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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.

Three Things to Know: Who is in, who is out, games that matter in West playoff chase

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Where we stand: Insane West playoff chase explained (mostly). Back in 2014 — the year Taylor Swift was shaking it off and we were all trying to shake off hearing her again — the Suns won 48 games and missed the playoffs. It was unprecedented.

This season is getting close to that. Some team is going to win 46 games and miss the postseason in the West. After a wild weekend of games, here is where the playoff chase in the West stands and what to watch, in bullet point form:

• The magic number to get in is going to be 47 wins — reach that and teams will be invited to the dance. There are scenarios where 46 wins is good enough, but get to 47 wins and teams are safe.

• The Pelicans, Spurs, and Thunder are all at 46-34 and made up seeds 5-7 currently, the Timberwolves and Nuggets are both 45-35 and tied for 8-9.

• With their win over the Lakers Sunday night, the Jazz are officially in (with 47 wins, they cannot fall out due to tiebreakers). Seeding is still up in the air, they could land anywhere from three to eight (with eighth being unlikely but technically possible).

• After their loss to the Nuggets Saturday, the Los Angeles Clippers are officially out.

• Monday night games to track: Oklahoma City at Miami, Memphis at Minnesota, Sacramento at San Antonio, New Orleans at the Los Angeles Clippers, and the big one is Portland at Denver.

• If Minnesota beats Memphis Monday (very likely) and Denver beats Portland that same night (less likely, but possible), then the Timberwolves and Nuggets will remain tied and play Wednesday for the eight seed — a play-in game. Denver technically is the nine seed by tiebreaker, but they control their own destiny — win out and they are in.

• Utah at Portland on the last night of the season could determine the three seed. That assumes that the Jazz beat the Warriors Tuesday, something that is no lock (although Golden State is locked into the two seed and not very focused right now). Utah will be on a back-to-back and it will be their third game in four nights, but this is a determined team right now.

2) Philadelphia gets to 50 wins and locks up home-court advantage in the first round. Read that again, because it’s harder to believe than alien abduction stories. Almost. This team won 28 games a season ago, 10 the season before that, 18 the one before that. Throughout the tribulations of “the process” Philly, on paper, looked like a team that could come be a force if things broke right — but for it to all break right that fast is mind-boggling. And that is without No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz contributing much.

Brett Brown deserves a lot of credit here. Throughout the years of losing, he had them playing hard and learning defensive principles. He built a culture despite the challenges. He is not going to win Coach of the Year this season, but the man has to be considered.

The Sixers may well finish with the three seed in the East (they currently are the three, one game up on the Cavaliers in fourth). Do that, get through the first round (against likely Miami or Milwaukee, which will not be easy), get Joel Embiid back, then beat the Celtics/the seven seed that knocks off the Celtics, and the Sixers are in the Eastern Conference Finals. That is a completely reasonable path. And if you had said “the Sixers can make the Eastern Conference Finals next year” last April we would have put you in the asylum with the alien abduction people.

3) Mitch Kupchak is the new GM in Charlotte. It became official on Sunday, the North Carolina guy got the job with the North Carolina team owned by a North Carolina grad. This was the safe play for the Hornets. That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong play, or that it will not work out, but it’s the safe play. Kupchak brings a resume to the table the Hornets can sell — he’s got four rings as the Lakers GM — and a style and standing that will sell in the community. He’s got a good relationship with the owner, Michael Jordan. There’s a lot of good reasons to make this hire.

Kupchack’s GM record in Los Angeles is hit-and-miss. There were highs — the Pau Gasol trade, drafting Andrew Bynum (who was good with the Lakers and helped them to rings), and even the failed Steve Nash/Dwight Howard move was bold and seen as brilliant before that team took the court. In general, he drafted well, often at the back of the draft. Nobody should question his eye for talent.

However, in his final years in Los Angeles, there was a sense from some around the team that the game had passed him by. Kupchak completely misread the market in the contracts for Luol Deng (four years, $72 million), Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) and even Jordan Clarkson (four years, $50 million, although the Lakers were able to eventually trade that one). He expected there to be an amnesty clause in the new CBA and there wasn’t, and he though those contracts could be easily traded (it cost the Lakers former No. 2 pick D’Angelo Russell to move Mozgov). There also were reports that the old-school Kupchak was a bit behind the modern NBA curve — he wouldn’t reach out through back channels to agents and free agent players before July 1, and that had him starting steps behind other teams. Not all of this was on Kupchak he was a good soldier for the Lakers’ organization and certainly the former head of basketball operations in L.A. Jim Buss had the ultimate say on those moves. However, Kupchak at the very least didn’t talk Buss out of those decisions. (Both Buss and Kupchak were trying to keep their job, which also can account for the errors.)

There are real questions in Charlotte for Kupchak to answer. The big one is a matter of direction for the coming years: do they trade Kemba Walker and jump-start a rebuild, or do they retool around him (with Dwight Howard and Nicolas Batum on the roster) and aim to be a playoff team for a couple more seasons? Ultimately that is a decision Jordan must make, and in that market moving Kemba followed by a few bad years may sting more than the “tear it down” contingent realize, but it’s something where Kupchak needs to sway Jordan.

What does Kupchak’s hiring mean for coach Steve Clifford’s job security? That is up in the air, but Clifford was an assistant coach with the Lakers while Kupchak was a GM, that could buy him some trust and another year.

Mitch Kupchak reaches deal to become GM of Charlotte Hornets

Associated Press
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After going with the analytics, outside-the-box hire last time in Rich Cho, Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets are going old-school NBA with their next front office hire.

Former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has reached a deal to become the next GM in Charlotte, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the team.

“I’m excited to join the Hornets organization and I want to thank Michael for this opportunity,” Kupchak said in a statement. “I am well aware of the passion for basketball in Charlotte and throughout the entire state of North Carolina‎, and I am confident that we can build the Hornets into a successful team that our great fans can be proud of.”

There is no surprise here, Kupchak has been the frontrunner since the day it was announced Cho was out as GM. Kupchak and Jordan have a relationship forged through their ties to North Carolina and former coach Dean Smith.

Kupchak steps into a team with big questions hanging over it — do they trade Kemba Walker and jump-start a rebuild, or do they retool around him (with Dwight Howard and Nicolas Batum on the roster) and aim to be a playoff team for a couple more seasons?

What does that mean for coach Steve Clifford’s job security? That is up in the air, but Clifford was an assistant coach with the Lakers while Kupchak was a GM, that could buy him some trust and another year.

Kupchak brings a resume that includes four rings won with the Lakers — including the smart trade for Pau Gasol, drafting Andrew Bynum (who was good with the Lakers), and even the failed Steve Nash/Dwight Howard move was bold and seen as brilliant before that team took the court — plus he has a presence and demeanor that will play well in Charlotte. Also, he drafted well, often at the back of the draft.

There was also a sense in some quarters in Los Angeles that the game had passed him by. He completely misread the market in the contracts for Luol Deng (four years, $72 million), Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) and even Jordan Clarkson (four years, $50 million, although the Lakers were able to eventually trade that one). Kupchak was a good soldier for the Lakers’ organization and so how much of those moves were the brainchild the former head of basketball operations in L.A. Jim Buss is up for debate, but Kupchak at the very least didn’t talk Buss out of those moves. (Both Buss and Kupchak were trying to keep their job, which also can account for the errors.)

There also were reports that the old-school Kupchak was a bit behind the modern NBA curve — he wouldn’t reach out through back channels to agents and free agent players before July 1, and that had him starting steps behind other teams.

Kupchak may be the safe choice for the Hornets, but that’s not necessarily bad.

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.