NBA Rumor: Hornets Front Office

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Pete Guelli, the executive who oversaw the brand transition of Charlotte’s NBA team from the Bobcats back to the Hornets in 2014, is leaving the team for a job with the New York Giants. His last day as the Hornets’ chief operating officer is May 10. Guelli was hired as the team’s chief marketing and sales officer in April 2009 and charged with boosting ticket sales. The season before Guelli started, the Bobcats, then owned by Bob Johnson, ranked 27th out of 30 NBA teams in attendance. The team had just under 5,000 season ticket holders at the time.

“One of the first things that jumped out at me is Kemba is so much better than I thought,” Kupchak said. “He does not get the kind of (star) exposure. He’s getting it now because of the way he started the season, but I had no idea how good this kid is.” He tabbed former Spurs assistant James Borrego as the team’s head coach and, in July, he traded former Lakers center Dwight Howard. Kupchak holds the coveted dual title of president of basketball operations and general manager. He focuses solely on basketball, whereas he said he “had more responsibility in L.A. in other business areas.”

How would you say your relationship with Michael has evolved in the past six months? Mitch Kupchak: A little less formal. But still formal. At the end of the day, I have to respect the position. At the end of the day, I have to be careful not to let friendship — or a future friendship — get in the way of what I do and my respect for what he is. He’s the owner. I just don’t think I can act buddy-buddy. Maybe one day 10 years from now, that will be the case. But the reality is that our relationship is going to continue to grow, hopefully. And we may agree on things most of the time, but there may be some times we don’t and we have a heated argument. And at that point, you’ve got to be careful that it’s not a friendship thing. You have to be able to agree to disagree.

Charlotte Hornets President of Basketball Operations & General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced today that the team has named Joe Sharpe Director of Health Care & Sports Performance, while adding Dr. Quinton Sawyer, Adam Linens and Dr. Powell Bernhardt to his staff and retaining Aaron Karkow and Jason Meiring. Sharpe returns to Charlotte, where he previously served as head athletic trainer from 2004-08, after spending the last 10 seasons as head athletic trainer for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday he would like to see point guard Kemba Walker end his career here. Don’t construe that as Kupchak ruling out a trade of Walker, who has one season left on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. “He is on a (contract) that may make it a challenge going forward to figure out (the best course) before he becomes a free agent,” Kupchak said, in response to an Observer question about Walker’s status.

That was conveyed to Borrego in the interview process. As Kupchak put it Friday, “When he was hired, the understanding is he is going to coach the players (already) on this team and the players we bring into this team going forward.” Borrego said he was comfortable with that, saying he anticipates most of the improvement between now and training camp in late September will be “internal.” “My vision here,” Borrego said, “is to maximize this roster as it stands.”
3 years ago via ESPN

Kupchak will keep assistant GM Buzz Peterson in a front office role, and ultimately add own personnel changes to the management and scouting structure, league sources said. Jordan and Kupchak have had a longstanding relationship built around their ties to the University of North Carolina and late coach Dean Smith.

Marc STEIN: I can only account for my own reporting on the subject. And everyone I’ve spoken to with knowledge of what’s happening with the Hornets’ vacancy insists that Kupchak, after he spent more than three decades in the Lakers’ front office, remains at the top of the Charlotte owner Michael Jordan’s wish list. According to the latest information, Rosas is the most serious candidate of the others interviewed by the Hornets to date. But word is that Jordan has yet to be convinced to move away from his preference to hire his fellow North Carolina alumnus Kupchak.

Hornets Sports & Entertainment (HSE) announced today the promotions of Fred Whitfield to President & Vice Chairman, Pete Guelli to Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer and James Jordan to Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer. “I’m extremely proud of the strides that we have made as a business under the guidance of our leadership team,” said Hornets Managing Partner Curtis Polk. “Our entire staff has worked very hard to improve every aspect of our business operations from both the team and arena standpoint. The commitment from our fans and partners since our rebrand to the Hornets has been second to none and we are very excited about our organization’s future.”

“I want to thank Rich for all of his hard work with the Charlotte Hornets organization through the years and wish him and his family the best in the future,” said Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan. “Rich worked tirelessly on behalf of our team and instituted a number of management tools that have benefited our organization. We are deeply committed to our fans and to the city of Charlotte to provide a consistent winner on the court. The search will now begin for our next head of basketball operations who will help us achieve that goal.”
3 years ago via ESPN

The Hornets have had no contact with Kupchak on a possible position, league sources said. Kupchak won two NBA titles as Lakers GM before he was swept out in 2017 upon the arrival of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Jordan has long had an affinity for surrounding himself with fellow Tar Heels, and his plan includes Peterson remaining one of the key — if not the key — decision-maker in basketball matters. Charlotte could be pursuing Kupchak to further groom Peterson to take over full control of basketball operations, but the specifics of a role has not even been discussed with Kupchak, league sources said.

