Terry Rozier

Michael Jordan Charlotte Hornets
FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

Michael Jordan preaches being uncomfortable, accountability to Hornets

Leave a comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Michael Jordan helped build the Chicago Bulls into a winner as a player.

He’s desperate to do the same thing in Charlotte as the owner of the Hornets.

Charlotte players say Jordan spoke to them recently via video conference call about what it takes to be a champion, emphasizing the need for accountability — even if it means making teammates uncomfortable.

Those are some of the same qualities that were on display during the 10-part documentary the “Last Dance,” which focused on Jordan’s sixth and final NBA championship run with the Bulls.

In the hour-long conference call that came after the conclusion of the “Last Dance,” Charlotte point guard Devonte Graham said Jordan told players they can’t be uncomfortable “calling out teammates” in practice when things aren’t going as planned or mistakes become repetitive.

“That’s going to make you guys even better,” Graham said reiterating Jordan’s remarks. “You’ll bond better. Your team is stronger. There is more of a respect level, instead of not saying anything and letting guys mess up over and over and over again, and you’re losing and losing.”

Jordan hasn’t come close to matching his success as a player since taking over majority control of the Hornets 10 years ago.

Charlotte has never made it out of the first round of the playoffs and has only won three postseason games in the Jordan era.

In an effort to stop that cycle of mediocrity, Jordan hired Mitch Kuchak as the team’s new general manager in 2018 and the Hornets have since embarked on a rebuilding process which included parting ways with three-time All-Star Kemba Walker last offseason in an effort to focus on developing young players.

Jordan took questions from players and spoke directly about the difference between what it takes to win in the regular season and the playoffs.

Hornets center Cody Zeller said that was an important message for a young team to hear.

“A lot of guys on our team haven’t played in the playoffs and don’t understand the attention to detail you have to play with in the playoffs,” Zeller said. “That was what I enjoyed hearing from MJ, especially as a younger team.”

Jordan’s tenacity and desire to win at all costs were exhibited during the “Last Dance.”

That meant at times emotions boiled over at Bulls’ practices resulting in altercations between teammates, including one notable exchange of blows between Jordan and Steve Kerr.

Hornets guard Terry Rozier joked that after watching the “Last Dance” he probably would have got into a few fistfights with Jordan, too.

“I would have taken the Steve Kerr route,” Rozier said with a laugh. “I’m super-competitive.”

But Rozier is not sure Jordan’s aggressive approach would work with some of this generation’s players.

“I feel like you have to pick your poison,” Rozier said. “One thing with being teammates with guys in this league is you have to learn who they are first. Some people don’t like to be confronted in front of others; some people you have to pull aside. So I feel like it is a mixture of learning your teammates and knowing when to call them out…. so that people don’t have a bad taste in their mouth about one another.”

Zeller said Jordan admitted as much in the meeting.

He said the 57-year-old Jordan talked about his post-Bulls tenure with the Washington Wizards when his feedback and criticism wasn’t as well received.

“He said he wishes that he would have done that a little bit differently” in Washington, Zeller said. “The next generation of players that had come in didn’t really want to hear the same feedback and the harshness that he used his during his days in Chicago. He wishes that he would have taken Jerry Stackhouse under his wing and taught him how to be a better leader as opposed to trying to do it all himself.”

Mock NBA expansion draft: Hawks, Hornets, Heat, Magic, Wizards

Mock NBA expansion draft
(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Leave a comment

The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division, Central Division, Pacific Division and Northwest Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Southeast:

Atlanta Hawks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: The Hawks protections are very straightforward. Every player they are protecting is either a rotation player, under team control for a while or both. No hard decisions here.

That means that Atlanta is leaving their restricted free agents and Brandon Goodwin unprotected. No major concerns over losing any of the four.

Charlotte Hornets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: Charlotte’s decisions were fairly easy. Terry Rozier, Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington are all core pieces. Despite his suspension, Malik Monk still has upside. And the three young forwards (Cody Martin, Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels) are locked in on low salaries for a while.

Keeping the three minimum salary forwards meant leaving Dwayne Bacon unprotected. Bacon had been out of the rotation and sent to the G-League, so he’s out of the plans for now. As for Nic Batum or Cody Zeller, the Hornets would welcome getting either big salary off the books.

