Hornets Beat: Things that go Bump in the Night

Published: January 24, 2012

This week’s New Orleans Hornets Beat tackles Gordon’s knee, Okafor’s contract, trades, and ownership.

Plus, The New Orleans Hornets announced today that they have picked up the option for the 2012-13 season for guards Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez.  

Jason Smith says "Get OUT!"

1. What’s up with Eric Gordon’s knee?

Jason Calmes: I think his knee is 100% fine. Oh, you mean the other knee . . . The data we have is inconsistent with a severe problem. I have slightly more concern that he’ll have knee problems later in life than a generic player because of the lack of diagnosis, but a diagnosis may mitigate (or validate) my fear.

Michael McNamara: The Hornets are considering giving the man 50+ million dollars. When they brought in Xavier Henry and his 2 million dollar salary in a trade, they ran additional tests to protect themselves. Of course they are going to be cautious when you are talking about that kind of money and committment. Long term, I doubt this is a problem.

Mason Ginsberg: If this turns out to be more serious than we thought, it’s not ALL bad long-term. We’ll obviously continue to be terrible this season, but it likely cements our ability to land a top-5 draft pick, and should drive down Gordon’s market price for a multi-year deal due to unavoidable future injury concerns.

Jake: Right now, I want him back in the lineup to help the team win games. I don’t want there to be any long term issues, but I’ll worry about that later. The Hornets have been competitive in most games this season so having a player like Gordon back is really going to help.

Joe Gerrity: I’m concerned that he’s going to come back after the Hornets have realistically fallen 100% out of the playoff picture, and then lead the team to a .500 record on the way in, destroying the Hornets chances of landing a top pick and darkening the future slightly.

2. Emeka Okafor’s contract is ______.

Jason: A touch too much. Emeka seems to be giving return on that investment. We’re paying $9m for 1y to Carl and Emeka money to Chris (not that one). The contract is one year too long, however. Emeka is on the books for 2 more seasons while the C+C Rebound Factory are set to get their freedom after this season.

McNamara: going to hurt in 2013-14. Right now the Hornets are not contenders and simply need salary on the books to reach the salary cap floor. Next year, they will bring in more youth, as I expect 2-3 rookies to be in the regular rotation. No need for cap room there. But in the summer of 2013, the Hornets have an opportunity to make a splash, bringing in some vets to pair with their young pieces. Okafor is owed 14.5 mil that year. He NEEDS to be gone by then, either by trade or via amnesty.

Mason: Not doing the Hornets any favors given the team’s current rebuilding direction, but not a bad deal overall. Going into the season, I believed he was a little overpaid, but his improved offensive game thus far this season is starting to make me reconsider that assumption. His contract is pretty comparable to a lot of the other starting centers of the NBA.

Jake: Fine for the short term. His offensive game has improved and he one of those glue guys Monty Williams likes. At first, I thought the team would amnesty him for next year but now I’m not so sure. With a very young team next year, Monty will want to keep Okafor for his veteran presence. After that, though, I agree with Michael, he has to be gone.

Joe: Fine. Three years may be a year longer than we’d all like, but Okafor provides defense and rebounding like few other centers do, and his offensive game has really been coming around.

3. Who has more trade value, Ariza, Jack, or Okafor?

Jason: Emeka. Jack is flat-out-out-playing his contract, but who’s dying for a combo guard? Ariza is . . . a niche player, extremely satisfying for those with the particular tastes he suits. Emeka is a reliable, attitude-free big without baggage whose contract isn’t odious to those who need for a big to make a push. Sometimes water is more valuable than gold.

McNamara: Okafor definitely has the least. It is a toss up between Ariza and Jack as both have arguments in their favor. Jack has contract advantages (lower number/2 years instead of 3 remaining), but Ariza has a more needed skillset (lockdown defender). In the end, with wing players set to dominate in the playoffs, I think Ariza gets the nod. Orlando, if you really wanna be a contender, why not get Ariza to put on LBJ, Rose, and Wade? Or you can go with Reddick and Hedo.

