Hornets Make History, Sign Paige and Mathiang

Matt Rochinski and Sam Perley of hornets.com will be following the Hornets throughout the 2017 NBA offseason and keeping fans up to date through the Buzz Words | Hornets Notebook. Keep checking back to see what the latest is as the season unfolds.

By Sam Perley, hornets.com | Wednesday, August 2, 12:26 p.m.

Thanks, in part, to the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, a Charlotte Hornets organizational first was officially achieved on Wednesday morning with the signings of Marcus Paige and Mangok Mathiang to the franchise’s first-ever two-way contracts. Starting this season, each team will be permitted to carry two extra players inked exclusively to these said deals, allowing signees to spend a maximum of 45 days on the NBA roster with the rest of their time spent in the G-League.

The prime motivation for the implementation of these two-way contracts is to allot teams more resources (roster space, money and exclusive control) to evaluate and develop prospects.

Undrafted or G-League-level players often sign more lucrative deals with overseas teams, but are generally not allowed to return to the United States if NBA opportunities arise. The G-League’s base salaries will be more competitive (and perhaps incentivizing) this year with two-way players receiving higher compensation in addition to prorated salaries based on how much time they spend at the NBA level.

Although a native of Marion, IA, Paige’s signing marks a homecoming of sorts for the 6’0” point guard after he averaged 13.1 points. 2.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.4 steals in four seasons at the University of North Carolina from 2012-16.

“I’m very excited. I get to be back in North Carolina and work with a great organization and I’m just very excited for the opportunity to get my foot in the door,” said Paige on Wednesday morning. “It’s cool being somewhere I’m comfortable with. Being back in a place I’m familiar with is exciting. I’m going to get to see a lot of family and friends.”

A two-time All-ACC honoree, Paige helped lead the Tar Heels to the National Championship Game last year for the first time since 2009. He is also one of just two ACC players since the start of the 1992-93 NCAA campaign to total at least 1,800 points, 600 assists and 200 steals in his collegiate career.

Upon leaving Chapel Hill, Paige ranked first in school history in all-time three-point field goals (299), third in steals (203) and fourth in both career assist-to-turnover ratio (2.20) and career free-throw percentage (84.4 percent).

Taken by the Brooklyn Nets with the 55th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Paige was subsequently traded to the Utah Jazz one day later. He spent all of last season playing for the organization’s G-League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, where he ranked fourth on the team in scoring (12.1 points) and assists (2.3). He also led the Stars in three-point field goals made per game (2.1) and free-throw percentage (83.7 percent).

The 23-year-old made appearances for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves in 2017 Summer League play, averaging 10.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.3 steals in eight combined games.

As for Mathiang, he recently wrapped up his collegiate career at the University of Louisville, where he put up 4.8 points on 50.6 percent shooting, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks over four seasons. Last year, he was one of just 10 ACC players to average at least 6.0 points, 6.0 total rebounds, 2.0 offensive rebounds and 1.0 block per game.

The 24-year-old Mathiang went undrafted in June although did play for the Charlotte Hornets at the 2017 Orlando Pro Summer League. He averaged 4.4 points on 53.3 percent shooting and 5.0 rebounds (2.8 offensive; T-6th in tournament) in 17.1 minutes over five appearances.

“It feels great. The Charlotte Hornets organization has been showing me a bunch of love and support and commitment since I came here for the [pre-draft] workout and summer league,” said Mathiang. “It basically felt right to sign those papers today. The coaching staff is very gentle [here], but at the same time willing to push you over the edge to get the best out of you.”

The 6-10 forward is originally from Sudan, although moved with his mother and four siblings to Egypt at age five and then to Australia, which is where he primarily grew up. He eventually relocated to the United States, playing one season at both Carbondale Brehm Prep School (IL) and IMG Academy (FL) before enrolling at Louisville in 2012.

“[Signing with the Hornets] is huge, especially with what my mom had to go through just to get us from so many different places. For me to move [to the United States] when I was 17 with no family member just basically shows me that hard work does pay off.”

Mathiang’s mother, Grace, was on hand via FaceTime from Australia to witness her son sign his first professional contract earlier in the morning.

“My mom has given me everything that I’ve got. Without my mom in my corner, I wouldn’t be the man that I am. That moment was more for her than it was for me. Just to see her happy and shed a few tears and everything, it was just great. I’m kind of getting a little emotional about it now,” said a grinning Mathiang.

Paige and Mathiang will give Charlotte’s G-League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm, a pair of players to build around as the club heads into its second season. Over the last few months, the organization has witnessed the departure of several rotational players from last year including Cat Barber (Italy), Perry Ellis (Australia), Xavier Munford (Spain), Rasheed Sulaimon (France), Mike Tobey (Spain), and Damien Wilkins (Indiana Pacers).

Another advantage of the two-way contracts signed by Marcus Paige and Mangok Mathiang will be the luxury of both of them knowing their status in the organization heading into training camp. Perhaps that element will help alleviate any sort of trepidation or uncertainty as both players prepare to take the next step in their respective basketball careers. It’s an exciting new chapter in the history of the Charlotte Hornets and one that brings with it two high-caliber individuals looking to make a difference for the franchise in the upcoming future.