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Why the Hornets might take three days to match and Steve Nash’s introduction to LA


When it was first reported that New Orleans will likely take the full three days before inevitably matching the offer sheet to Eric Gordon, the average fan might have thought the Hornets were doing it to spite the Suns.

After all, the Suns are basically in limbo until the Hornets match Gordon because they would need to renounce Robin Lopez’s rights as well as amnesty or trade a player if they were to try to fit Gordon’s offer sheet and the signings of Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley under their cap.

It goes without saying that they cannot sign additional players without making corresponding moves either aside from potentially re-signing Lopez since his cap hold is already taking up $7.2 million.

With Gordon’s $13.7 mil first-year salary and the Lopez cap hold on their books, the Suns currently sit a hair under $55 million, or $3 million below the cap. As I have written before, if New Orleans were to shock the world and decline to match, the Suns would need to free up about $2 million to sign Dragic and Beasley on top of renouncing Lopez.

As for New Orleans, after making a bevy of moves today the Hornets have moved $10 million below the cap (as Hornets247’s Jason Calmes reports) with Gordon’s $9.6 million cap hold on their books rather than his $13.7 million starting salary.

As Larry Coon writes in the restricted free agency section of his Salary Cap FAQ:

"The player’s prior team cannot match an offer sheet that is greater than their room. They must have enough room — again, either cap room or a satisfactory exception — at the time they are given notice that the player has signed an offer sheet, and at all times until matching. They cannot make moves to create sufficient room after receiving an offer sheet."

The Hornets can go over the cap to match the offer sheet because they own Gordon’s Bird rights, so the $4 million difference between his cap hold and the offer sheet will disappear if not used before the three days are up. In other words, the Hornets must spend that entire $10 million in the three days or else they will forfeit $4 mil of it.

At first I was surprised, too, that they would wait the 72 hours when it seems to be a foregone conclusion that they will match, but they aren’t sticking it to the Suns, they will merely be trying to see what other deals might be out there with this extra cap space before (presumably) locking in Gordon.

Of course this puts the Suns in a tough spot, because they won’t know whether they will have about $11 million to spend (not counting Lopez) or must cut the $2 mil for the next three days. One would think a free agent would wait on the Suns if Phoenix was their top choice, but there may not be any shooting guards left by the time Saturday at 8:59 p.m. MST rolls around.

“We’re a pretty carefully prepared bunch, and we anticipate that, and we just have to play it out,” said PBO Lon Babby. “We know the risks associated with it and have our plans mapped out accordingly to hopefully getting Eric.”

The Suns could have always reneged on their deal with Gordon if they did in fact know for sure that the Hornets will match as everybody is reporting and common sense dictates, but with the Suns trying so hard to made a good impression on the league to accommodate Nash I doubt this was an option they considered very much.

I do wonder why the sides did not at least make more of an attempt at a sign-and-trade deal. Perhaps the Hornets showed no interest from the start or their initial discussions were as fruitful as those on this site between Suns and Hornets fans. With the Suns wanting Gordon so much and Gordon wanting the Suns, a sign-and-trade seemed to me to be the most logical conclusion so I’m disappointed this wasn’t considered more heavily.

So now we wait as Suns management hopes the Hornets miss the matching deadline on Saturday, as otherwise it seems unlikely they would just let him go for nothing.

Suns consider logic rather than emotion to complete Nash deal, make ‘math decision’

Suns management reacted to the possibility of Steve Nash being traded to the Lakers the same way you did when the scenario was first broached.

Yet at the end of the day, the Suns took the emotion out of the decision and used their leverage to extract four draft picks from the Lakers.

“If we could get a deal that worked, it kind of is irrelevant where Steve ended up except for the fact that we have to compete against him,” Babby said. “We felt like getting four draft choices outweighed that.”

Many fans disagree, since fans inherently behave more emotionally than management. Yet that is how Babby and company came to the decision to complete the Nash trade.

Babby said he would “adamantly disagree” with anyone who calls it “a financial decision,” saying instead it was a “math decision.”

“To make that clear, you only have a certain amount of cap space,” Babby said. “Our job, my job in particular, is to allocate how we’re going to spend that. At the end of the day, there was no way to accommodate what he rightfully thought he deserved and our efforts to reload our team. The math just couldn’t work. He ended up with a terrific contract with the Lakers; if we would have given him a similar contract it would have hamstrung us in our efforts to reload and move into transition.”

I understand those who feel the difference between a “financial” decision and a “math” decision is merely lawyer talk, but what I believe that means is it’s not like the Suns were too cheap to sign Nash, it’s that they did not feel spending $10 million a year on a 38-year-old point guard on a three-year contract was the best way to allocate their finite resources under a $58 million salary cap.

If the Suns had signed Nash, there would have been no Dragic, and Beasley would have only been able to be signed if Childress was amnestied.

Combined with the Gordon offer sheet that is tantalizing on its face, but I get why the Suns wanted to commence rebuilding with cap space this offseason, and spending $10 million a year on a player approaching 40 did not jibe with that plan.

Highlights from Nash’s presser in LA

  • “Wow, this is a day I never foresaw in my life, but just an incredible opportunity for me.” I’d be lying if I said I ever foresaw this either.
  • “Originally I wanted to come back …. I wanted to do the best I could to leave that franchise in a better place, but when it became apparent the Suns wanted to move in a different direction and start over in a way that’s when I had to get used to the idea of moving somewhere else and playing for another franchise.” Of course he wanted to come back at $10 mil a year, but Babby did make it clear the Suns wanted to get younger.
  • “I feel lucky that this became a reality.” Who would have ever thought Two Time would utter those words? Kind of sickening for Suns fans.
  • “I could definitely live with myself if it [winning a championship] didn’t happen, but I would definitely be the life of the party if it did.”
  • “They chose to go in a younger direction, and I can’t fault them for that. We’ve been pretty mediocre the last couple years, and we’ve lost some talent and they wanted to try to start fresh in some ways, so it was clear they wanted to get younger and go in a new direction.”
  • Nash chose to wear No. 10 (13 is retired for Wilt Chamberlain) because that is the number playmakers traditionally wear in soccer.
  • Nash answered a few questions in Spanish to the delight of the bilingual reporters in the audience.

Babby on losing Nash

It’s excruciating. I just feel like in coming here two years ago was to get us to this point and somehow find a way to get us through it. At some point Steve Nash wasn’t going to be here and I felt like that was one of my principle responsibilities; to usher us through that phase as gracefully and with as much dignity as we could. I think we’ve done that, I hope we’ve done that. But you never want to see a good friend go and a player of his caliber go. Yeah, it was excruciating, even moreso for many more people in this organization who spent many more years with him and enjoyed much greater success personally and professionally than I did.”

Kevin Zimmerman contributed reporting.