Tag:Hornets
Posted on: December 1, 2010 2:53 pm
 

Post-Ups

When LeBron James struts to the scorer's table in Cleveland Thursday night and tosses his customary talc in the air -- to a vicious chorus of boos or derisive laughter -- all eyes will be on how the prodigal son responds to being a pariah on the court he used to own.

That's fine. It's a story -- a big one by NBA regular season standards -- and one that will be examined ad nauseum during the relentless news cycle that follows.

I happen to have some context when it comes to Cleveland sports misery, and also boiling Cleveland sports bile. As a writer for the Associated Press, I sat in the press box at then-Jacobs Field for former Indians hero Albert Belle's return after signing a free-agent contract with the White Sox. The atmosphere was venomous, to say the least. I was also on hand for a much sadder, more poignant moment when the contents of doomed Municipal Stadium were auctioned to teary-eyed fans after Art Modell hijacked the beloved Browns and schlepped them to Baltimore. Among the items up for bidding that day, appropriately enough, was the commode from Modell's office.

Not to bore you with my life story, but I was also in the press box in Miami when Jose Mesa vomited away what would've been Cleveland's first pro sports championship in four decades in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Visions of Edgar Renteria and Craig Counsell dance in my head to this day.

I don't come from Cleveland; I only lived there for two of the best years of my life as a sports writer. But I think I can safely speak for the good people of Northeast Ohio when I say that James leaving the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat was worse than all of the above.

There is vibrant debate in the LeBron-o-sphere about how Cleveland fans should treat him Thursday night. Gregg Doyel, a proud Ohioan, pleads for Clevelanders to comport themselves with dignity and not make LeBron the victim. Point well-taken. Others say screw that ; give the traitor all the venom that he's got coming to him. Knowing how much sports heartache that city has endured over the decades, I can understand that point, too.

There's a movement afoot to have 20,000 people laugh hysterically at LeBron when he's introduced, and various chants have been scripted for when he touches the ball, checks into the game, or steps to the foul line. Kudos for creativity on those. But here's what I'd like to see. Here's what I think would be the appropriate response: When the Heat are introduced, and specifically when LeBron is introduced, turn your backs on the court and don't make a sound. Not even a whisper. The silent treatment and reverse ovation will be spookier than any alternative, and would haunt your former hero for at least 48 minutes and maybe months. Then, turn around and enjoy the game. Even in a place that has, um, witnessed its share of disappointments, it is still just a game, after all.

And with that, we move on to the rest of this week's Post-Ups:

* Lost in all the hysteria over LeBump and LeCoup attempt on coach Erik Spoelstra this week is the question of what Spoelstra can do with his lineups to improve Miami's performance on the floor. With help from adjusted plus-minus guru Wayne Winston , I dug into the lineups Spoelstra has used this season and came to some interesting conclusions.

The problem doesn't appear to be LeBron and Wade playing together; it's who's on the floor with them that makes a difference. In lineups with both LeBron and Wade, the Heat have outscored the opponent by 61 points. With LeBron only, they're plus-38, and with Wade only they're plus-21. (They're minus-14 with neither, for what it's worth.)

Spoelstra's most frequently used lineup -- the starting lineup of Wade, James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony and Carlos Arroyo-- has outscored the opponent by 36 points over 133 minutes. According to Winston, that lineup plays 14.55 points better than average. In other words, those five players would beat an average NBA lineup by 14 points over 48 minutes.

When Spoelstra subs Zydrunas Ilgauskas for Anthony in his second-most used lineup, that number goes down to 2.65 points better than average and Miami is plus-6. What happens when the Heat play without a point guard proves the point I've been harping on all along: Whether he likes it or not, LeBron needs to be the point guard on this team.

By far, Miami's best lineup with James and Wade (and with at least 30 appearances) is one without a true point guard. The Supertwins plus Bosh, Udonis Haslem (currently injured), and James Jones is 44.19 points better than average and outscoring opponents by 29 points in 43 minutes. If anything, Spoelstra should have been using that lineup more often; despite the assumption that Jones' suspect defense is an issue, that lineup is comparable defensively to the starting unit featuring Arroyo and Anthony instead of Jones and Haslem.

Without Haslem, Spoelstra still has an effective option with James and Wade and no true point guard on the floor. But to this point, he's only used this combination 13 times for a total of 17 minutes: James, Wade, Bosh, Ilgauskas and Jones are 45.81 points better than average and plus-15.

