The Deadline Cometh

Published: February 13, 2011

I would like to piggyback off a fantastic article in our Journals section by Agent Ziko. If you have not gotten the chance to read it yet, I suggest you check it out here, as it is one of the most in-depth pieces on our potential trade partners one could imagine. And by in-depth I mean 4,500 words. It shines a light on every team and the possible discussions that Mr. Demps could be having with each of them.

While Ziko discusses targets, I would like to talk about the precarious situation that Dell Demps is in with this roster, his new bosses, and the franchise as a whole.

The Roster

Not even the most optimistic Hornets fan can honestly look at this roster and envision a scenario in which this group, with no additions, is hoisting a title either this year or next. At best, this team is one quasi All-Star away from being a true contender, and in actuality the number of pieces needed is probably two or three. The Hornets clearly have inferior talent to San Antonio, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, OKC, and Dallas. Most would also argue, that on pure talent alone, teams like Denver, Orlando, and Chicago (when healthy) also possess the greater amount of talent.

Now we all know that talent alone does not a champion make, but David only had to beat Goliath one time, he did not have to win four separate best-of-seven series with different men of his stature. At the end of the day, the Hornets will have to close that talent gap, and while it is possible that some of that can be done by having current players improve, it will eventually take some new blood if this team wants to get over that hump.

Dell Demps knows that, but herein lies the problem- Is there anybody available who both significantly upgrades the talent without significantly damaging future flexibility? Is Rip Hamilton a big enough upgrade over Marco Belinelli to risk not having any depth next year or to risk losing Marcus Thornton and Willie Green in free agency? How about Stephen Jackson? Is Boris Diaw or Al Harrington enough to give us the quality bench play we will need come playoff time? Am I willing to be a luxury tax team to find out?

The New Bosses

You can read all the fluff pieces that you like about Dell Demps and Hugh Weber working hand in hand with Jac Sperling. Everything is great, they all see eye to eye, blah, blah, blah. Nice to hear, possible to believe, and better than some alternative scenarios I guess, but the fact of the matter is that Dell’s hands are still somewhat tied due to the fact that he simply will not be allowed to take on large amounts of salary and/or exceed the luxury tax threshold unless he can prove that it will be profitable. And how can you prove anything about the future?

Of course, I don’t blame Sperling or the NBA for taking this stance, either, as this is how a business should run. But in an arms race, you can’t be thrifty and then sit back and complain when your country (or team) is blown away by someone else who has loaded up. You know Dallas will add another piece before the deadline, even though they will likely get Roddy B. and Butler back come playoff time. Miami will likely sign a bought out vet like Troy Murphy, and even Boston and LA will improve their bench in some way. Maybe they won’t, but it will be because they choose not to.

Demps does not have this luxury, and perhaps that will make his victory all that much sweeter if he finds bargains the way the 2004 Pistons did, as he leads this organization to a title. But those stories are the aberrations. It is just a shame that some franchises have to get lucky with a ping pong ball twice and strike it rich on two international players (Spurs) or find diamonds in the rough (Pistons) to win titles, while others simply use resources the rest of the league doesn’t have to get their trophy’s.

But this is, in part, what Mr. Demps is dealing with, so forgive him if February 24th comes and we do not have the biggest presents under our tree.

The Franchise as a Whole

This is where it all comes together and gets a little tricky. There are a set of dominoes in place, but you really don’t know which one to tip over first. The David West domino effects the Chris Paul domino, but in what ways, and if that is true- what effects the David West domino? Would West like to see a veteran like Rip Hamilton added to the team? Would that show him that you are committed to winning or would Rip simply take away shots from David while producing the same results in the win column, therefore making David more likely to find a home elsewhere?

How much would West leaving really effect Paul? Would he demand a trade the day after D West signed elsewhere? The month after? What if it were a sign and trade? Would CP3 like playing with Josh Smith more? Less? What if you were so convinced that David West needed to stay in order to make CP3 happy, that you overpaid him and added a guy like Rip Hamilton? Now you have no flexibility, an aging roster, and worst of all- CP3 knows it. Is this Cleveland all over again?

We can play this game forever, but you see what I mean. A set of dominoes that has no clear beginning to an end resolution we all want to see- CP3 and David West as life long Hornets, someday hoisting a trophy together. It is a beautiful picture, but with all this uncertainty it is just impossible to know how we get there.

Moving Forward

There is nothing more important to this franchise than finding a stable owner, but that will only happen when a new collective bargaining agreement is reached between the players and the owners. Until that happens, there is very little chance that the league will sell the team, as they know the price of the franchise will skyrocket once the union is crushed later in 2011.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement will also dictate the state of rosters moving forward, and because of that, teams are unwilling to take on bad contracts. Suffice to say, the CBA has most of the league, and the Hornets particularly, in a holding pattern. Because of that, I do not expect any large moves from the Hornets in the next 11 days. Why the large column, then, you ask? Because there is a method to the madness, there is a reason Mr. Demps cannot give us what we would all like to see come February 24th.

And if you think it is frustrating for you, imagine how it feels to former NBA players, guys who are more competitive than anybody you know, guys who have egos that need to be fed. Imagine how Michael Jordan feels losing year after year in Charlotte and Washington- knowing he can’t do a damn thing about it.

Of course Dell Demps wants the guys that you all want, but he simply is not in a position to do that right now, and that is why this new CBA is the most important thing that will happen in the NBA this year. Because next year, when the trade deadline cometh, it just might be the case that the new CBA has put everyone on a level playing field, and if that is the case, we will be having an entirely different conversation.


  1. Pingback: The Trade Deadline And The Hornets Need For A Shooter « Swarm & Sting | A New Orleans Hornets Blog

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