The Hornets continue to field calls on Kemba Walker, but no Walker deal gets done unless a team absorbs one of the handful of bad contracts on Charlotte’s roster, sources said. Another variable at play: The future of GM Rich Cho. Cho is in the final year of his contract and there have been rumblings that former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is a favorite among high-ranking team officials to take over next summer. If Hornets owner Michael Jordan is resolved to replace Cho, he may not sign off on dealing Charlotte’s most appealing asset.

When Fred Whitfield is not standing in his usual spot in the tunnel of the Spectrum Center at Charlotte Hornets games, Hall of Famer Michael Jordan probably figures that his close friend and business confidant is making an impression somewhere off the court. Whitfield is Hornets Sports & Entertainment’s chief operating officer, president and minority owner and oversees all business operations. The North Carolina native represented the organization’s efforts to secure the 2017 NBA All-Star Game and re-secure the game in 2019 after the controversial House Bill 2 (HB2) was repealed last year. His efforts have quietly played a major role in keeping the Hornets in Charlotte and sports entertainment afloat in the Spectrum Center.

Whitfield has the respect of NBA commissioner Adam Silver and team executives throughout the league, and Jordan is glad to have the NBA’s lone African-American COO as part of his team professionally and personally. “I’ve known him for over 35 years, and we have been through a lot together,” said Jordan, the Hornets’ owner and chairman. “We worked together when he worked with my agent, at Nike when we launched the Jordan Brand and he worked with me in the front office of the Wizards. We know and trust each other well, and that allows us to work cohesively with the same goals. I am thankful to have him as the team president and as my friend.”

Whitfield worked behind the scenes to push to repeal HB2 with the Hornets’ business and goodwill in mind. Whitfield’s work didn’t go unnoticed, as the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce named him the 2017 Economic Growth Champion of the Year. Whitfield told The Undefeated that if HB2 hadn’t been repealed, the Hornets might have been forced to move from North Carolina for financial reasons and because of a potential lack of sports and entertainment events at the Spectrum Center. Silver has said that although the repeal of HB2 “did not go far enough, we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law.” Silver said he is also confident that the Hornets will “set equality principles to ensure that every All-Star event will proceed with open access and anti-discrimination policies.” Silver saluted Whitfield for playing a big role in getting the NBA All-Star Game back in Charlotte.

Charlotte Hornets General Manager Rich Cho announced today that the team has named Buzz Peterson Assistant General Manager. “Throughout his tenure with our organization, Buzz has been an integral part of all aspects of our basketball operations department, with a focus on scouting and player evaluation,” Cho said. “He brings a wide breadth of basketball knowledge to the position, having been involved in the game at various levels for close to three decades. I’m excited to be working more closely with Buzz in his new role and look forward to his continued contributions to our basketball team.”
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November 30, 2020 | 1:26 pm EST Update

Marcus Smart available?

But the Celtics are still centered by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, now both signed to long-term extensions, with Marcus Smart (who’s not ungettable, per league sources) and Kemba Walker back in strong support roles. And making Hayward’s deal a sign and trade with Charlotte gives Boston a huge cudgel with which to take a swing at another star: a $28.5 million traded player exception that the Cs have a year to use in a trade. Given how Boston got throttled in the Eastern finals by Bam Adebayo, looking for a big man upgrade certainly made sense, and while Thompson’s not quite the two-way force he was a few years ago, he’s still quite good at both screen assists and points off of them (4.6 screen assists and 10.4 points per game produced last season, each sixth-best among centers in the league).
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Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and crew would be must-see TV by themselves; adding one of the all-time great players in the two-time league MVP Nash, who’s never coached anywhere at any level, only adds to the palace intrigue. (Having a first-time HC is one reason I don’t think Brooklyn’s going to get James Harden; I just can’t see GM Sean Marks being comfortable putting that much on Nash’s plate as he’s learning the coaching ropes; it’s going to be hard enough for him keeping KD and Kyrie sated.) No one thought Harris was going anywhere, so re-inking him at just under $19 million per is about as well as you could expect the Nets to do. I like Shamet, but he couldn’t secure consistent time in Philly or with the Clippers, and it’s hard to see him getting a ton of burn with Caris LeVert already behind Irving and Harris, but we’ll see.
B/R: The Curry Brand logo—how did that come about? Curry: It stems from the S and C in my name and the uniqueness of my signature and the flowing curves. It’s kinda fluid in that respect. It has the higher arc which stands for standing for a higher purpose outside of what you do and what your skill set is. Just blending all those attributes together. It’s a fresh take. Hopefully, it’ll be the symbol and marker for the purpose-driven mission we have for the community.
B/R: Is Under Armour to Curry Brand as Nike is to Jordan Brand? Curry: There are similarities. When it comes to the purpose behind what we’re doing and how we show up, it’ll be entirely different. All the comparisons and all that type of stuff, have at it. B/R: What does success look like for Curry Brand? Curry: Eventually, I’m gonna be out the way. Success will be measured by how many champions, how many ambassadors, people of like mind want to join the fray. And doing good in the world. To wave this flag with me through this whole journey. It’s definitely the plan [to sign other athletes to Curry Brand], not just in basketball but other sports too. There’s some work being done on that front.
Storyline: Stephen Curry Sneaker Deal