This Summer May be Pretty Rough

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Published: February 25, 2009

For me, being a Hornets fan right now is rather like going to Crystal Lake as a camp counselor.  When you get there the lake is pretty, the forest is cool and picturesque, and you find out that the other camp counselors are gorgeous, single, like to party, and are ready and willing to go back to your tent with you.  It’s a glorious time until everyone starts vanishing, you realize the forest is actually pretty terrifying in the dark, and you know something out there has on a Hockey Mask and is coming to rip you apart.

Now sure, Tyson Chandler ended up not being traded, and in his first game back from injury it seemed like the ankle wasn’t slowing him, but at least to me, it isn’t much comfort.  John Hollinger touched on it over at ESPN.com, but the fact that the Hornets didn’t make the trade is going to make this summer infinitely harder for them, and I dread that this team I’ve come to really enjoy may be dismembered.

Why, do you ask?  Because the Hornets were trading Tyson Chandler for expiring contracts, which means at the end of this season, Wilcox and Smith would have come off the cap and put the Hornets under the Luxury Tax for next year.  Now that the deadline has passed, the Hornets can’t make a trade until those expiring contracts are already dead and gone – and that means GM Jeff Bower can only trade players this summer to teams for similar salaries(not the point), trade exceptions(none available are big enough) – or to teams that are under the Salary Cap(CAP, not Luxury Tax!) and can take on the necessary salary without going over the cap.

That’s part of what makes the trade scenarios that Chad Ford over at ESPN,com suggested today for the Hornets ridiculous.  He thinks Tyson might be moved to Dallas or to Indiana over the summer, but neither of those teams will have the necessary cap room this summer.  The point is to send out salary and get no salary – or significantly less salary – back, so I can’t see the Hornets making that move.

So this summer, the Hornets have actually less options than the did at the trading deadline, when they could gun for a series of expiring contracts.  Over the summer Bower needs to shed around 9Mil in salaries – 6Mil to get under the Luxury Tax line, and then another 3Mil to be able to sign three or four guys to minimum deals.  The only teams that have that much Salary Cap room this summer are Detroit(33Mil), Memphis(34), Toronto(47Mil), Oklahoma City(42Mil), and maybe Minnesota(49Mil). 

So the question becomes if the Hornets want to retain Tyson Chandler – will any of those teams take on a pair of our other mid-level contracts?  Will they take on Peja?  To keep Paul/West/Chandler together, we have to move either:

Peja Stojakovic alone(14Mil next year)
Antonio Daniels(6.6 Mil next year), Morris Peterson(6.2 Mil next year) or James Posey(6.0 Mil next year) combined with Rasual Butler(4Mil, 1 year), Hilton Armstrong(2.8Mil, 1 year) or Julian Wright(2.0 Mil next year).

First – will any of those five teams want a pair of those guys?  And if it happens, we can’t take anything back, or we go back over the line.  If we can get one of them to take Morris Peterson and Hilton Armstrong + a first round pick for cap space, then maybe we won’t notice it, but here’s the thing:  The other teams know the Hornets don’t have any choice but to make a trade.  If you were one of those other GMs wouldn’t you insist on Julian Wright being in the deal?  Rasual Butler?  Two first round picks?  Oh, and other teams will be looking to shed salary too, so the Hornets could end up in a bidding war for cap space.  The thought makes me sick.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a painful summer for Hornet’s fans. 

I also wouldn’t be surprised if the savvy Thunder GM Sam Presti suddenly called up Jeff Bower and said, “Hey, we’ve reconsidered about Tyson’s toe!  We’ll trade you our cap space for him.  Oh, but now you need to throw in your first round pick!  We’ll still give you the draft rights to DeVon Hardin!  I hear he’s playing awesome in Europe for whatever team it was that signed him!”

If that happened, the depressing part is I’n not sure the Hornets would say no . . .

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