There’s more from Charlotte:

  • Even though Malik Monk has been disappointing, the Hornets had to pick up his fourth-year option to preserve his trade value, Bonnell writes in a mailbag column. A lottery pick in 2017, Monk hasn’t developed  the way the Hornets had hoped. He’s shooting 37.6% from the field for his career and is averaging just 3.5 PPG so far this season. Still, a $5.3MM commitment for next season shouldn’t be significant, as general manager Mitch Kupchak has said the team won’t be aggressive in the 2020 free agent market.
  • Large salaries will make Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist difficult to trade this season, but there might be demand for Willy Hernangomez, Bonnell notes in the same piece. The fourth-year center has a minimal expiring salary of $1.68MM, and Bonnell believes the Hornets would part with him for a second-round pick. He adds that there may be more value in letting Biyombo’s $17MM contract and Kidd-Gilchrist’s $13MM deal expire to open cap room for the future.
  • PJ Washington is looking like the draft gem the Hornets needed to give them hope for the future, notes Ricky O’Donnell of SB Nation.

Hornets Notes: Salary, Zeller, Bridges, Bacon

Several high-priced veterans appear destined to remain on the Hornets‘ roster, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte has been trying for some time to find a taker for Nicolas Batum ($25.565MM this year with a $27.13MM player option for 2020/21), Marvin Williams ($15MM expiring deal) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13MM expiring), but other teams have been reluctant to take on any of those salaries.

Bonnell expects that to continue for another year as GM Mitch Kupchak said he doesn’t foresee any significant roster changes. The team tried to move Williams during the offseason, and Bonnell sees him as the most marketable of the three. He speculates that Kidd-Gilchrist might be open to a buyout if he can’t be traded before the February deadline.

There’s more tonight from Charlotte:

  • Cody Zeller, who is owed nearly a combined $30MM over the next two seasons, is a good bet to finish that contract in Charlotte, Bonnell states in the same story. Zeller has been the Hornets‘ best center when he is healthy, but injuries have limited him to 33 and 49 games over the last two years. Bonnell notes that Willy Hernangomez hasn’t done enough to convince the front office that he could handle the starter’s role if Zeller were to be traded.
  • Among the team’s young core, Miles Bridges and Dwayne Bacon are most likely to have long-term futures in Charlotte, Bonnell adds. He identifies PJ Washington and Devonte’ Graham as two other prospects the organization may decide to hold onto, while Hernangomez and Malik Monk both have something to prove.
  • The Hornets will hire an assistant coach with responsibilities in both the NBA and the G League, Bonnell tweets. The new addition will be in charge of player development and will split time between Charlotte and Greensboro.

World Cup Notes: Joseph, Spain, Teodosic, Rankings

Is guard Cory Joseph in or out of the FIBA World Cup for Team Canada? Joseph, the most prominent NBA member remaining on the depleted Team Canada roster, was withdrawing from the competition, according to a tweet from Toronto Star reporter Doug Smith. However, Team Canada coach Nick Nurse said that report was incorrect and that Joseph would indeed join the team in China, John Casey of 7Olympics tweets.

Joseph is not currently with the team during exhibition games in Australia and Sportsnet Canada’s Michael Grange notes that Joseph would have to leave for China soon, given that the tournament begins in 10 days and he needs to adjust to the 12-hour time difference (Twitter link).

We have more World Cup news:

And-Ones: Howard, Summer League, Spain, BIG3

Having been sent from Washington to Memphis in a trade for C.J. Miles, veteran center Dwight Howard is a member of the Grizzlies for now. However, the club is expected to waive or trade him at some point. After he was limited to just nine games in 2018/19 for health reasons, it’s not clear what the next step will be for Howard, but the eight-time All-Star tells Shams Charania of The Athletic that he has adjusted his mindset and is prepared to do whatever it takes to help his next team win.

“I don’t have an ego — it’s dead,” Howard said. “It had to die for me to be who I am. Sometimes when you want to become who you want to be, you have to die within yourself. Once you learn that you have to give up yourself for the team, that’s when things flourish.”

According to Charania, several NBA teams have said that they’re intrigued by Howard, who says he has been fully cleared after last year’s injury issues. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year claims he has lost 25 pounds since the end of the season, and one executive who saw him recently said he appears to be in his best shape in years, per Charania.

It remains to be seen whether Howard will get an opportunity to choose his next team on the free agent market, but if he does, he has one clear priority, he tells Charania: “Winning. Winning. Winning. I want to win. Nothing else. Just win.”