The point-guard problem is underscored when Spoelstra uses another point guard other than Arroyo. For example, of the four lineups Spoelstra has used with James, Wade and Eddie House, three of them are awful -- the worst being a lineup of James, Wade, Haslem, Ilgauskas and House, which is 46.99 points worse than average and minus-8.

The bottom line: Aside from using LeBron as a point guard more frequently, you can't really argue too much with the combinations Spoelstra has used most often. LeBron is the one player capable of tailoring his game to the needs of the team, and if he does, that will help Wade emerge from his funk and get the Heat playing like a Super Team instead of a Blooper Team.

* Brendan Haywood's agent, Andy Miller, told CBSSports.com that his client's one-game suspension enforced Friday against the Spurs was for "an isolated incident. ... It's over, and we're moving forward." One person familiar with the situation called it a "flare-up" and a "misunderstanding" between Haywood and coach Rick Carlisle that did not involve minutes or playing time. The relationship between Haywood and Carlisle is not in need of being addressed further, the source said. Haywood logged only 7:58 against Miami in his return Saturday night, but got more than 21 minutes Monday night against Houston -- the Mavericks' sixth straight win.

* As we touched on during preseason , Magic GM Otis Smith was presented a trade proposal involving Gilbert Arenas and Vince Carter this past summer, and despite Smith's close relationship with Arenas, he turned it down. Sources have continued to believe that the Wizards would only be able to trade Arenas if and when he proved he was healthy and in a positive place emotionally after the ruinous 50-game suspension he incurred last season. To the Wizards' delight, that has finally happened. Since being reinserted into the starting lineup eight games ago, Arenas has been consistently exceeding 30 minutes a night and has scored at least 20 points in five of those games. While the Magic have let it be known that they're willing to make a big deal if it involves trading anyone except Dwight Howard, sources say there has been no movement on the Arenas front since the aforementioned discussions fell apart.

* The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Tuesday that an attendance clause believed to have lapsed in the team's arena lease with the state actually still exists . That means the Hornets, currently 25th in the NBA in attendance despite their 12-5 start, would be permitted to start the relocation wheels spinning by breaking their lease unless they average at least 14,213 for the next 13 games. Team president Hugh Weber reaffirmed the team's commitment to New Orleans in the article, but stopped short of unequivocally stating that the team would not use the clause to break the lease. One reason: It would cost the team $10 million. Another: New ownership would be wise to consider such a move. If the Hornets are struggling now, with inspired play from Chris Paul and a giant-killer mentality instilled by new coach Monty Williams, just imagine how bad the attendance would be if the team was forced to trade Paul after a lockout.

* As we close in on Dec. 15, when numerous free agents signed over the summer become trade-eligible, rival executives have privately started wondering if the Heat would consider parting with one of their Big Three if it meant fielding a more complete team. The face-saving option to trade and the most easily obtainable, executives say, would be Chris Bosh. In fact, one executive speaking on condition of anonymity wondered how it would alter Denver's reluctance to trade Carmelo Anthony if the Heat offered a package centered around Bosh. The Nuggets, according to the executive, might prefer an established star in the low post as opposed to Derrick Favors, an unproven rookie. It's fun speculation, but highly unlikely. Aside from the embarrassment associated with breaking up the ballyhooed Big Three in Miami, the rub would be cost; executives continue to believe that if Denver deals Anthony and/or Chauncey Billups before the February deadline, it will be in a major cost-cutting deal.

* Meanwhile, as the Melo turns, executives are becoming more convinced that Anthony would not agree to an extension with the Nets -- a stance that could kill New Jersey's months-long bid for the superstar once and for all. Having attended a recent Nets game in Newark, which might as well be Russia as far as native New Yorker Anthony is concerned, I concur. Melo is interested in starring in a Broadway show -- or a nearby, off-Broadway equivalent. Had the Nets' move to Brooklyn not been sabotaged by lawsuits and New York City government paralysis, that would've made a huge difference. But Newark is Newark, and I believe Melo is headed elsewhere.
Posted on: November 22, 2010 9:52 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2010 10:14 pm
 

Source: Dampier to sign with Heat

Erick Dampier has a one-year offer from the Miami Heat and is expected to sign it Tuesday, CBSSports.com has learned.

