Yesterday, Mitch Kupchak spoke to the media for the first time following the end of the season. I’ll be diving into what was said, and my thoughts on Kupchak’s responses.
Mitch Kupchak’s extension
Mitch Kupchak’s future in Charlotte was uncertain as Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported in early May that the roadblock to a new contract was a “monetary divide”. However, all uncertainty has been cleared as Mitch Kupchak told the media yesterday that he signed a multi-year contract extension with the Hornets. “I will be here for the foreseeable future. I’ve agreed with the Hornets to continue to work for years to come.” He then adds “For better or for worse, I will be here for the next couple of years,” Kupchak said.
Miles Bridges in Restricted Free Agency
Charlotte and Miles Bridges were unable to reach a contract extension last summer; as a result, Bridges will enter Restricted Free Agency this summer. After his breakout season, Bridges has emerged as a key member of the Hornets' young core, and one of the best players in the league. “Our intention is to keep Miles long-term. He’s a big part of our future,” said Kupchak. This comes as no surprise as Bridges has shown that he's one of the premier young players in the league averaging 20.2 points and 7 rebounds for Charlotte this season.
James Borrego’s Firing
A week after the season's disappointing end to Atlanta, Charlotte fans were met with the news of James Borrego’s firing. Kupchak answered some questions about Borrego’s firing and why he was let go. “The decision was made to seek out another voice, to be honest with you,” Kupchak said. Kupchak hints that Borrego may have lost the locker room and that they needed a new leader to get them over the hump. He also voices his belief that the Hornets rookies: James Bouknight, Kai Jones, and JT Thor should have gotten more minutes than they did. “I remain very high on them. I was hopeful that they would play more than they did. Coach’s decision,” Kupchak said about last year’s draft picks. Mitch makes a subtle jab about Borrego’s decision to only play the three rookies a combined 629 minutes this season. Leaving us to believe that the lack of development with the rookies was one of the several reasons Borrego was fired. Kupchak also voiced his belief in this roster coming into the season. “Going into the seasons we thought we were a playoff-worthy team.” With the two blowout Play-In losses as the 10th seed, I can imagine that this was one of the factors of Borrego’s firing.
The Hornets Vacant Coaching Spot
It's been almost a month since James Borrego was fired and the Hornets are inching towards getting a new head coach. “We’re pretty far into the process. We’ve interviewed 8-10 candidates, most in-person. We’re pretty close to narrowing the group. I can’t imagine it would be within the next week or so,” said Kupchak on the coaching search. The eight coaches that we know the Hornets have interviewed are Darvin Ham, Mike D’Antoni, Sean Sweeney, David Vanterpool, Frank Vogel, Kenny Atkinson, Charles Lee, and Terry Stotts. Kupchak noted that Charlotte will likely not make a hire within the next two weeks, but he’d like to make a hire before the June 23rd Draft. Kupchak was very direct when asked if any players such as All-Star LaMelo Ball would be consulted for the coaching hire. “I’ve not consulted anybody. If we ever get to the point where we have some of the top-10 players in the league… Then maybe I have a discussion.” In a player-driven league, Kupchak seems to hold an old belief that only the elite of the elite should have a say in team matters. This doesn't come as any surprise as back in 2014 he told the media Kobe wouldn’t have a say on whether the Lakers will keep Mike D’Antoni. "We will not consult with him,” said Kupchak. The biggest point that Kupchak kept reiterating was his desire for this team to reach a new level. "We're looking for a coach that’s going to get us to that next step,” He later says, “I’d like to get us into the playoffs and win a round.”
The 2022 NBA Draft
The Hornets own the 13th and 15th picks in the 2022 NBA Draft giving them a multitude of options to go with. “Picks in the draft are good currency, we can use those picks to make a trade,” said Kupchak. With Gordon Hayward’s owed over 60 million in the next two seasons, the Hornets could look to attach a pick to get off his contract. They could also look to address one of the biggest holes in their roster over the past few seasons which is their center position. With two first-round picks, the Hornets could look to add a center like Jakob Poeltl or Richaun Holmes if they're in the trade market. They could also just draft if they fall in love with one of the top prospects that are available around 13. As Mitch said, draft picks are good currency.
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