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The Hornets Have Fired James Borrego Immediately After Giving Him A Multi Year Extension

Mike Stobe. Getty Images.

When James Borrego took over as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, they were coming off a 36-46 season. It wasn't much, but they improved slightly to 39-43 in Year 1 but ultimately missed the playoffs. That wasn't crazy at the time, they were super young, everyone knew Kemba was probably leaving that summer, and it was the beginning of their transition into a rebuild. We saw the early signs of what was to come, with the Hornets having the 11th ranked offense that year but an inability to stop a nosebleed (23rd ranked defense). Again, the idea was probably as the young guys got experience and then maybe some roster adjustments over the summer that they would become a more well rounded team.

In Year 2, things weren't so hot. They swapped Kemba for Terry Rozier who immediately took off as a scoring guard, but they finished just 23-42. The roster was still young, it included 4 more rookies and had 3 players with only 1 year of experience. This was just a brutal year on both ends, with the Hornets ranking 28th in offense and 25th in defense. While you may think that should have a coach on the hot seat, you have to remember what the goal was of basically that entire season

Nathaniel S. Butler. Getty Images.

So while the losing was tough, the early signs of an elite offense were there and it had them in a position to draft their franchise point guard. 

Then came Year 3. This is where it was time to actually start showing progress. Technically, that happened. The Hornets went from 23 wins to 33-39. LaMelo Ball immediately translated to the NBA game and looked like a stud from Day 1

The Hornets started to transform into a regular League Pass must watch team. Terry was still playing great, Gordan Hayward decided to come to town, their young talent was getting better and yeah we should also mentioned they once again missed the playoffs after getting destroyed in the play in game, it was clear they hit on their most important pick and that's what matters most.

It was during the summer of 2021 that the Hornets decided it was time to extend their head coach. 

Yes you read that right. Just this past offseason they gave Borrega a new deal. There were heightened expectations but given the promise we'd seen it wasn't totally unrealistic. Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out. The injury bug bit them again, once again taking out Gordon Hayward. Even with that, the Hornets put up a top 10 offense. Guys like LaMelo, Bridges, PJ Washinton all took leaps. They were near the top of the league in three point shooting. Suddenly their win total jumped again to 43-39. They had a bit of a disaster stretch post All Star break before Isaiah came aboard and saved them, but for the second straight year they got demolished in the play in and ultiamtely missed the playoffs.

That's my guess as to why this happened. Even with Borrego increasing the Hornets winning percentage in 3 straight seasons, something had to happen here. You don't extend the guy in the summer only to fire him that very next season. Especially when so much of their issues come down to their big money players not being available. With Hayward active, the Hornets were a top 6 seed team. At the same time, they've shown no progress defensively and that continues to be their undoing. Perhaps MJ realizes that they need a more defensive minded coach. Frank Vogel maybe? I'm not so sure that's all that better a choice. My guess is it takes Borrego about 30 seconds to find a new home if he wants it.

At some point though, the Hornets are going to have to make the playoffs. Look at how things have been their entire existence 

so I could understand why MJ might be getting a little antsy. I just now have some questions for him. Is he going to pay Miles Bridges this summer? Remember, they chose to not give him a rookie extension, and Bridges just had himself a breakout year. He's going to get a sizeable offer sheet from someone in RFA. Does MJ match? Then, what's he going to do about his center spot. Stop relying on a Plumlee. That's not the answer. Are you going to trade Hayward to IND and bring back Myles Turner? Every season they don't address this issue just ensures that not much will change for the Hornets. 

So you see, this is hardly just a Borrego thing. That's what makes this news so surprising. A team on the rise who seem to enjoy playing for a coach that had their winning percentage heading in the right direction. Young players/injury/covid sure makes things a little more difficult, and the Hornets were still above .500. Kind of a weird time to fire someone but then again when was the last time anyone could predict what MJ was thinking when it came to basketball decisions.