‘The Full 48’ Podcast: Hornets GM Rich Cho Talks NBA Offseason, Michael Jordan

Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho joins Bleacher Report’s Jordan Brenner on The Full 48 podcast to discuss the NBA offseason, including his team’s decision to trade for Dwight Howard and the drafting of 11th-overall pick Malik Monk. He also breaks down Kemba Walker’s role on the court, working with Hornets owner Michael Jordan and his “Big Time Bites” food blog.

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 On big takeaways from the offseason

I think for us the biggest thing is a lot of the good players—a lot of the great players—are going West, which I definitely welcome (laughs). Let’s make the West stronger and the East weaker if we could.


On fixing East-West disparity 

Those things go in cycles, so I don’t really think there’s that much you can do about it or should do about it … those things go in cycles.


On working with Michael Jordan

It’s great. MJ has been really supportive. I really like working for him. He’s really, really smart; he’s savvy; he’s very, very competitive. At the same time, he’s got a great sense of humor and a good way about it, and I love working for him.


On introducing Jordan to his family

My first year here—this was the end of a lockout—my mom and brothers came to visit for a game and after the game—I think we were playing the Hawks—and after the game I came up to my office to get my backpack and my mom and brothers were in here, and MJ‘s office is just basically next door.

So he was walking by and he came in and he was very gracious … he spoke to them for a few minutes and was very, very nice; and then he left and the first thing my mom said was, “Who was that?”


On where the Hornets stand after the summer

We feel pretty good about the summer and we feel like we’re gonna be in the mix for the playoffs.


On what to expect from Dwight Howard

I think he’s definitely got some good years left in him. He’s only 31 years old and he’s in great shape—he keeps himself in great shape. He averaged a double-double again last year, so I think he’s gonna be a welcomed addition for us on both ends of the floor.


On where Kemba is in his career progress

I definitely think he’s one of the best point guards in the league. He had a career year last year, topped by the All-Star Game. And I think with Kemba there’s still room to grow. He shot 40 percent from three last year; challenge for him is to keep that up and maybe even improving on that.

He’s a big part of the team, he’s a leader of our team, and I know he’s excited about the additions we’ve made as well, and we’re looking forward to hopefully having him be an All-Star for years to come.


On drafting Malik Monk

We’re really excited about Malik. Another area that we were trying to address during the offseason was our overall depth and some scoring off the bench, so he definitely addresses that.

He’s an explosive scorer, he’s a very, very good shooter and I look for him to have a nice rookie season.


On his “Big Time Bites” food blog

The one thing I wanted to do was make it different than any other food blog because there’s a gazillion food blogs out there and I wanted mine to be different. The things that are different about it are 1) It has a sports theme to it, so all my reviews are called “Scouting Report” and as a visitor to the site you can put in your own “Scouting Report.”

… there’s five ratings: rotation, starter, All-Star, franchise and Hall of Fame.



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Kristaps Porzingis Calls New York ‘Home,’ Talks Carmelo Anthony, Knicks

New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis said Wednesday he hopes to spend his entire NBA career with the organization despite being the focus of trade speculation earlier in the offseason.

Shaun Powell of NBA.com passed along comments from the 22-year-old Latvia native as he gets prepared to play in Saturday’s NBA Africa Game in South Africa.

“So far it’s been tough in New York, but my journey is only beginning and I hope to stay there my whole career, so as a city we can have some fun and win some games and do something big,” Porzingis said. “For me, it’s now home.”


This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Danny Crawford Retires After 31 Seasons as NBA Official

Longtime referee Danny Crawford retired Wednesday following a 31-year NBA career.

The National Basketball Referees Association confirmed the news and noted Crawford officiated over 2,300 NBA games, highlighted by more than 300 playoff contests and 23 straight years working at least one NBA Finals game.


This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Gerald Henderson Reportedly May Miss Season After Surgery on Hip Injury

NBA free agent Gerald Henderson is set to have surgery on his hip that could cost him the entire 2017-18 season, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN.

The 29-year-old spent the past season with the Philadelphia 76ers but was waived at the end of June.

“Despite receiving genuine interest from several NBA teams, I have made the decision to continue to evaluate surgical options on my left hip,” Henderson said in a statement from his agency, via Hoops Hype. “I have been playing through severe pain that has made it difficult to play to the best of my ability. Now the pain has started to impact my everyday life off the court.”

The shooting guard averaged 9.2 points in 72 games in 2016-17, starting 41 contests. However, the 76ers signed JJ Redick in the offseason to take over the starting 2-guard spot, leaving Henderson expendable.

When healthy, he is a reliable player and solid defender, appearing in at least 70 games in each of the last four seasons. His best years came with Charlotte when he averaged 12.0 ppg over a span of six seasons.

While the latest injury will likely hurt his chances to find a new landing spot, his past success could allow him to earn a new contract when he is back to 100 percent.

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Dikembe Mutombo Says Joel Embiid Is More Talented Than He Was When He Joined NBA

Former NBA superstar Dikembe Mutombo said in an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that he thinks Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid “is more talented than me at that age when I came into the NBA.”

He also compared Embiid’s game to his own:

“One thing he can’t do better than me is he can’t block shots like I do. I know he is watching a lot of my tapes and a lot of my videos.

“He will get there. But I just love the kid. I love his game. I love the approach the game he has on any given night the way he plays. There is not much concern if he can get hurt every game or not. He just wants to play the game. I’ve been praying a lot for him, a lot that he will get an opportunity to play a full season in the NBA. I hope it’s coming. He really wants to follow in my footsteps, and I’m happy to see that.”

And he said he believes Embiid could be “super good” and better than he was in his career, praising Embiid’s all-around game:

“Offensively, he is so much further ahead than so many of us that have come from the continent of Africa. More than many big men have defensively proven themselves in the NBA. There is nothing we can say about that. The kid can rebound. He can block shots. I just want him to stay healthy and play the game, because he does love basketball.”

Embiid, 23, was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the Sixers but missed his first two seasons with foot issues. He made his debut last year and was superb when he was on the court, averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in just 25.4 minutes per game.

The injury bug bit again, though, and Embiid appeared in just 31 games before a torn meniscus ended his season. He was so dominant, however, that he was still a finalist for Rookie of the Year.

And now Embiid is the centerpiece of Philadelphia’s exciting young core, which also includes the last two No. 1 picks, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, along with Dario Saric and Robert Covington.

Mutombo’s analysis of Embiid is fair. Embiid is already a superior offensive player, as Mutombo never averaged more than 16.6 points in a season and didn’t have Embiid’s shooting range or fluidity in the post. Mutombo was a force in the paint, however, averaging 2.8 blocks per game for his career and more than three blocks per contest in eight seasons.

He also averaged a double-double in 11 campaigns, making him one of the most dominant interior threats of his generation.

Embiid isn’t there yet, but he’s shown the timing, athleticism and intelligence to become one of the league’s most impactful defensive presences. He has the upside to become one of the NBA’s best players, period, assuming he can stay on the court.

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‘He’s a F–king Monster’: Tim Duncan’s Kickboxing Trainer Opens Up

There’s something striking about watching a 7-footer kickbox. Even more so when that 7-footer is perhaps the greatest power forward in NBA history, Tim Duncan. (Fine, fine, he’s listed at 6’11” and mostly played center, but you get the point.)

Jason Echols of Echols Fitness in San Antonio recently posted a video on Facebook of him and the Spurs legend kickboxing—a clip that quickly accumulated nearly 200,000 views.

To find out what it’s like to fight one of the greatest basketball players ever to live, we asked Echols himself, who’s been training Duncan for nearly a decade. Echols spoke to Bleacher Report about how he began working with Duncan, whether The Big Fundamental is as vanilla as he is stereotyped to be and what it’s like to watch the recent retiree fight another Spurs legendThe General, David Robinson. 


Bleacher Report: How did you meet Tim Duncan and how did you become his trainer?

Jason Echols: One other guy I knew had a fitness gym going, and we were both martial artists. Therefore, we had a little martial arts training circle happening where guys were coming in and out. Tim was just a friend of a friend, and he popped in and we just hit it off. We continued training, and the rest is history. That was 2008 or 2009. It’s been a while.


B/R: What was your first impression of him?

JE: When he walked in the door, I could see that he was very hungry to learn martial arts, and his movement, his absorption of the martial arts was just phenomenal. You could really see the athleticism that existed in him already. It caught onto these movements, and he was able to absorb them better and pick it up better than the average person because of his athleticism. His size…it’s incredible to watch him move. Now the world is seeing it.



B/R: He’s much bigger than the average kickboxer. How does that affect how you train him and how he goes about his training regimen?

JE: I’m 5’10”, so to be in front of someone of that size, it takes more physical energy to train a beast like that. It’s hard holding the mitts for him, hard getting hit by him. Even though he’s lugging on me and not executing full power, just to take a wallop from his leg, it’s quite an impact.


B/R: Did you have any expectations when you met him about what he might be like?