The 35-year-old center arrived in Miami Monday night and, pending his passing of a medical exam, will join the team to replace Udonis Haslem, who is out until at least February with a torn ligament in his foot. The deal is for one year at the prorated veteran's minimum, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The Heat will have to release a player to create a roster spot for Dampier, likely Dexter Pittman or Jamaal Magloire.

The Heat previously worked out Dampier in September, but decided not to proceed with an offer. The Suns, Raptors, Rockets and Bucks pursued Dampier, who had a verbal agreement to join the Rockets. But Houston surprisingly backed away after failing to clear a roster spot for Dampier. In the end, Dampier got his preferred situation: a title contender forced to accelerate its pursuit of him based on a need that arose during the season. His patience, it turns out, paid off.

Another team inquired about Dampier Monday: the Hornets, who caused Dampier to give them serious consideration based on their 11-1 start. But the Heat remained the ideal fit from Dampier's perspective, and he becomes the latest free agent to join Miami's title pursuit -- albeit under unfortunate circumstances.

The need to act quickly in the wake of news Monday that Haslem will need foot surgery that will shelve him for several months was only underscored Monday night, when the Heat were getting blown out at home by Indiana. Even with the high-profile free-agent additions of the summer, Miami still lacks a true center and has been getting exploited around the basket by bigger, tougher teams.

How ready Dampier is will determine how quickly the Heat will be able to reverse that trend. By his own admission,  Dampier has always been a player who plays himself into shape as the season progresses. After initially meeting with the Heat in September, Dampier considered working out at the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla., to get himself ready to sign. In the end, he decided not to take that route.

Further complicating the decision on who to sign as Haslem's replacement is the fact that Miami's offensive efficiency clearly has been hurt by their slow pace and coach Erik Spoelstra's insistence on playing a traditional point guard with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Adding Dampier, a plodding, post-up center with limited mobility, may signal that Spoelstra -- and, by extension, president Pat Riley -- are digging in on their strategic preferences instead of freeing up the offense with smaller lineups. Either way, Dampier was the best and only option available to a team that badly needs an interior presence to get past Boston or Orlando in the East.
 
 




Posted on: September 13, 2010 11:36 am
 

Amundson chooses Warriors over Hornets

Free-agent forward Lou Amundson agreed to a two-year, $4.7 million deal with the Warriors Monday, choosing Golden State over the Hornets in a lengthy negotiation that took longer than agent Mark Bartelstein expected.

"It just came down to Golden State being the right fit," Bartelstein said.

Asked what made it the right fit, Bartelstein gave an answer that will no doubt intrigue all followers of the meandering, seemingly rudderless W's.

"Just the vision that [GM] Larry Riley kind of laid out with the change in ownership and the style they want to play," Bartelstein said.

No wonder the negotiation took so long. From the outside looking in, the Warriors look like a team with no vision, with an aging coach who won't go away, and with an uncertain future under incoming owners Joseph Lacob and Peter Guber.

The $450 million sale of the team from Chris Cohan to Lacob and Guber won't be approved by the NBA's Board of Governors until sometime next month. Training camps open at the end of September, so presumably Don Nelson will vacate his hammock in Maui to coach the team. According to Bartelstein, the pitch Riley made to Amundson did not address Nellie's future. "I think that's still something they're trying to work through," Bartelstein said.

There's no doubt Amundson will be a good fit in the Warriors' up-tempo style; he was part of an effective bench brigade in Phoenix that at times rattled the Lakers with their hectic pace during the Western Conference finals. But which coach will he be playing for in the Bay Area? Nellie or his presumed successor, Keith Smart? Or both, before all is said and done? Remains to be seen. Whatever the case, Amundson was sold on the vision enough to turn down the Hornets, who with a healthy and reasonably content Chris Paul would appear to be a far more likely playoff contender.



Posted on: July 29, 2010 3:36 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2010 5:02 pm
 

Knicks make offer to Lakers' Brown (UPDATE)

The Knicks have extended an offer to Shannon Brown and are waiting to hear whether the Lakers' free-agent guard will take it or wait for L.A. to make room to re-sign him by trading Sasha Vujacic, two people with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com Thursday.

Brown, 24, played all 82 games for the champion Lakers last season and is weighing whether to join Ray Felton in the Knicks' revamped backcourt or give the Lakers time to clear the room needed to re-sign him. The Lakers, as usual, are well into the luxury tax. So moving Vujacic's $5.4 million salary for next season would ease the tax hit associated with keeping Brown.

