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It’s official: Charlotte hires James Borrego as new head coach

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This was reported as all but done a couple of days ago, now it is official.

James Borrego is the new head coach of the Charlotte Hornets. A deal was reached and the team made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

“I’m very excited to serve as the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets,” Borrego said in a statement. “I want to thank Michael Jordan, Mitch Kupchak and Buzz Peterson for this opportunity. I’m confident in the coaching foundation I’ve had the opportunity to develop during my time in San Antonio, Orlando and New Orleans, and I cannot wait to get to work in Charlotte.”

“We are thrilled to have James join our franchise,” Hornets GM Kupchak said in his statement. “He brings a wealth of experience and a strong track record of player development from his time as a coach in San Antonio, New Orleans and Orlando. He has been a part of teams that have ascended to the highest levels of success in our league and understands what it takes to win in the NBA. James is considered one of the NBA’s most well-regarded assistant coaches and it’s great to have him as part of our team. I look forward to working with him in the years to come.”

Borrego comes out of the Spurs coaching tree. He started with that organization as a video coordinator and worked is way up to being an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich. He left with Monty Williams to be an assistant coach in New Orleans, from there went to Orlando under Jacques Vaughn — where Borrego was an interim head coach for 30 games after Vaughn was fired. After that, he came back to the Spurs and has been an assistant there for three years.

He comes to a Hornets team on the cusp of changes, it’s just unclear what direction Kupchak will take the team. With massive contracts on the books for Nicolas Batum and Dwight Howard, plus paying eight figures to Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the Hornets are capped out and are pushing the luxury tax. They can keep the roster together mostly, add a lottery pick, and make a push for the playoffs, or it could be time to start the rebuilding — which begins with trading Kemba Walker.

Borrego and Kupchak clearly talked about this before this hiring was made — Borrego knows what he’s getting into. While he picks a staff and sets up his infrastructure, the future direction of the Hornets will become clear.

 

Report: Hornets hiring Spurs assistant James Borrego as head coach

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The Hornets narrowed their coaching search to Spurs assistant James Borrego and Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga.

Apparently, Charlotte chose Borrego.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Borrego has worked under Gregg Popovich with the Spurs the last three years, still a strong implicit endorsement for any coaching candidate. In 2015, Borrego served as the Magic’s interim coach. He didn’t exactly impress in the most visible role of his career, but taking over a losing team mid-season is no easy task.

He’ll get a fresh start in Charlotte – though not an easy situation.

The Hornets aren’t good enough to warrant clear playoff status, but they’re also too capped out to simply upgrade the roster or rebuild. They might just be stuck.

It’s now on Borrego to help get them out of this purgatory.

If Charlotte is trying to win now, Kemba Walker is a nice start. The rest of the veteran roster – Dwight Howard, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams – is good enough to win moderately with the right breaks.

If the Hornets are rebuilding, that’d likely begin with the return in a Walker trade. They also have their own lottery pick this year, Malik Monk and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

It’s just unclear which direction new general manager Mitch Kupchak will take the team. But we now know he’ll do it with Borrego coaching.

Report: Hornets offer GM job to Mitch Kupchak, expect to hire him

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As soon as the Hornets fired Rich Cho as general manager, Mitch Kupchak emerged as the likely replacement. Charlotte interviewed other candidates but has apparently circled back to the expected choice.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Kupchak previously worked as general manager of the Lakers. He won multiple titles, but by the end of his tenure, he looked desperate and out of touch.

His North Carolina connection with Hornets owner Michael Jordan probably helped Kupchak get another chance.

If he accepts the offer, Kupchak will inherit a rough situation. Charlotte is merely a borderline playoff team and strapped with:

Kemba Walker is a star, but time is ticking until his 2019 free agency.

Will Kupchak trade Walker and rebuild? Unloading all those big contracts won’t be easy.

Will Kupchak try to win around Walker? Again, those big contracts are prohibitive.

A middle ground of rebuilding while keeping the beloved Walker? That might push him out in free agency.

This isn’t an easy job, but there are only 30 NBA general managers. Kupchak has an offer to become one again.

Kemba Walker comes up big in OT, Hornets top Knicks despite Trey Burke’s 42

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kemba Walker had 11 points of his 31 points and three assists in overtime, and the Charlotte Hornets outlasted the New York Knicks 137-128 on Monday night for their fourth straight victory.

Walker hit a late 3-pointer to help send the game into overtime and then took over.

Walker was 4 for 4 in the extra period with three 3-pointers to outduel New York’s Trey Burke, who finished with a career-high 42 points on 19-of-31 shooting and 12 assists.

Walker needs 20 points Wednesday night against Cleveland to pass Dell Curry as the franchise’s career leading scorer.

Dwight Howard had 23 points and 13 rebounds for the Hornets, and Marvin Williams finished with 13 points.

Michael Beasley added 27 points for the Knicks, who fell to 9-30 on the road. Enes Kanter had 15 points and 13 rebounds.

The Hornets led by as many as 17 in the second half, but Burke helped the Knicks rally to a tie with 9:07 left.

Tim Hardaway Jr. knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 40 seconds left to give New York a 117-114 lead, but Walker hit a clutch 3-pointer from the right wing to tie it up again.

Walker then made a big play on defense.

Burke never got a chance to get off a last shot off as Walker tipped the ball away at the top of the key to send the game into overtime.

 

Hornets dropping GM Rich Cho, will reportedly pursue Mitch Kupchak

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Update: Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that the team will not extend the contract of General Manager Rich Cho. The Hornets will begin a search for a new general manager 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,” said Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan. “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.”

 

Last spring, the Hornets exercised their option on general manager Rich Cho for this season. It wasn’t exactly a strong vote of confidence without a contract extension.

Now, it’s becoming even more clear he’s a lame duck.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Cho has had plenty of hits and misses as general manager, including a year with the Trail Blazers. But the misses have added up in Charlotte. The Hornets’ next general manager will inherit:

Kemba Walker helps, but he can’t do it alone. This bloated payroll leaves little flexibility for roster upgrades – necessary to lift Charlotte into strong playoff contention. Walker will become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, and affording him could be tricky.

This is not a good job (relative to the other 29 NBA general manager jobs, of course).

Hornets owner Michael Jordan certainly plays into that. In one of the biggest gaffes of the Cho era, Charlotte rejected the Celtics’ offer of four first-round picks for the No. 9 pick in the 2015 draft, just to pick Frank Kaminsky. (Boston wanted Justise Winslow.) Was that Cho’s call or Jordan’s?

Cho takes the fall, though. That’s how this works.

Jordan’s ownership also means he gets to pick the replacement. It’s surely not a coincidence he’s leaning toward Mitch Kupchak (who played at North Carolina) and Buzz Peterson (who played with Jordan at North Carolina).

Kupchak fizzled late, but his overall tenure with the Lakers was a success. Has the game passed him by, or did recency bias unfairly paint him unfavorably? We might get to find out.