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Charlotte Hornets Free Agency Press Conference Recap

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We’ve got some interesting tidbits from the beginnings of Hornets media availability.

Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Press Conference Recap

Following the Sign & Trade acquisition of Gordon Hayward & two second round picks Mitch Kupchak, James Borrego & Gordon Hayward himself took part in a virtual press conference this week. To save you having to watch all 90 minutes of content I’ve taken the key takeaways and laid them out here

Mitch Kupchak

  • Kupchak confirmed the team are likely to take an open roster spot into the season. He didn’t specify as to why, but later on he discussed about how the team will carry $4 million in CAP space into the season which could enable them to absorb a player without sending one in return in a trade.
  • Rick Bonnell questioned Kupchak following his previous statements about not being big players in Free Agency, Mitch said “Can you remind me what I said” LOL.
  • Without saying it it was apparent Charlotte always had plans to pursue Hayward in 2021 Free Agency and were surprised when he opted out. They moved quickly and discovered there was mutual interest there, he also confirmed MJ was heavily involved in the discussions.
  • Kupchak stated a couple of times that Hayward “Played a position of need”, this suggests the team don’t see Miles Bridger as a long term start at Small Forward, something echoed by Borrego later.
  • Hayward is 100% recovered from the sprained ankle that plagued him in the NBA bubble, he passed the physical with “flying colours”, the team also spoke to the surgeon who completed the surgery on his leg following his serious injury in 2017, they did their homework.
  • In a change of tone Kupchak said the team were in “A great position financially with cap space to pursue players in free agency going forward”. (Googles 2021 FA Class... Ooo hello Rudy Gobert UFA)
  • According to Mitch the team will have $27-29 in cap space next season not including extensions.
  • Kupchak shared that he views NBA player’s primes to be 28-32 years old.
  • Hayward was not brought into average 25ppg or be a go to socring option like he was in Utah, his playmaking and versatility were big draws.
  • Kupchak described PJ Washington as having “Gold Dust” sprinkled on him, they are obviously super high on PJ.
  • When asked about if the introduction of the 9th/10th seed being involved in the playoffs being a motivation he shot it down quickly. I generally take everything from a Press Conference with a pinch of salt, but just how Kupchak answered this one I really trust him. He said that the team hadn’t even discussed that change and this question was the first time he had really thought about it, it wasn’t a factor in any of their moves, period.
  • Mitch said he never had a great feeling about signing Hayward, there were multiple suitors both those with CAP space and other purusing a sign and trade.
  • Kupchak told an anecdote about LaMelo Ball, they day after being drafted they were out for dinner in Charlotte and at 10pm he asked if there was a place he could workout. He did a 2 hour session until midnight, Mitch and JB were both impressed and it’s obvious he loves the game.
  • When asked about why Batum was waived not traded, he discussed the opportunity cost of “How many picks we would have to give up”. He went on to explain that going forward they are really happy they have all their 1st and 2nd round picks. With so much CAP flexibility going forward they felt they could take the hit by stretching Batum over the next three seasons.

James Borrego

  • Borrego praised Hayward’s addition, he harped on about his playmaking and being able to see over the defense, creating for himself and others.
  • Interestingly, Borrego gave no assurance that Hayward would start, although it’s obviously extremely likely Hayward comes off the bench you can understand why he said it. He didn’t want to dishearten his current guys, he said the rotation will be fought for in training camp.
  • Borrego signalled some of the strengths of this current roster is now the abundance of player makers with size, especially with the additions of LaMelo & Hayward.
  • The weaknesses of the team according to JB are still rebounding and rim protection.
  • There was no commitment made by JB for the playoffs, just the usual old “Focus on getting better each and every day” jargon.
  • When discussing the benefits of adding Hayward to the younger players, Borrego used the example of San Antonio. You had Parker, Ginobli & Duncan who made the game easier for everyone else and also showed guys what it takes to be successful. He is hopeful the addition of Hayward will help to this affect.
  • Borrego jokingly expressed surprise at the drafting of “Dukie” Vernon Carey Jr with all the Tar Heels who work for the Hornets.
  • The centre position was up for discussion, Borrego mentioned he was “Comfortable” starting Cody at the five but also wants to play PJ “A lot” of time there. This was later confirmed on PJ Washington’s media availability the other day where he confirmed he played “All my time at centre” during the team’s two week mini bubble earlier in the year.
  • Increasing the speed this team plays with is a real priority, the Hornets ranked towards the bottom of the league in pace last year which is a real coaching focus.
  • Overall, you could tell Borrego was super excited to coach this new group, you got the feeling he finally has a roster which fits his vision of versatile playmakers.

Gordon Hayward

  • First thing I’ll say is you can tell Hayward is a vet, he spoke for 30 minutes and he put on an absolute clinic in divulging too much information.
  • The most interesting thing he discussed was the motivations for wanting to come to Charlotte. Although he was tiptoeing lightly around the subject, you could tell he wanted a bigger role where he would have the ball in his hands more scoring and playmaking.
  • He discussed there being a lot of different opportunities in Free Agency which were being put to him by his agent but he told him to stop fielding calls and that he wanted to go to Charlotte. Hayward referenced never forgetting the courtship from 2014 when he signed a Restricted Free Agent offer sheet with Charlotte. He had stayed in touch with MJ since and felt a draw to the organisation.
  • He mentioned about Borrego making a good impression, that they see the game being played in the same way and how Hayward would fit into that and could grow his game.
  • Hornets current assistant coach Ronald Nored was actually Hayward’s roommate at Baylor and have remained close friends since. He spoke to Nored “As a friend” during Free Agency to help advise where he should go. This just goes to show relationships still count for a lot in the NBA when it comes to signing players.