New Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego is proud to have been part of such a winning organization as the San Antonio Spurs. But he made it clear in his first public comments Friday that he doesn’t bring “a pocket of fairy dust” from San Antonio with him.
Five key things I heard from Borrego (who goes by “J.B.”), plus one from general manager Mitch Kupchak:
Borrego said he wants a “fast-paced” style of play offensively, which sounds like it means getting into attack mode earlier in a possession (first five to eight seconds). I’d think Kemba Walker will love that. Despite center Dwight Howard’s mileage, he is still solid getting up court, so that could work, too.
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It won’t be just like what his predecessor, Steve Clifford did, but it’s interesting Borrego mentioned the importance of minimizing fouls and protecting the paint first (which Clifford emphasized more than 3-point defense).
Borrego sounded excited by the possibilities with Nic Batum, the Hornets’ highest-paid player, who is coming off a down season. Those two have talked already. Borrego thinks Batum can be more productive in both assists and 3-point shooting. He also mentioned Batum as playing with both starters and reserves (which happened a lot under Clifford, too.)
When I asked Borrego for some detail as to his approach to player development, he said he’d focus first on refining players’ strengths, and then work through weaker areas. Sounded like a less-is-more approach, as far as not throwing too many things at a player at once. He also said player development should not be viewed only as an off-season pursuit, that players can improve in-season, too. (Which, in part, I assume, could entail more use of the G-League Greensboro Swarm).
Asked about the prospect of making the playoffs next season, Borrego said he intends for the Hornets to be “relevant in the Eastern Conference.” Whether relevance means being one of eight playoff teams in the East, he didn’t say.
And from Kupchak
“There’s no plan to blow up anything. ...Right now, the likelihood is we go forward with this team.”
(That should not come as a surprise, since it will be challenging to find takers for the Hornets’ more expensive veteran contracts. That does not mean, however, he won’t look for trades. But that’s more direct than he was a month ago, when he was introduced as general manager, that most likely the roster is pretty much the same entering training camp).
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell