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.


  1. James Grayson

    October 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Hi Ryan, long time no comment. So much to be done in so little time (that is when a lockout ends). I think you also need to account for Dell Demps working in the trade market, particularly this season. I really believe that he’s going to have everyone on the table except Chris Paul (until the last possible moment if the Hornets have a bad record). If we resign West he probably won’t be on the trade table.

    I think it will be interesting, but this team needs a blockbuster move to happen in order to keep Chris Paul.

    • Ryan Schwan

      October 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      Indeed. It is hard for me to write my typical posts analyzing basketball when no one is playing. It’s also hard to want to write anything else when the soul-sucking negotations are going no-where.


  2. Seattle Needle

    October 7, 2011 at 12:22 am

    It will be tough but I also look at it from a positive perspective. Everyone talks about how cool the NFL 2 week signing period was and I see something similar for the NBA. Everyone loves trades and FA signing and we’ll be having around 8 a day.

    As for the Hornets, there will still be a trade deadline to get things done. They don’t have to do everything in the one week period before the season starts, if there is a season.

  3. Seattle Needle

    October 7, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Also, the players will have time to decide on what they want to do. There is a skeleton of an idea of what the new cba will look like so agents and players are already preparing for this. They will have a week or two to negotiate with teams while the cba is being written up and then they have the actual signing. This will give the players and teams enough time to not make as many mistakes as they would without the extra time to get things done.

  4. da ThRONe

    October 7, 2011 at 1:24 am

    I am on the record as saying this is a very weak FA class. IMO if we are going to make major improvement it will be done via trade. If the owners get their way a significantly reduced players BRI and reduced each teams individual salary limit some really good players should be available for trade if for no other reason then to dump salaries.

    I would not wait on West and if we can’t sign him for a discount I would let him walk.

    • 42

      October 7, 2011 at 4:59 am

      We can have him for $4m more than last season and it be the same effect as last season due to tge Marcus Banks effect IF we don’t waive him and we still have a few million for someone else.

  5. Tim

    October 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    As long as we have a season where a trade for more pieces, or, in a worst case scenario, trade for Chris Paul is still possible, I’m happy. If the lockout extends the full length of the season and Paul leaves, we have three people under contract. That would really suck…

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