Miami Heat

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 1

Ineligible – 6

Analysis: Miami was really helped by having six players ineligible because they are unrestricted free agents this summer. That left just this decision point: Andre Iguodala vs KZ Okpala vs Kelly Olynyk.

Okpala is a minimum salary player, so that means he stays. Iguodala was just added and given an extension. He stays. That means Olynyk and his $13 million salary are left exposed.

Orlando Magic

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: Orlando had seven fairly easy protections. Their five starters, sixth man, and their promising young big man in Mo Bamba.

That left Khem Birch vs Al-Farouq Aminu vs Wesley Iwundu. Aminu was left unprotected due to salary and coming off a knee injury. It’s unlikely he’ll be selected and the Magic will be happy to have him back. That means it came down to Birch vs Iwundu. It’s more likely Birch will be selected, given his low salary and skill as a big man, so Iwundu was left unprotected.

Washington Wizards

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

  • John Wall – $41,254,920
  • Isaac Bonga – $1,663,861 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Anzejs Pasecnicks – $1,517,981 ($250,000 Guaranteed)

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Wizards are taking a gamble. Most of the protections were pretty easy. Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant are key players. Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown, Mo Wagner and Jerome Robinson are all on their rookie scale deals.

Then things get interesting. Leaving John Wall unprotected may seem crazy, given he’s a former All-Star. But Wall is coming off two lost seasons due to injury and will be 30 years old at the start of next season. He’s also owed $133 million over the next three seasons. Ish Smith and Admiral Schofield stay and the Wizards throw caution to the wind. It’s unlikely Wall will be selected, but just the chance of clearing that salary off the books is a gamble worth taking for Washington.

Trae Young scores 31, John Collins 28, Hawks beat Hornets in controversial 2OT thriller

Leave a comment

ATLANTA — De'Andre Hunter broke a tie by sinking three free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining in the second overtime, and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Charlotte Hornets 143-138 on Monday night following a controversial finish to the first extra period.

Trae Young had 31 points and 16 assists for Atlanta, and Hunter finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“I wanted to give the fans a little extra,” Young said, adding he felt he owed the fans more in the extra periods after making only one of two free throws at the end of regulation.

Terry Rozier led the Hornets with a career-high 40 points.

After Hunter’s clutch trip to the line, Rozier missed a 3-pointer. Two free throws by Cam Reddish, who had 22 points, iced the win.

Young’s pass set up a jam by Reddish for a 138-135 lead. Rozier answered with a tying 3-pointer.

Two reviews by the officials at the end of the first overtime produced different results. Following the first review, officials said Rozier was fouled by Atlanta’s Treveon Graham with 0.8 seconds remaining.

Before Rozier had a chance to attempt two free throws with the score tied, Atlanta’s Lloyd Pierce registered a coach’s challenge. This time, the officials ruled Rozier was not fouled.

“Very unfortunate. I’m very disappointed with the way the game ended,” Hornets coach James Borrego said.

“Every big call went in their direction. Every big call.”

Added Rozier: “It doesn’t really matter what I think. I’ve got to watch what I say a little bit. Obviously I don’t agree with it. I thought I was going to shoot two free throws.”

Young missed a last-gasp jumper for Atlanta to force the second overtime.

John Collins had 28 points and 11 rebounds for the Hawks. He made 12 of 13 shots from the field.

“I just feel like experience is coming in a little extra for me,” Collins said. “It’s my third year.”

Young made only one of two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining in regulation to force the overtime.

Devonte' Graham scored 27 points and made two free throws that gave Charlotte a 122-121 lead with 5.5 seconds remaining in regulation.

Rozier’s 3-pointer with 1:13 remaining in regulation gave Charlotte its first lead of the second half.

Caleb Martin scored a career-high 23 points for Charlotte before fouling out in the second overtime.

Atlanta led 66-63 at halftime despite Martin’s 11 second-period points.

Devonte’ Graham limped off the court with soreness in his left ankle with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter. He returned early in the final period.

Watch James Harden’s quadruple-double (10 turnovers) as Hornets upset Rockets

Leave a comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Hornets entered a four-game homestand to open the week on a two-game winning streak that included a road victory at the defending NBA champion Toronto.

After losses to Milwaukee, San Antonio and Denver, a meeting with the Houston Rockets didn’t seem a recipe for snapping a three-game losing streak.

But Charlotte scored the first 20 points and Terry Rozier finished with 24 to help the Hornets beat the slumping Rockets 108-99 on Saturday night.

