Willy Hernangomez

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.

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.