Brown's electrifying transition game would be a huge asset in coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo system, and Brown would have a good chance of winning a starting job after starting only seven games for the Lakers last season.

Meanwhile, the Knicks continue to explore trade possibilities and remain interested in Blazers swingman Rudy Fernandez, who is actively being shopped. In their pursuit of a deal for Fernandez, or perhaps Chris Paul if and when the Hornets begin fielding serious trade inquiries, the Knicks have a few more assets to offer than commonly realized. According to two people familiar with how the David Lee sign-and-trade arrangement was structured, the Knicks do not have to wait the standard 60 days before combining Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Randolph or Kelenna Azubuike with other players in a trade. The Knicks were still under the salary cap when Lee was signed and traded, exempting them from the 60-day waiting period, which applies only to players acquired with a trade exception by teams that are over the cap.






Posted on: July 27, 2010 6:29 pm
 

Where selective law enforcement happens

The NBA office issued a memo to all 30 teams Tuesday reminding them of the league's tampering policy and warning of steep penalties that would result from illegal contact with Chris Paul or his representatives.

It was a welcome development, no doubt, for the New Orleans Hornets, who are dealing with their disgruntled point guard's desire to be traded. I'd also have to guess it generated a day-late, dollar-short reaction in Cleveland, where the Cavs will be reeling for a decade or longer from the suspicious departure of LeBron James to Miami.

The memo issued Tuesday, first reported by ESPN.com, was similar to one sent in December 2008 warning teams about commenting publicly on prospective free agents under contract with other teams and outlining the penalties for making contact with such players. League policy calls for penalties up to and including loss of draft picks, the voiding of player contracts and a maximum fine of $5 million for discussing transactions with players under contract without consent of their teams. The 2008 memo was in response to growing public commentary by team executives regarding the free-agent class of 2010, which of course included James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Paul, through his new agent, Leon Rose, informed the Hornets recently that he wants to be traded and gave the team a list of preferred destinations. Paul and Rose met Monday in New Orleans with Hornets president Hugh Weber, GM Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams to hash out their differences. Not surprisingly, everyone emerged from the meeting saying they've all agreed to get along. But we know better, and so does the league office. Sources told CBSSports.com that Monday's meeting did not quell Paul's desire to push for a trade and this his representatives planned to continue applying pressure to get him out of New Orleans.   The league memo Tuesday only underscored the reality facing the Hornets.

But under league rules, such conversations can only be initiated or approved by the Hornets. So on Tuesday, the league made a strong statement in defense of an organization that faces an uphill battle in keeping its franchise player happy. The last thing Demps and Williams need is to have Rose and William Wesley recruiting trade partners through back channels -- which is how much of the business of the league is done.

"This kind of thing happens all the time," said a person within the NBA. "But the league wants to have more control over the players. They don't want players working behind the scenes to get themselves traded."

That train, it could be argued, whizzed past the station long ago.

So why such a strong stance against tampering with Paul when nothing has been done to investigate whether James was tampered with prior to his "decision" to join Wade and Bosh with the Heat? One possible explanation is that once a case of alleged tampering has occurred, standard procedure is to investigate only after the offended team files a tampering charge. The Cavs never complained publicly or to the league about a reported meeting last November attended by James, Michael Jordan and Heat president Pat Riley. Another reported meeting last month involving James, Wade and Bosh would be more difficult to probe because league tampering rules essentially are aimed at teams and team executives. Meetings and conversations among players are more difficult to police. Nonetheless, the Cavs have no plans to file tampering charges, preferring instead to focus on moving forward with their post-LeBron plans.

The Hornets, meanwhile, are just trying to get through each day without Rose pitching possible trade scenarios for Paul to competing franchises.

Conversations this summer between James and Paul -- which presumably led Paul to drop his association with Octagon and hire Rose as his agent -- would be difficult, if not impossible, to tie to any kind of tampering. The league obviously can't control agents like Rose and operatives like Wesley as closely as it can monitor its teams' executives. So a memo like this warning teams to leave Paul alone is the best that can be done, I suppose. Is it mostly for show? Yes, mostly. The NBA grapevine is a free-for-all, with illegal conversations that can't be adequately policed happening all the time. But at least for now, the league's stance theoretically will provide a chilling effect to what has become the Summer of CP3.

It may or may not help the Hornets keep their star point guard. It won't, however, do anything to help the Cavs get over the loss of LeBron. That's life, I guess, in the NBA.


