Feeling angst about a short free agency period

Published: October 6, 2011

You can view the current lockout optimistically, buying that the owners and players both want this enough to forge a last-minute deal to save the season.  You could also view the lockout pessimistically, and listen to the rumors there are hardcore owners who want to break the NBA union and will lose games to do so.

Or you could look at it like I do, and feel a growing sense of angst already, no matter which way the cookie crumbles.  Follow my train of thought.

1. To contend, the Hornets need to keep Paul
2. To keep Paul, the Hornets need to improve
3. To improve, the Hornets need at least a couple nice free agents.

That’s fine, right?  There are decent free agents on the market, and the Hornets have some money to spend.  Well, here’s the problem.  I went back to the last lockout and took a look at the shortened free agency that went along with it.  Here’s the deal.  Important players didn’t change teams in that free agency, instead choosing to re-sign where they were.  Only four big names moved teams via free agency: Antonio McDyess (PHO to Den), Vlade Divac (CHA to SAC), a broken down Tom Gugliotta (MIN to PHO), and the Immortal Joe Smith, who famously signed a secret contract for the future that eventually blew up and cost the Timberwolves five years of first round picks.

In fact, if the Bulls hadn’t been divesting themselves via trade of every player worth a damn in the wake of Michael Jordan’s retirement – and Latrell Sprewell being traded in the wake of choking PJ Carlisemo, then almost no player movement of consequence would have happened in that shortened free agency season.

So whether the NBA and the union strike a deal this Monday or fifteen Mondays from now, the free agency period is going to be short.  Players will be rushing to get a team and get situated in time for whatever shortened version of training camp there is.  That inevitably leads to players just staying put.  Given a week, which would you do:  sign with last years team and just stay put where you are with your kids in the same schools – or sign somewhere else for probably a comparable amount and have to rip up rootsand move?  That’s hard, and unless you’re really not happy where you are, or there some large financial gain, you’re not putting yourself through it.

So now we get to add player inertia to the pile of things complicating the Hornets’ offseason. A recap of those things, anyone?

  • The Hornets must win now to keep the player that makes a championship possible.
  • The Hornets will have to risk waiting on David West to decide where to go and stay healthy – or
  • Renounce West and take the huge risk of joining the queue for the few quality free agent big men on the market.
  • Intelligently manage $18 million total dollars available to sign 3 rotation players and 3-4 scrubs.
  • Whether warranted or not, fight the perception the Bayou is not seen as a premier destination.
  • To try and get players and agents to disregard the fact the Hornets are owned by the NBA.

Bleck.  Angst.

Dell Demps has had to deal with a lot since becoming GM of this team.  Let’s hope he’s still got a lot left in his bag of tricks.


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