If James Borrego is going to move the Charlotte Hornets forward next season, he will most likely be forced to do so with pretty much the same roster that cost former coach Steve Clifford his job.
Borrego, hired as the 11th head coach in franchise history Thursday night, along with new general manager Mitch Kupchak, told the media on Friday development will have to come from within.
The Hornets have posted back-to-back 36-win seasons.
Kupchak said “there is no master play to blow up this team right now” when asked about overhauling to roster, adding Borrego was hired with the understanding “he was going to coach the guys that are on this team right now.”
The 40-year-old Borrego, hired Thursday as the first Hispanic-American head coach in NBA history, backed up Kupchak’s comments.
“My mentality is this is our group and we are moving forward with it,” Borrego said. “I’m excited about that current group as it stands right now. I think our biggest room for growth is the internal development piece.”
With not much cap space, if the Hornets aren’t going to have a lot of flexibility in terms of free-agent signings or on the trade market.
“Right now, the likelihood is we are going to go forward with this team,” Kupchak said.
The 40-year-old Borrego, a 15-season veteran as an assistant coach in the league, said he is a “big fan” of Charrlotte’s franchise player, All-Star guard Kemba Walker. Swingman Nicolas Batum and center Dwight Howard are also veterans with track records.
“It’s my job to put him in position to succeed,” Borrego said of Walker. “For me, that means giving him space and a floor that is open to create, so he should be excited about that. I’m in his corner. I back him. I’m with him.”
In addition to Walker, Borrego said it’s his responsibility to develop young players Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon, who received limited minutes with Clifford at the helm. Borrego said he wants to get more out of 24-year-old Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a former No. 2 overall draft pick, and Frank Kaminsky, a first-round draft pick.
“There is a group of young guys that after this summer should take a major leap,” Borrego said. “If they take a major leap, our roster changes significantly.”