Mason: There are arguments for all three. Okafor is a starting-quality center on an expensive yet reasonable contract. Jack is having the best season of his career so far and has a decent deal that ends at the end of next season. Ariza is the most overpaid out of the three but may provide the most sought-after asset for a playoff team – excellent wing defense. I’m going to abstain from giving a concrete answer, because it entirely depends on which teams are buying at the trade deadline.

Jake: They are such different players that it really depends on a team’s needs. If I were starting a team from scratch and had to pick one (contracts included), I’d go with Ariza. Having a lock-down wing defender is incredibly valuable in the playoffs. Look at the Perkins for Green trade last year. The Celtics gave up a solid starting center for a wing defender just to try and lock-down LeBron.

Joe: All have their positives and negatives. Because of the long, high-priced contract that Okafor is under, I’ll rule him out for this year. Jack is playing out of his mind, but as Jason said, combo guards are rarely in high demand. If Ariza keeps playing like he has been since ocming off the the injury, then he’s the non-expiring guy contenders may be calling about most often.

4. What are your thoughts on Mike Dunleavy as a potential owner?

Jason: Nothing. He’s not bringing in the cash; it’s the money that talks, help as he will. Talk to me when the guy who matters shows up . . . and knows the difference between andouille and boudin. Oh, and doesn’t say jaaaaambalaya, riding and nasally. Any idiot can spend $350m, but it takes a special idiot to fit in here.

McNamara: Wouldn’t mind him if he came with someone willing to write big checks. I trust Dunleavy’s basketball mind, but I don’t want this organization to be a Mom and Pop, nickel and dime front office again. The Hornets need to spend like the Spurs, not like the Kings if they want to be a contender down the line.

Mason: Indifferent. While it would be comforting to have an owner with such an experienced (although at times disastrous) NBA background, it would also be nice to have someone with more established local ties than the ones Dunleavy would be bringing to the table.

Jake: It really depends on how he involves himself. Will he be actively involved in running the team? Or will he act more like a quiet advisor to the majority owners? His track record doesn’t worry me so much; I just don’t want him replacing/overriding the current front office.

Joe: Positive. I like the idea of having a basketball guy in the front office, and Dunleavy’s background is second to none in terms of the potential ownership groups we’ve heard about.

5. What are you thoughts on Tom Benson as a potential owner?

Jason: Safe. Benson’s investments in the city, Champions Square particularly, means he has the most to gain by the team being here of anyone I can think today, even more so if the sponsorships align. He and his successors have the most reason to bid high and keep the team here while instantly establishing local and national credit for the franchise.

McNamara: For the city of New Orleans, great. But I don’t think he will give the Hornets the best opportunity for success on the court. I would love to see an owner solely focused on the Hornets. The majority of people in New Orleans already view the Hornets as a second class citizen of sorts when it comes to the sports landscape. I don’t want an owner who feels that way as well.

Mason: I agree with Jason in the sense that it’s definitely a safe move for the city; however, it’s not the best move for the team. The Hornets are already playing second fiddle to the Saints due to fan loyalty, which is understandable due to the enormous gap between their respective tenures with the city. The last thing the franchise needs is to become a secondary priority in the eyes of its owner as well. (Just now realizing that my answer is nearly identical to Michael’s; he’s exactly right.)

Jake: Exactly what Michael and Mason said. The local ties are great and you know the team would be committed to New Orleans, but I’d rather have that and someone who sole focus is on the Hornets.

Joe: On one hand I’d like to see the two teams tied together a bit more since I think that would really benefit the Hornets, but on the other hand I can’t get past the decades of irrelevancy Saints fans put up with, only to be haunted by the possibility that the Saints would wind up in San Antonio after Katrina. Right now Benson looks like a great owner, but don’t forget that Sean Payton had to put up $250,000 out of his own pocket to bring on the defensive coordinator he wanted.


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