 








Posted on: July 23, 2010 1:10 pm
 

Monty wants to hear directly from Paul

The next step in the drama surrounding All-Star point guard Chris Paul will happen Monday, when he will meet with New Orleans officials and decide whether to push his angst to the next level by formally -- and in person -- requesting to be traded.

Hornets coach Monty Williams, for one, wants to hear those words straight from his point guard's mouth before drawing any conclusions about their future together.

"We'll sit down with Chris on Monday and see what happens," Williams told CBSSports.com by phone Friday. "I'm as eager as anybody to see where this goes."

It is a critical time for Williams, who is only in his second month on the job yet already is facing a crisis that could affect the franchise for years. His key ally in Monday's sitdown with Paul, new GM Dell Demps, has only been on the job for 48 hours. Their goal will be to talk Paul out of his desire to be traded, which was first reported Wednesday by CBSSports.com .

"This has become a national story, and it's not a story," Williams said. "Nothing has happened yet."

On Monday, it will -- one way or another. As CBSSports.com reported Wednesday, Paul has decided he wants to be traded and has asked his new agent, Leon Rose, to inform New Orleans management that he prefers to be dealt to the Knicks, Magic or Lakers. Other teams have joined the mix since then, with sources saying that the Mavericks and Trail Blazers have been the most aggressive in their pursuit.

"Other teams are jockeying to get in the mix," said one person familiar with the league-wide pursuit of one of the most gifted point guards in the league.

Paul's desire, according to a person familiar with his strategy, is to follow in LeBron James' footsteps by joining forces with one or more elite players. While the Lakers are viewed as a long-shot scenario, the Magic and Knicks both present tantalizing possibilities. In Orlando, Paul would team with Dwight Howard, who already has informed Magic management that he wants to play with Paul. In New York, Paul would play the role of a younger, higher-octane Steve Nash by pairing with Amar'e Stoudemire in Mike D'Antoni's offense, which was invented for a point guard of Paul's exquisite gifts.

For starters, any team hoping to land Paul would have to take Emeka Okafor and his onerous contract, which pays him $53.2 million over the next four years. If New Orleans decided to entertain offers for Paul, the team also likely would insist on including James Posey, owed $13.4 million over the next two years. The Magic could offer Vince Carter, who has only $4 million of his $18.3 million guaranteed for the 2011-12 season, as well as draft picks. The Knicks don't have draft picks to offer, but since they're approximately $3 million under the cap, they could take back $3 million more salary than they send out in the deal -- a significant cost savings for the Hornets in addition to the $3 million cash the Knicks wouldn't think twice about adding to the deal. By acquiring Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike from Golden State in a sign-and-trade for David Lee, the Knicks also have young assets to pair with Danilo Gallinari and/or Wilson Chandler in a credible proposal for Paul.

Of course, if Paul escalates the trade request that has been made through intermediaries into a formal request Monday, the Hornets would be under no obligation to oblige him -- much less trade him to the team of his choice. Williams said the team's strategy for dealing with such a situation wouldn't be devised until after Monday's meeting.

Williams is putting up a brave front, and is genuinely looking forward to the chance to sell Paul on his vision for the team. But he and Demps, having stepped into a situation that was not their doing, also face the responsibility of reconciling the past year of turmoil in a way that makes Paul reconsider.

Those attending Monday's meeting for the Hornets will be Demps, Williams and team president Hugh Weber. It is not clear whether Paul will be joined by his new agent, Rose, who has not responded to calls from CBSSports.com to determine whether he is officially representing Paul after a 15-day waiting period following the end of his relationship with Octagon.

But one thing is clear: The job of selling Paul on the basketball reasons to stay will fall on the shoulders of Demps and Williams, who are dealing with a situation of this magnitude for the first time -- at least as the top decision-makers on an NBA team. The firing last week of experienced GM Jeff Bower -- and further, subsequent housecleaning in the front office -- have only made the organization more vulnerable at a time when Paul's impatience with the team's direction is at an all-time high.

After Bower was let go, the Hornets fired director of basketball administration Andy Loomis. Director of scouting Brian Hagen has survived the purge, but doesn't have a contract for next season, sources say.

As for Paul, Williams said he's texted back and forth with his point guard in advance of Monday's meeting. The Hornets' new coach sees the writing on the wall, but doesn't want to read what Paul or his representatives have to say -- he wants to hear it from him.

