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Hornets coach James Borrego won’t guarantee minutes to younger players

The Charlotte Hornets are finally rebuilding. After letting franchise player Kemba Walker go in free agency and making little effort to improve the roster, the Hornets are poised to be one of the league’s worst teams, waiting to reap the benefits of that status next June with a high lottery pick. Just because Charlotte is no longer on the treadmill of mediocrity, though, doesn’t mean James Borrego will afford playing time to those don’t earn it.

The Hornets’ second-year coach clarified his recent comments about scaling back the minutes of incumbent veterans this season in favor of young players with upside, insisting he won’t simply be “handing minutes” to guys like Miles Bridges, Malik Monk, and No. 12 overall pick P.J. Washington.

“If I’m going to be a coach that says compete is the No. 1 thing on my board, I have to give them the ability to compete for minutes,” Borrego said, per Roderick Boone of The Athletic. “And those veterans have the ability to compete for minutes. This is not strictly I’m handing minutes to young guys. The young guys have got to earn this and part of that is giving competitive minutes to these more veteran players.”

In an exclusive, illuminating interview with the Charlotte Observer earlier this month, Borrego and general manager Mitch Kupchak confirmed that their team had indeed entered a different phase of competition. Consequently, Borrego said that veterans like Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would see their minutes cut this season to help foster the growth of players who could be a part of the Hornets’ next playoff team.

These remarks don’t change that likelihood. Expect Charlotte to prioritize the development of young players ahead of staying as competitive as possible. If those guys don’t meet Borrego’s threshold of effort, engagement, and understanding, though, don’t be surprised when he yanks them from games in favor of established veterans.