Friday's NBA: Clifford to return as head coach of the Hornets

Associated Press

Charlotte, N.C.— Steve Clifford is heading back to Charlotte.

Clifford has agreed to a multiyear contract to return as head coach of the NBA’s Hornets, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Friday because the team has not yet announced the move.

Charlotte previously agreed to terms on a four-year contract with Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson to become head coach, but Atkinson later informed the team he was not taking the job citing family reasons.

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford points during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, on March 31, 2018, in Washington. Clifford has agreed to a multiyear contract to return as head coach of the NBA’s Hornets, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Friday, June 24, 2022, because the team has not yet announced the move.

The 60-year-old Clifford spent five seasons coaching the Hornets from 2013-18, compiling a 196-214 record with a team that included Kemba Walker.

He led the Hornets to two playoff appearances prior to being fired in 2018 when Mitch Kupchak arrived as general manager. Clifford coached the Orlando Magic from 2018-21 and worked last season as a coaching consultant for the Brooklyn Nets. Clifford is 292-345 in eight seasons as an NBA coach.

His best season in Charlotte came in 2015-16 when the Hornets went 48-34 and lost in seven games to the Miami Heat in the first round the playoffs.

Team owner Michael Jordan met Wednesday with Clifford, who left the team on good terms in 2018.

Clifford is known as a defensive-minded coach.

The Hornets finished sixth, 10th, ninth, 17th and 17th in defensive rating during Clifford’s five seasons. Charlotte was 22nd in the NBA this past season under James Borrego, who was fired in April. The Hornets gave up 132 points in a 29-point loss to the Hawks in the play-in elimination game last season, which didn't sit well with Jordan.

Ironically, Borrego replaced Clifford. Now Clifford is replacing Borrego.

Clifford inherits a team that is arguably more talented than any of his previous Charlotte teams with All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward and Miles Bridges anchoring the squad.

Atkinson's decision to the renege on his contract on Saturday shocked the Hornets and sent them scrambling for a replacement.

Kupchak said that it was “disappointing,” but that in some ways he’s grateful it happened when it did.

“I think he would have been a good pick, but if he’s not comfortable here I would rather find out now than a year from now,” Kupchak said Thursday night during the NBA draft.

Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak speaks to the media during a news conference for the NBA basketball team in Charlotte, N.C., April 12, 2019. The Charlotte Hornets have two picks in the first round of the NBA draft on Thursday June 23, 2022 — and no head coach in place to help facilitate those decisions.

Mike D’Antoni and Terry Stotts were also in consideration for the job.

Kupchak orchestrated the team's draft this year without a head coach in place, but said it was not a big deal and that in the pas years he's worked with coaches who aren't even in the draft room.

Charlotte team traded its 13th overall pick to the New York Knicks for a future first round pick and four second round picks and then took Duke center Mark Williams at No. 15. Charlotte added Nebraska guard Bryce McGowens in the second round after Kupchak made another trade.

“The roster is really what wins games,” Kupchak said. ”A good coach is going to help with the roster, but the most important thing is to get the roster together."

The general manager said Atkinson’s decision reminded him of when Steve Kerr turned down the Knicks coaching job, only to go to Golden State where he’s won four NBA titles.

“It looks like (Kerr) make a good decision to take the job at Golden State,” Kupchak said with a laugh. “So maybe Kenny spoke to Steve, and Steve said, ‘Hey, maybe things will work out this way for you.’ I don’t know.”

Kupchak also pointed out NFL coach Bill Belichick abruptly resigning before his introductory news conference with the New York Jets in 2000. Belichick went on to coach the New England Patriots and win six Super bowls.

“That was a good decision, too. So maybe Kenny is on to something,” Kupchak quipped.

Atkinson has not responded to interview requests from the AP seeking comment about his decision to back out of the agreement. However, Kerr told NBC Sports that Atkinson turned down the job because he didn’t want to uproot his family again.

Grizzlies confirm trade with 76ers netting Roddy, Green

Memphis, Tenn. — The Memphis Grizzlies announced Friday the final pieces of their draft night trade sending guard De'Anthony Melton to the Philadelphia 76ers for the draft rights to forward David Roddy and wing Danny Green.

The 6-foot-6 Green has started 709 of 819 regular season games in 13 NBA seasons with Cleveland, San Antonio, Toronto, the Lakers and the 76ers. The 46th overall pick in 2009 out of North Carolina, Green is a three-time NBA champ with the Spurs (2014), the Raptors (2019) and the Lakers (2020).

Roddy is a 6-6, 255-pound forward taken with the No. 23 overall pick Thursday night. He was the Mountain West Player of the year who averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists this past season. He led the Mountain West shooting 57.1% from the floor and 43.8% from 3-point range at Colorado State.

David Roddy #21 of the Colorado State Rams handles the ball against Terrance Williams II #5 of the Michigan Wolverines. Roddy was sent to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a NBA Draft night trade with the Philadelphia 76ers.

He led Colorado State to its first NCAA Tournament since 2013.

Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman said Thursday night that he spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what he was allowed to talk about and not talk about. He was able to talk about their first pick Jake LaRavia, Kennedy Chandler and Vince Williams.

“I’m somewhat allowed to talk about David Roddy, although I’m not allowed to talk about other details of the planned trade,” Kleiman said.

That included Melton, the Memphis' side of the trade. Melton has spent the past three seasons of his four-year career with Memphis. He has started 55 of 235 games and averaged 9.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists with the Grizzlies. He was the 46th pick overall in the 2018 draft.