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

  • According to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link), there has been talk in Las Vegas about the possibility of moving back the start of Summer League in future years. Postponing the start date until after the end of the July moratorium would help address the problem of having traded 2019 draftees tied up in deals that can’t be made official until after Summer League is underway.
  • Spain announced its preliminary roster for the 2019 FIBA World Cup this week, as Sportando relays, and the group includes a number of familiar names. The 16-man list, which will be cut down to 12 for the competition, features Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Willy Hernangomez, Juan Hernangomez, and former NBA players like Rudy Fernandez and Victor Claver.
  • The BIG3 announced on Wednesday that Baron Davis, Bonzi Wells, Lamar Odom, and Jermaine O’Neal are being “deactivated” for the 2019 season. The league cited the need to “maximize competition, protect the health of players, and to raise the level of the professionalism of the BIG3.”

Knicks Notes: Durant, DSJ, Hernangomez, KP, Robinson

The Knicks are set to play the Clippers on Sunday, but the real battle between the two teams will be for Kevin Durant in free agency this summer, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Durant, who’s expected to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, will register interest from several teams across the league, including the Warriors, Knicks and Clippers. He’s currently holding per-game averages of 27.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists, shooting above 50 percent from the floor for the seventh consecutive season.

“They obviously have a plan that they have in place that they’re trying to do and execute,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said of the Clippers on Saturday, according to Berman. “To their credit, they’ve built a nice, tough team full of guys who understand their role.”

The Clippers have long been linked to Raptors star Kawhi Leonard, who’s also set to become a free agent in July, though a potential meeting with Durant shouldn’t be ruled out. New York has been linked to the likes of Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker.

Los Angeles is set to have $57MM in cap space, but the team could create additional room by trading the likes of Danilo Gallinari or Lou Williams before July. New York created a second maximum-salary roster spot by executing the Kristaps Porzingis trade with Dallas last month.

There’s more out of New York today:

  • Fizdale had a deep conversation with Dennis Smith Jr. about the importance of eating healthy and getting good sleep, Marc Berman writes in a separate story for The Post. Smith went shopping with Knicks dietitian Erika Whitman last week, but denied that his eating habits are a serious issue. “I don’t eat bad,’’ Smith said. “I’m not a bad eater. I eat good. I feel great. The arena is great. I played the whole fourth [Thursday against Cleveland] with no fatigue. I felt great. [Fizdale] wants me to get with those people, with Erika and the rest of the dieticians, and that’s what I’ll do.”
  • Former Knicks center Willy Hernangomez, a close friend of Kristaps Porzingis, weighed in on why he believes Porzingis requested a trade out of New York. “Yeah. Sometimes you can understand the plans change a little bit. I think KP wasn’t happy that they weren’t treating him the best way, the way he really deserves,” Hernangomez told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “I just think when you don’t think you’re a part of the organization or the future, you keep going. This is basketball. I think KP felt that way too. I think now he’s in a great place in Dallas to keep developing.”
  • Mitchell Robinson spoke with Steve Serby of the New York Post for a Q&A session, discussing how good he can become, his thoughts on Fizdale, how he can improve as a player and more. “When I’m not on the court, I’m chill and like just relaxed,” Robinson said. “But when I’m on the court, I bring energy, and bring good defense. I’m gonna do anything in any way to help my teammates get this win.”

Southeast Notes: Brown, Parker, Hernangomez, Adams

The Wizards‘ solution to losing John Wall for at least 12 months appears to include grooming rookie Troy Brown Jr. as a point guard, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Brown has the size of a small forward, but grew up running the point. Coach Scott Brooks and team president Ernie Grunfeld both believe he has the potential to be successful at that position in the NBA.

Much of his training may come in the G League, where Washington’s Capital City affiliate is short on point guards with Chasson Randle on the Wizards’ roster and Chris Chiozza on a 10-day deal with the Rockets. Tomas Satoransky will be a free agent this summer, and even if Washington is able to keep him, Brown could be useful as a backup.

“[Point guard] is not a position that you can just learn it as fast as you would like, or as fast as the coaches would like,” Brooks said. “It takes time. It’s a very tough position to learn. We’re very patient with him.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Tony Parker hasn’t indicated whether he plans to play another season, but the Hornets would welcome him back if he does, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte has a $5.25MM team option on the deal that Parker signed last summer, and GM Mitch Kupchak said recently that he has exceeded all the expectation the Hornets had for him.
  • Willy Hernangomez has fallen out of favor in Charlotte, but that doesn’t mean the Hornets are done with him, Bonnell adds in the same piece. The third-year center has dropped out of the rotation, playing just once in the past eight games. However, Bonnell notes that young big men often get several chances to succeed and states that Hernangomez may have trade value this summer.
  • The new contract that Jaylen Adams got from the Hawks includes a $100K guarantee on his $1.4MM salary for next season, tweets Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Adams was a two-way player until Atlanta promoted him to the 15-man roster last week.

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.