LOS ANGELES – David West landed wrong with 22.5 seconds left in regulation March 24 in Salt Lake City, and uncertainty emerged from every direction. The long-term health of the left knee after the torn ligament, the Hornets roster, the playoff hopes, his future in New Orleans.
Even as the Hornets defy expectations against the Lakers, as they have most all season against everyone, it’s difficult to not at least wonder how the first round would have been different with the leading scorer and former All-Star at power forward. Players and coaches dismiss the hypothetical, choosing to deal only in the actual, but they’re 2-2 against an opponent that came in heavily favored while missing the second-most important part of the roster after Chris Paul. With West, who knows.
Similarly, it is also impossible to measure the injury’s impact on what, at least in appearance, would have been unique contract talks. West can opt out and negotiate as a free agent in the summer with the new owners needing to sign off on any deal with the Hornets. The new owners being the NBA.
West must now decide if the smart move is to leave $7.5 million on the table for 2011-12 in exchange for long-term security or if he should wait another season in hopes of getting a better deal after showing the knee is fine. The NBA must then decide how much it is willing to pay if other teams make lucrative offers, which, in the strange scenario, would lead to one of the 30 individual businesses bidding against the corporate office.
“We’ll talk to our internal staff and come with recommendations and then take it to the NBA,” general manager Dell Demps said. “It’s not that complicated. It’s really pretty simple.”
If he says so.
In one meaningful development, Demps said “we’ve already kind of given them a blueprint or a map of where we want to go, and everyone’s on the same page. When it’s time to execute the plan, it’s really more of just a signing off.” In another, that blueprint includes the intention of locking up West if he does become a free agent, although it could go beyond “just signing off” if West is listening to other offers and the dollar figures are rising.
“I’ve made no secret about it,” Demps said. “We want to have David in the program for a long time. We’re hoping that he retires here and we’re hoping for a speedy recovery. He’s a great guy. Not only is he a good basketball player, but he’s a better person. We just want to keep him in the program.”