Hornets Bide Their Time in Free Agency

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Published: July 7, 2009

I said the Free Agency period would be ‘tepid’ and so far, the Hornets have proven that to be a valid prediction.  Other than multiple outlets reporting that Chandler is on the table with Phoenix for Ben Wallace, it seems that most Hornets-related rumors are merely speculation or nebulous at best.  There have been rumors about the Hornets going after Brandon Bass, Joe Smith and Jannero Pargo – and Pargo’s agent, Mark Bartelstein also reported the Hornets inquired about Mikki Moore, Maceo Baston and Jake Voskuhl – doing what any good agent would do and letting the market know someone had at least mentioned those guys.  To me, it seems that almost all of the “interest” the Hornets have been attributed with has been agent-generated.  The Brandon Bass rumors were started by his agent Tony Dutt, who reported Bass was interested in the Hornets, but later stated he hadn’t met with the Hornets about Bass, but planned on doing it soon.  Other rumors – like Chandler to Detroit for Kwame Brown, filler, and a small amount of cap space have even less of a foundation in fact and appear to have more of a foundation in talk radio speculation.

So what are the Hornets doing? For now, the Hornets have cast out a couple lines, and are simply waiting.  This shouldn’t really be a surprise.  They need to wait and see what happens with Chandler before they can make any moves.  They already have the largest payroll in the NBA and aren’t about to sign any new players without knowing what sort of relief(if any) they can get for Tyson Chandler – and they won’t know that until two things happen:

  • July 8th arrives and the NBA releases the official Salary Cap for 2009-2010, which will allow the Hornets to more accurately estimate the Luxury Tax line for the same year.[Update: Cap has been announced.  The Luxury Tax line will be $69.2 Million, down $1 Million from last year.  The Hornets will have to clear almost $9 million this off-season to get below it.]
  • Both Phoenix and New Orleans are satisfied with the terms and agree to pull the trigger on Chandler for Ben Wallace.

That last item is key.  It appears the Hornets are interested in that trade, but both sides have sticking points.  Phoenix wants to wait a little bit and see what other opportunities present before trading Wallace.  The Hornets want to make sure that trading for Ben Wallace actually gives them the Tax Relief they require – because Wallace is the wild-card.  Wallace is guaranteed to make $15 million, but has indicated he’s willing to take a only a portion of that salary and retire instead.  What the Hornets want to know is what is the “portion” he’s willing to take?  If he wants $10 million, that hardly solves the Hornets problems and leaves them with no center and no budget to replace him.   If he wants $5 million or less, then the Hornets will probably play ball.

Interestingly, the Hornets don’t have a lot of other options.  The Raptors, Pistons and Grizzlies have already committed most of their cap space. Portland doesn’t need or seem interested in Chandler.  The Thunder have indicated they don’t want to use their cap space right now and have already turned down Chandler.  That leaves Phoenix and a few other teams with much smaller non-guaranteed contracts as options.

Which leaves me wondering – is the perception that the Hornets will never pay the Luxury Tax a reality?  If its true the Hornets are insisting on a palatable buyout number, then are they willing to just sit on Chandler and take the hit this year?

Normally, I’d say no, but . . . perhaps it is possible.  A week ago, Jim Eichenhofer, who works for the Hornets and writes the Hornets.com affiliated Big Easy Buzz Blog, posted an article refuting the assumption the Hornets would never pay the Luxury Tax and re-iterating statements made by Hornet’s President Hugh Weber that the Hornets haven’t ruled it out.  That could just be standard spin, but it could also be an indication they are considering paying the tax.  Or I could just be suffering from wishful thinking.

Either way, here’s my take on what to expect:  If Tyson stays, the Hornets aren’t going to bring in much of anything new other than a couple minimum contracts and their rookies.  If Tyson goes out the door, the Hornets should be able to turn the expiring contracts of Butler and Daniels into something adequate at the center position, but that’s about it.(Wouldn’t it be cool to combine their contracts into a sign and trade for David Lee?  Right?  Urgh, damn my fantasies.)  

At least there is one silver lining:  If Chandler remains, even if he does struggle again with injuries, I don’t think he’d play as badly as he did last year.(he was below his career  averages – and league averages – at almost everything)  If Chandler goes, even if the Hornets bring in just a mediocre center to play most of the season, he’ll probably at least match what Tyson did last year, and can’t help but give us more than Hilton Armstrong managed.  So . . . our frontcourt will probably be improved.  That’s good, right?

Right?


And a Website update!  Niall has added a neat little feature over on the right of your screen, below the Stubhub advertisement.  It gives you quick links into all the stuff we’ve posted recently, including new items in our news, lagniappe and journal sections.  Now you can just scan what’s been posted recently in one spot.

Enjoy!

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