Friday, April 10

When Small Markets Get Superstars

Yesterday, the Dallas Morning News noted that the Mavericks are extremely interested in acquiring the Hornets' Chris Paul. Coincidentally, so are most other teams in the league, but the fact that the Hornets didn't hang up at the mention of Chris Paul indicates bigger problems for their franchise. If Peja's $13 million against the cap is the albatross around their neck, Tyson Chandler's $11 million contract is the pair of cement shoes dragging the team to the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain. Peja already proved immovable this season and will likely remain so while Tyson was nearly shipped out for pennies on the dollar. Next season when CP3's new contract kicks in, the Hornets will be staring luxury tax square in the eye and with little reason to think this team will improve to become one of the elite teams in the west.

If the Hornets want to get under the tax they're faced with either giving up David West's very favorable contract or Paul's. Even if the team figures out a way to keep Paul, as his contract balloons to nearly a quarter of the salary cap, it will be increasingly difficult to field a quality team around him. If David West opts out after 2011, they'll be forced to decide whether to let him go or pay two players half of the team's cap. Without the financial flexibility of large market teams, having a superstar and re-signing them can be both a blessing and a curse. If they keep Paul and West, they risk sliding into irrelevance, but if they move one or both they are trading the first two stars in the franchise's history (during time in NO) and risk alienating their fans base. As a Charlottean, I've seen this movie before and it's tough to watch your superstars leave, even if sometimes it's for the best.

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