Demps says NOLA will have flexibility in offseason

Wednesday, May 4, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

With eight players scheduled to become free agents on July 1 – a total that could climb as high as 10 depending on player options – New Orleans heads into the 2011 offseason with the possibility of making significant changes to its roster. Although there’s a perception in some quarters that the Hornets will be forced into a quiet summer, general manager Dell Demps doesn’t share that sentiment.

“I don’t feel like our hands are tied,” Demps said Wednesday. “The way the rules work, we could make trades right now, as long as the teams (involved in the deal) aren’t playing in the playoffs. We need to figure out what opportunities are going to arise. We don’t want to act too quickly, but if the right situation presents itself, we won’t hesitate. We’re looking at the draft and ways to get better.”

One way to improve in 2011-12 may come simply from the continued development of players who are already on the roster. Among the five players who are certain to return based on the terms of their contracts – Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Jarrett Jack and Quincy Pondexter – all are between the ages of 23 and 28.

“I don’t know if this is true or not, but when I was watching one of the tapes of the (playoff) games, they said we were the youngest team in the playoffs or the least experienced team in the playoffs,” Demps said. “I think our core is at a really good age right now. I think sometimes when you get too young, you’ve got to wait on them (to develop). But I think we’ve got a lot of guys in their primes right now. I feel good about the state of our team. If we wanted to strip it down and rebuild, then that’s when I think you need (very) young guys. But I’m confident in our group right now.”

David West and Aaron Gray both have player options for 2011-12. If they opt in for next season, they’re assured of being on the New Orleans roster July 1. If they opt out, they’ll become unrestricted free agents with the ability to sign with any NBA team. Carl Landry is an unrestricted free agent, while starting shooting guard Marco Belinelli and backup big Jason Smith are restricted free agents. The Hornets have a team option for David Andersen. No player can be signed or re-signed in the free-agency market until July.

“We’ve been saying all season that we really want to keep the core together,” Demps said, when asked if he wants to re-sign both West and Landry. “David is a big part of what we do. I’ve been texting him during his rehab. He has a tough decision to make. We support him in that decision-making process. But we’d like to have him back.

“When we made the trade for Carl, we assumed the risk and knew he was going to be a free agent. But we also had the opportunity to have him here for 25 games and the playoffs. Carl's become an important part of our team. Both guys are very good people, and that’s very important to us. Both guys are very high-character people. And they’re good basketball players. We want to grow with them. We’d like to have both of those guys back.”