JE: I was never a sports fan other than UFC and kickboxing. I was never into basketball or football or anything. Being in San Antonio, it’s hard to not know who Tim Duncan is. When he walked in, he was always the quiet guy in the public eye; I believe I saw a different side of him, because he’s a roaring lion in martial arts.

He’s an animal. It’s a different thing than what you see out on the court. The more intense the training gets, the more calm he becomes, which you’ve seen on the court. The way he executes the movements, he’s a f–king monster.


B/R: Any stories from training with him?

JE: One time, I tore my bicep just trying to move with him at a higher-level pace. He’s so big and his elbows are like spears and his bones are really sharp. Just interacting and punching with him, I hit him with a right hook and his elbow caught the inside of my bicep and tore it right off, just from moving around. Whatever pace I’m at, he sets it. The roaring lion is his passion to learn, his passion to pick up the movements. He’s really, really passionate and into the idea of martial arts. It’s cool to watch.


B/R: What is he like as a person, having worked with him for a long time?

JE: The public has an opinion on him, and mine is a little bit different. He’s known as the good, quiet guy. I get to see his passion, and he’s incredibly funny. He’s a super humorous guy. We laugh our asses off a lot when we’re training. I think he’s actually a better person than the public even thinks he is.

One time he came in and said, “Stephen Jackson wants to spar with me.” I asked, “Who’s Stephen Jackson?” We both started laughing ’cause it was a sports player I clearly should’ve known, but because I didn’t, we both started cracking up and laughing. I don’t know much about the NBA, and I think he delights in that. The dude’s hilarious.


B/R: What has surprised you about working with him?

JE: His passion. His ability to want to learn and continue learning. We play a little game called violent chess. His intensity and strategical thinking—being in front of someone like that is extremely intimidating because of his size. I think most of all, his athleticism and size has surprised me the most. He’s a roaring lion, and I can see his passion—he has to turn it down a bit. If I hold up the mitts, he could just let it go and tear my arm off.


B/R: What do you remember from the first time fighting him?

JE: I remember being very ready to run. I would stick and run. He figured out my game and worked his way around it. I’ve had some very rough gos in front of him. When he wasn’t playing in the offseason, we would turn it up quite a bit. It was very surprising to me how aggressive and intense he was.


B/R: Where does he rank among the guys you’ve trained?

JE: He’s my No. 1 student by far. Again, his athleticism and size and competitive spirit and his exposure to being an athlete. I jokingly said to someone else that it could be a cupcake-baking contest and he would win because he’s just good at whatever he does. The sophistication level of him absorbing the martial arts that we have is very, very high. It’s hard for him to catch up with his capabilities.


B/R: When you tell people that you train Tim Duncan, what is their reaction?

JE: Excitement. People get excited. They really like it. I’ve been in San Antonio most of my life, so most of the people that I speak to know me or know of me. It’s really an exciting deal to say I train Tim.

I don’t know if you know this, but I’ve had the pleasure of working with David Robinson, too, and he’s another incredibly humongous, crazy amazing guy that’s been coming through. It’s neat to say I’ve had the Twin Towers come through Echols Fitness.


B/R: If David Robinson and Tim Duncan square off, who would win?

JE: They’ve done a bit of it already. David is at a level where he’s not as advanced as Tim is. He started more recently than Tim, but to watch those two guys move around together is definitely a spectacular sight to see. Maybe the public will see [that] in the coming days. You never know.


B/R: What is it like to see that happen?

JE: I sat next to David Robinson’s son, Justin [a 6’9″ redshirt sophomore with the Duke basketball team], and we sat there with our mouths hanging open. It was bizarre. They’re freaking enormous. We were in shock. Tim would turn around and wait for us to say something coach-like, but I was stunned. There was nothing I could say. They are both so humongous.


B/R: If Tim Duncan or David Robinson wanted to get into MMA, would they would be able to compete?

JE: [Duncan] would be a legit competitor. For sure. He has a desire to learn and compete. He has the heart for it. He most definitely would be a competitor. I would highly encourage him not to. Being a retired Spurs player, I wouldn’t want him going out there and getting punched and kicked by some of those guys, but Tim would be a competitor. David would learn to become one. They are both competitive guys and not used to losing.

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Joel Embiid Expects to Be Ready for 76ers Training Camp After Knee Surgery

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is currently taking part in non-contact drills and said he should be ready to participate in Sixers training camp following knee surgery.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated passed along the update Wednesday and noted the post player’s next step will be getting cleared for five-on-five work.


This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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