HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The New Orleans Hornets are at it again.
You remember the Hornets don’t you? They were the surprise team of the first few weeks of this season after an 8-0 start. They were also winners of 12 of their first 13 games and the Western Conference team no one figured would be a factor in the playoff race this season … until they actually started playing some games.
They’ve had their doubters this season, off the court and literally in the stands. But Chris Paul and company haven’t let any of that slow them down. They have not wavered in their dogged pursuit of not only a playoff spot but a top four spot.
They hit their attendance benchmark last night against the Thunder and battled back for their ninth straight win, courtesy of their stifling defense and David West‘s jumper with 0.5 seconds to play.
Clearly, Hornets coach Monty Williams is pushing all the right buttons with his team right now. We’re a bit embarrassed that no one has mentioned his name, in passing even, as a potential candidate for Coach of the (Half) Year. The Hornets have now moved into third place in the constantly changing Western Conference standings, a testament to their perseverance this season through tumultuous times.
In addition to the attendance issues that have been resolved, there’s the question of West’s future with the franchise that has to be addressed. West can opt-out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent this summer, a somewhat risky proposition without any clear-cut information about what the next labor deal will look like.
The Hornets had designs on getting him signed to an extension before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, per our main man Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, but that seems to be a long shot now. It makes for a very interesting time for Hornets GM Dell Demps, who will have to sort this thing out in short order or risk heading into the summer without the security of knowing whether West will be a part of the operation for the foreseeable future:
Demps said he and West have an agreement that they won’t speak publicly about any discussions, but the GM told Yahoo! Sports: “We’re happy with David and we want him here for a long time.”
For Demps, the question will be, should the Hornets consider trading West at the deadline out of fear of getting nothing back for one of the franchise’s cornerstone players? With the way the Hornets are playing – winners of [nine] straight, and [in third place] in the Western Conference – it’s a difficult proposition to break up this core prior to the playoffs. Nevertheless, West’s expiring contract could fetch the Hornets comparable talent with longer-term money owed to a player.
Demps would have a chance to make a sign-and-trade deal for West after the season, too. West has averaged 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and shot 51 percent for the Hornets this season. He’s played his entire eight-year career with the Hornets, but the chance to play for a championship contender appeals to him. The uncertainty surrounding the NBA taking over ownership of the Hornets, as well as the franchise’s potential relocation, leave a lot of unanswered questions for a player being asked to commit long-term to the franchise.
“Under the current labor deal, I think he’ll get that $10 million a year,” said one rival GM who would have interest in signing West. “But who knows under the next deal?”
Hornets fans probably aren’t sweating it right now, not with their team playing as well as they are right now.