Paul, city, climate may be plusses in free agency

Wednesday, May 11, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

The Hornets have one of the most talented and unselfish point guards in the league. They play in one of the most fun and exciting cities in America, a place where the temperature rarely dips below 50 degrees even in the dead of winter (i.e. the heart of basketball season). Add it up, and it makes sense that New Orleans may have some distinct advantages when the team attempts to attract free agents each offseason.

The Hornets’ play on the court in 2010-11 also may sway free agents to think about coming to the Crescent City in the near future. With the second-youngest head coach in the league and a roster full of players in or entering the prime of their career, New Orleans appears to be headed upward, a year after what was a tumultuous and discouraging summer of 2010.

“You hope that (the season we had) will (attract the attention of free agents),” Monty Williams said. “You hope that different free agents will look at the way we play and some of the things that our (players) are saying about our staff and organization and get excited about that. I’ve been in situations before – we were in Portland and had the same thing going on – the city was behind us, we were getting in the playoffs and we still struggled to sign free agents for whatever reason. I think there is more to that, but I certainly think we have a few things over Portland – warm weather, one of the most interesting cities in the world, to say the least, and a lot of young guys around here who want to work hard and play better.”

On the negative side of the ledger, the Hornets still lack a permanent owner. However, New Orleans team president Hugh Weber said the Hornets have been operating with a business-as-usual mentality when it comes to trades and the upcoming free agency period. The NBA approved the Hornets to take on a modest salary increase, for example, in February when they acquired Carl Landry in exchange for Marcus Thornton.

“The league has always taken the approach of, ‘This team needs to operate (like it would have before the ownership transaction),' ” Weber said. “They’re not handcuffing us in any way, shape or form. Like any team, owners typically give their leadership a budget and expectations under which to operate.”

The first step of the team’s free-agency process will be to determine which current players it wants to bring back next season. The Hornets have eight free agents, with the potential for that number to increase to 10 depending on player options for David West and Aaron Gray.

“We do have a number of free agents this year,” general manager Dell Demps said. “We’re going to sit down and first evaluate that. We haven’t gotten to the point where we’ve decided exactly what direction we’re going to go.”