"All of this stuff has come out with no quotes from Chris and no quotes from us," Williams said. "... I just wish all this had been handled behind closed doors. This is not the way I like to operate, and I know this isn't the way that Chris likes to operate. We've communicated by text just to try to figure out where this stuff is coming from."

If by "stuff" he means smoke, then it's coming from the fire smoldering within Paul. On Monday, Williams will get a chance to put it out.



 




Posted on: July 20, 2010 6:15 pm
 

Hornets hope to have GM by Wednesday


The Hornets are hoping to have a new general manager in place by Wednesday, with Spurs executive Dell Demps their top target, two people familiar with the search told CBSSports.com.

Demps, the Spurs' director of pro player personnel and GM of the team's D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros, also is among the top candidates for the Suns' GM opening under new team president Lon Babby, who was officially installed Tuesday.

The Hornets, who fired GM Jeff Bower last week, have interviewed seven candidates. Team president Hugh Weber, in an interview with CBSSports.com Tuesday, confirmed six of them: Demps, former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard, former Suns assistant GM David Griffin, Wizards assistant GM Tommy Sheppard, former agent and former Kings assistant GM Jason Levien, and Nuggets vice president of player personnel Rex Chapman. The seventh candidate, Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman, interviewed Tuesday by phone and also is being given heavy consideration for the Phoenix job, a person with knowledge of both searches said.

While the Suns' eventual hire would clearly be subservient to Babby, the Hornets' GM also won't have the final-say cachet that most traditional NBA GM positions offer. Weber, an admitted neophyte when it comes to basketball operations, said he's trying to create a "collaborative, transparent decision-making process" in which he, coach Monty Williams and the new GM would work together on personnel decisions.

"The mission is bigger than any one of us," Weber said. "We're going to be very progressive and mission-oriented in our approach to building an organization. ... We're focused on the mission, not the personality. We're looking for people who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done."

Weber described the Hornets' situation as "not entirely a rebuilding process," and said it's "a bit of a misnomer" that All-Star point guard Chris Paul has been detached from the team's offseason decisions.

"Chris and I have, through various means, communicated throughout the summer, from the draft to the coaching hire to the GM changes," Weber said. "... Everything that I've heard is that he's on board. The thing that we will do -- myself, our coach and our new GM -- is sit down with him and make sure he's as confident about the changes we're making as we are."

Paul has been quoted this summer as saying that he'd be open to a trade if the Hornets weren't committed to building a championship team. Williams, who could perhaps collaborate most easily on personnel decisions with Demps because they are friends and former teammates, told CBSSports.com during Las Vegas Summer League that he plans to meet personally with Paul to clear the air after the disconcerting reports about Paul's future in New Orleans.

"I want him to feel as excited as I am about where we're going," Williams said.





Category: NBA
Posted on: July 17, 2010 11:20 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2010 12:38 am
 

Pritchard joins Hornets' interview list


LAS VEGAS -- In a fast-moving search for a general manager to replace the fired Jeff Bower, Hornets officials have interviewed former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard, former Suns executive David Griffin and Wizards executive Tommy Sheppard, with the intention of further escalating their search early next week, sources with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.

Griffin, who left the Suns' front office in the wake of team president Steve Kerr's departure, joins Sheppard, Pritchard and Spurs executive Dell Demps on the list of candidates Hornets president Hugh Weber has spoken with about the job. Demps has met twice with Hornets officials, including having dinner with coach Monty Williams Friday night. Demps and Williams were teammates in San Antonio and have been friends ever since.  Sheppard, the top assistant under GM Ernie Grunfeld, is a rising star among NBA execs and was instrumental in quickly and responsibly slashing the Wizards' payroll after the Gilbert Arenas situation last season. Pritchard interviewed for the job Saturday, two people familiar with the Hornets' search told CBSSports.com.

Due to their relationship, Demps is believed to be a prohibitive favorite for the job -- but also is a strong candidate to be installed as the personnel man under incoming Suns president Lob Babby, a former player agent who is scheduled to arrive in Phoenix Monday to be fornally introduced as the team's new head of basketball operations.

The Hornets also have expressed interest in former Trail Blazers execs Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn and former Kings assistant GM Jason Levien. Also, Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman is expected to be on the Hornets' radar. Weber flew back to New Orleans Sunday, and the Hornets are hoping to have a GM in place by midweek or the end of the week, sources say.






 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com