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Quick hits: Kupchak extension, Bridges future, Borrego shot, search for coaches and more

Yesterday, Mitch Kupchak spoke to the media for the first time after the end of the season. I’ll dive into what was said and my thoughts on Kupchak’s responses.

Mitch Kupchak Expansion

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 “money gap”. However, any uncertainty has been lifted as Mitch Kupchak told the media yesterday that he had signed a multi-year contract extension with the Hornets. “I will be here for the foreseeable future. I have agreed with the Hornets to continue working for years to come. He then adds “For better or for worse, I will be here for the next two years,” Kupchak said.

Miles Bridges in restricted free agency

Charlotte and Miles Bridges couldn’t get a contract extension last summer; as a result, Bridges will enter restricted free agency this summer. After his breakout season, Bridges became a key member of the Hornets’ young core and one of the best players in the league. “Our intention is to retain Miles for the long term. He’s a big part of our future,” Kupchak said. This comes as no surprise as Bridges has shown he is one of the best young players in the league averaging 20.2 points and 7 rebounds for Charlotte this season.

The dismissal of James Borrego

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A week after the disappointing end to the season in Atlanta, Charlotte fans got 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 look for another voice, to be honest with you,” Kupchak said. Kupchak hints that Borrego may have lost the locker room and they needed a new leader to get them through. He also voices his belief that Hornets rookies James Bouknight, Kai Jones and JT Thor should have gotten more minutes than them. “I stay very high on them. I was hoping they would play more than they did. Coach’s decision,” Kupchak said of last year’s draft picks. Mitch makes a subtle point about Borrego’s decision to only play all three rookies for a combined 629 minutes this season. Leaving us to believe that lack of development with rookies was one of the many reasons Borrego was fired. Kupchak also expressed his confidence in this roster heading into the season. “At the start of 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 was one of the factors in Borrego’s dismissal.

The vacant Hornets coaching position

It’s been almost a month since James Borrego was fired and the Hornets are set to find a new head coach. “We are quite far in the process. We interviewed 8-10 candidates, most of them in person. We are about to reduce the group. I can’t imagine it would be in the next week,” Kupchak said of the coaching search. The eight coaches 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 likely won’t make a hire in the next two weeks, but he’d like to make a hire before the June 23 draft. Kupchak was very blunt when asked if players such as All-Star LaMelo Ball would be consulted for coaching hires. “I did not consult anyone. If we ever get to the point where we have some of the top 10 players in the league… Then maybe I have a chat. In a player-centric league, Kupchak seems to have an old belief that only the elite of the elite should have a say in team matters. This comes as no surprise as in 2014 he told the media that Kobe would have no say in whether the Lakers would keep Mike D’Antoni. “We won’t consult him,” Kupchak said. The most important point that Kupchak kept repeating was his desire for this team to reach a new level. “We are looking for a coach who will take us to the next stage”, He said later: “I would 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 plenty of options. “The picks in the draft are good currency, we can use those picks to make a trade,” Kupchak said. With Gordon Hayward owing more than $60 million over the next two seasons, the Hornets could be looking to tie up a pick to get out of his contract. They could also be looking to fill one of the biggest holes in their roster over the past few seasons, which is their central 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 might also just draft if they fall in love with one of the best prospects available around age 13. Like Mitch said, draft picks are good currency.

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Twitter- @SI_Hornets and Israel Omondi at @iohandles