The Rockets had eight turnovers and missed five 3-pointers on their first 12 possessions.

“This was a good one for us tonight,” said Hornets rookie P.J. Washington, who scored 22 points. “We felt like we should have won the last two so just coming out the same intensity that we did those last two games tonight and it got us a win so we are trying to look to do that the rest of the season.”

Houston, which played without All-Star Russell Westbrook (rest), twice closed within three in the second quarter and within five in the third quarter. Each time the Hornets had an answer.

The Rockets have lost three straight after winning six straight and 10 of 12.

James Harden had 30 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists for his 46th career triple-double and fourth this season. He also had 10 of Houston’s 21 turnovers.

“I don’t know,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said about the slow start. “I’ve never experienced that before, 20-0 that’s a big deficit to overcome and for whatever reason when we did attack we turned it over, it was kind of weird. And we couldn’t stop them. Just a little bit of sluggishness, for whatever reason.”

Added Harden: “We have to do a better job defensively to make our offense a lot better. We didn’t make enough shots. Obviously, down 20-0 is tough to come back on anybody but we did, to give ourselves a chance, but we just couldn’t continue to sustain that kind of intensity throughout the four quarter game.”

Robert Covington added 25 points for the Rockets, and Jeff Green had 20.

Devonte’ Graham added 23 points for Charlotte. Cody Zeller had 13 and Miles Bridges 10.

Hornets coach James Borrego was happy with how his team responded to each Houston challenge after Charlotte took the big early lead, especially when the Rockets had two potential tying 3-pointers misfire in the second quarter.

“The momentum was shifting a little there,” Borrego said. “Our heads were hanging for a second. I could feel it. We called a timeout there and rallied the troops again and everybody picked their spirits up.

“I think the way we closed the second quarter is a big part of this game. And I think that’s the maturity that we’re talking about with this young group.”

Spurs earn Tim Duncan first win as acting head coach

Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tim Duncan won more than 1,000 games as an NBA player.

He got his first victory as an acting head coach on Tuesday night.

Dejounte Murray scored 21 points and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Charlotte Hornets 104-103 without longtime head coach Gregg Popovich, who missed the game while dealing with “personal business,” according to the team.

Popovich is expected to return to the bench for Friday night’s game at Brooklyn.

“It’s night and day to be in the big boy chair,” said Duncan, who normally serves as an assistant coach. “Truth be told though, I wasn’t in the big boy chair. I had (other assistant coaches) making the calls and I was the one standing there screaming at people.”

When asked if being a head coach is something he wants to pursue down the road, Duncan said, “Nope, Pop is going to be back and I will be happy to hand it right over to him.”

Duncan said when his team had a five-point lead late in the game, he thought the Spurs might cruise to the win.

“But they had to make it interesting. I think they did that out of spite,” Duncan joked.

Hornets coach James Borrego, who worked as an assistant coach for the Spurs when Duncan was there as a player, said it was “odd” to look down at the other bench and see the five-time NBA champion and 15-time All-Star coaching a team.

“I’m used to see that No. 21 on his jersey and see him out there leading the group. Tonight he had a blazer on,” Borrego joked.

Borrego said he has immense respect for Duncan.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here (as a head coach) if it wasn’t for that guy,” Borrego said.

Terry Rozier had 20 points and P.J. Washington added 19 with five 3-pointers to lead the Hornets.

Duncan was mostly mild-mannered on the bench, not showing much emotion as the game progressed. However, he did challenge a charge call on Derrick White with 9:09 left in the fourth quarter, but the play was not overturned.

The Hornets jumped to a 12-2 lead to open the game, prompting Duncan to use his first timeout. Charlotte extended its lead to as many 17 in the first half, but the Spurs battled back to take a 77-76 lead entering the fourth quarter.

San Antonio extended the lead to six with 4:24 left in the game after three free throws by Forbes, just moments after he appeared to get away with a travel in the lane that drew boos from the home crowd.

The Hornets came back and Rozier cut the Spurs’ lead to one with a driving layup with 42 seconds left. After DeMar DeRozan missed a pull-up jumper, the Hornets had a chance to win the game on their final possession. However, after Rozier drove to the basket, his pass under the basket went in and out of the hands of Cody Martin, allowing the Spurs to escape with just their fourth win in the last 11 games.

Borrego didn’t call timeout before the final play, so as not to let the Spurs set up their defense.