CHARLOTTE — Kenny Atkinson, who sources say would be the Charlotte Hornets’ new head coach, has a popularity for growing younger gamers.
Then once more, so did James Borrego, who Hornets proprietor Michael Jordan and Common Supervisor Mitch Kupchak fired after Borrego directed Charlotte to 4 straight non-playoff seasons.
How effectively Atkinson does as Borrego’s substitute is determined by two issues greater than the rest:
First, the brand new coach should work out the best way to harness LaMelo Ball’s star potential.
Second, he has to get the Hornets enjoying higher protection.
Borrego’s Hornets historically ranged from mediocre to poor on protection, rating within the backside third of virtually any defensive class you would title. And never all of that was his fault. Kupchak by no means offered Borrego with a rim-protecting heart, which meant that loads of video games changed into Charlotte being on the unsuitable facet of a 120-118 rating.
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Atkinson, 55, has been an NBA coach earlier than with the Brooklyn Nets. His file there in three-plus years was 118-190, which doesn’t precisely scream “This guy has to get a second chance!” He’s not a glamorous choose, and he’s not going to promote loads of season tickets on his personal.
However Atkinson did flip some first rate younger gamers into higher younger gamers with the Nets (Caris LeVert and D’Angelo Russell have been amongst them). That’s promising.
Now a Golden State assistant, Atkinson is in the course of the NBA Finals and will not be freed from these duties till June 19, when a Sport 7 between Golden State and Boston could be performed, if crucial. The groups are tied at 2-2 after Golden State’s 107-97 highway win over Boston Friday behind Steph Curry’s 43 factors.
So there’s loads of work for Atkinson to do in a rush and never a lot time to do it, provided that the Hornets have picks Nos. 13 and 15 within the NBA draft on June 23.
The very best state of affairs: The Hornets package deal one or each of these property, together with any individual else tradeable, and discover any individual who can usually block or alter pictures. Then they should preserve Miles Bridges (a restricted free agent), bolster their younger core and get Ball extra engaged on the defensive finish.
When Kupchak was just lately requested what Ball, nonetheless solely 20, wanted to do to get higher in his third NBA season, the GM mentioned: “He’s got to get stronger, which obviously means he’s got to get in the weight room. And then the next step is also becoming a better two-way player. You know, offensively he’s just a joy to watch, and a joy to play with … The things you can control, right now, would be getting stronger and becoming a better two-way player, which means on the defensive side.”
All that can fall on Atkinson and his employees. A coach should have an excellent relationship together with his star gamers, and win sufficient respect that he’s going to get their buy-in with regards to end-of-game conditions.
It’s too early to know the way Atkinson will truly prove. Will he be nice, or will he simply be one other in a protracted collection of coaches who don’t information the Hornets anyplace close to the promised land?
His first press convention will inform us one thing; his first season will inform us extra. The Hornets preserve trying like they’re on the verge of the playoffs, solely to fall quick yearly since 2016. That’s the second-longest lively playoff drought within the NBA, in keeping with ESPN, trailing solely Sacramento. Lacking the playoffs in six straight seasons additionally has set a doubtful franchise file for the Hornets.
Atkinson was a more sensible choice than Charlotte’s different eventual finalist, Mike D’Antoni, whose offensive credibility is off-the-charts however whose defensive points probably would have had the Hornets spinning their wheels. However was Atkinson the only option?
That’s iffy. The one manner Atkinson can reply that query with a “yes” is by discovering two keys and unlocking two doorways: LaMelo Ball and Charlotte’s workforce protection.
Try this, and this workforce will truly win a playoff collection for the primary time in 20 years.