James Borrego emphasized a faster style of play and player development in his introductory press conference as new head coach of the Charlotte Hornets.
“You should see an exciting brand of basketball,” said Borrego. “One that fits today’s NBA style and gives us the best chance to win moving forward.”
What does that mean, exactly? Playing at a faster pace, being efficient in transition, moving the ball more in the halfcourt, and shooting a higher volume of 3-pointers. However, Borrego stressed that defending well is key to playing how they want on the offensive end. He emphasized defending the 3-point line and rebounding well in order to get out fast in transition, along with committing few fouls and defending the paint (both of which were principles of Steve Clifford).
While he didn’t elaborate, Borrego (or JB, as he likes to be called), mentioned that we will likely see different lineups than we did last season. He’s already spoken with Nicolas Batum, and he believes Batum can be better utilized to improve his assists per game and 3-point percentage. He wants to put Kemba Walker in positions where he can succeed, and stated Dwight Howard had a productive season last season, adding that Howard can work well when there is space around him.
Borrego also stressed player development, citing the importance of “internal development.” When it comes to developing young players, Borrego called his approach “simple” — focus on maximizing what the player does well first instead of trying to improve his entire game all at once. He believes that with the current group of prospects, we should expect a “major leap after this summer.”
Along with style of play and development, Borrego mentioned being aligned with general manager Mitch Kupchak in terms of the team’s vision. Judging from comments from both regarding the direction of the team, that appears to be set at the moment. Kupchak stated there is currently, “No plan to blow anything up.” Borrego reinforced that and added, “My vision here is to maximize the this roster as it stands.” He wants the Hornets to be “relevant in the Eastern Conference” next season but didn’t add whether that meant making the playoffs.
The biggest challenges for the Hornets next season according to JB are to improve the team’s ball movement and unselfish play, and to improve upon solid shooting numbers from last season by taking a higher volume of 3-pointers.
It sounds, at least from this, that Borrego plans to play a more modern style of offense. It’s a good sign, but it’s also important to remember that running that style effectively means having a roster that can do so. Still, it was refreshing to hear an emphasis place on better ball movement, along with defending the 3-point line on the opposite end. The Hornets suffered in both categories last season.
Kupchak stated Borrego was one of 10 candidates interviewed in person for the job. After his initial interview, Borrego returned for a second interview in Charlotte and then flew down to Florida to meet with Michael Jordan. Kupchak says that in the end, Borrego was the right choice based on what they were looking for.
One press conference doesn’t win a championship, but Borrego made a solid first impression. With the hire official, the work begins. The draft lottery is next week, along with the combine. By that point, we’ll know where the Hornets are picking and Borrego and Kupchak can begin determine who to select with the pick or what they should do with it.