LAS VEGAS -- Searing triple-digit temperatures, along with the air quality impacted by the California wildfires, aren't the only thing eliciting discussions here these past few days.
James Borrego has witnessed it firsthand.
"There’s an excitement about this group throughout the league," the Hornets coach said Wednesday. "I’m here and Vegas and everywhere I turn, I’m hit with somebody that just loves watching this team play. There’s a real excitement. People love watching our group compete. They say, ‘Number one, you guys compete and you share the ball and you’re a fun style of basketball.’ And I think the players throughout the league feel the same way.
"Whether they’re free agents or not, we’re getting a tremendous amount of feedback off that. I’m thrilled for our guys. Our players, they deserve all the credit, they deserve a ton of credit. Our coaching staff has put their imprint on this organization as well. I know these players are excited to be here.”
As is Borrego. The team officially announced his multiyear extension on Monday, locking him up for the foreseeable future. Since he was heading into the final season of his deal, it gives him added authority.
That's the kind of stability he experienced in San Antonio and is hoping to help establish in Charlotte as they build around LaMelo Ball and their youthful core.
"I think the best organizations -- I was a part of one of them -- the No. 1 trait that stands out to me is continuity and consistency," Borrego said. "To see growth and development in any organization or program, continuity and consistency is the biggest thing, especially when you’re dealing with young men, young players that are developing right before our eyes. This is a very young team and we just got a lot younger. But I think it’s extremely important for players like Melo and these young players around him that we stay consistent. The message is the same, the system is the same, the terminology is the same.
"And I believe that gives us a chance. Doesn’t mean it sets us up for absolute success for where we want to go, but it gives us a great chance and that’s what I’m most excited about – that I get that security, that continuity to build this group and keep growing this group. I think the No. 1 thing is that I have that support from ownership on down to continue to lead this group. There’s buy in, there’s belief, there’s commitment. I think when our players and our fans see that, it only allows us to continue to grow and build at the rate that we’re building at. So, I thought this was a huge move for our organization, for me as well and for our players.”
Borrego was asked about myriad topics. Here are four other things to note from his chat with the media.
• LaMelo Ball as a recruiter, serving as a liaison of sorts? Borrego suggested although it's a possible tool in their organizational belt, the old fashioned eye test typically holds a lot more weight.
"I think he is a sale," Borrego said. "His game speaks for itself. These guys watch him. These players are all watching each other. They’re identifying places they’d like to go before teams are even interested and Melo’s one of those guys who’s contagious, who’s infectious, and just like our players, they love playing with him. He’s just got this infectious spirit about him, this unselfishness, an energy and players want to play with that. They want to be around that and that is probably the best recruiting pitches any of us can have is just watching Melo on a night to night basis and it’s genuine.
"I think that’s when players know it’s real. If you’re around him, you get to know him, you watch him, this is a genuine, lovely kid that loves the game. He’s got great spirit about him, very unselfish. These players want to play with that and he’s one of those guys that they’re identifying right now.”
• Borrego said they will benefit from Mason Plumlee's acquisition. Plumlee should provide the Hornets with a better passing and finishing option at center. They've had their eye on the 10th-year veteran since he signed a free-agent deal with the very team the Hornets picked him from.
“I’ve been a big fan of his for a while," Borrego said. "Before he hit free agency before he went to Detroit, he was someone we liked. There’s a lot of value. His skill set fits what we’re trying to do here. His skill set fits what we’re trying to do here. His playmaking ability, he can handle at the top of the floor, at the elbow. He’s a playmaker. The more playmakers on the floor for us, the better.
"For those of you that are following our team as you have the last couple years, we’ve added to our playmaking. Obviously, we’re gong to miss that. Devonte’ (Graham), I think, was a playmaker for us. Malik – but adding that out of the 5 position with Mason I think is going to be tremendous for our group. He’s a willing passer. He’s a smart player. He’s won in this league. He’s got good presence down there. He can rebound at a high level. So, I think he fits our program. He fits our culture. I love his leadership qualities, his winning qualities, the DNA he brings with him here. I know he’s excited. We’re excited to have him and I know he fits what we’re going to try to do here around that '5' position."
• The up-and-down nature of PJ Washington's play is something Borrego would like to see corrected next season. Washington was often asked to be a key component of their small-ball approach and had his good games and bad games.
Halting that see-saw nature is of utmost importance.
"I think for PJ it’s consistency." Borrego said. "We’ve all seen how good he can be on certain nights. I think now, the next step for him -- I think you saw this in Miles Bridges last year, he became a more consistent player as that seen went along -- and I expect PJ to take that next step. Night-in, night-out, be accountable. Be someone that we can rely on night-in, night-out.
"And he’s ready to take that next step. I think a lot of us had those same questions about Miles going into last season and I think Miles has turned the corner. He’s become more of a professional at a higher level. His work ethic has always been there, but the game has really slowed down for him. I think the biggest thing with Miles is consistency and I expect PJ to have the same approach this year. To dig in, be counted on night in, night out. We need that from him and I think this roster says that. If PJ Takes that next step, this can be a very special team.”
• Gordon Hayward is getting it in like everybody else. Hayward, who missed the season's final 25 games, is apparently still enamored with the city surroundings -- not to mention slightly better weather than he experienced in the northeast.
So keeping tabs on him hasn't been difficult.
"He’s obviously a major part of this," Borrego said. "We need him healthy. To max out who we can be as a team, we need him to be fully healthy. Gordon’s been in Charlotte the entire summer. He’s been in our gym. He’s been with our coaching. He’s been with our medical team, our performance team, our strength team. It’s amazing. Guys love being in Charlotte. Whether it’s the city, the program, the organization, all these guys, they love it. They love being around.
"I’m not having to chase them around the country and worry about that. They love being locked into Charlotte and working here. So, Gordon’s been one of those guys. We’ve consistently had eight to 12 guys probably per week in our gym and Gordon’s one of those. We need him healthy. He’s doing a number of things right now on the court and I think we’re in a good place with him there. Again, I think it just adds to the corporate knowledge again. He’s learning more about his teammates, they’re learning more about him and I expect him to be ready to go for training camp.”