Many people are unsure of what exactly New Orleans Hornets' general manager Dell Demps is trying to achieve this off-season. The relationship between the Hornets and Eric Gordon showed obvious strain during his free agency recruitment by the Suns. The Hornets have pursued a glut of personnel at the positions occupied by their franchise players (Anthony Davis and Gordon). Demps has been a tough read.
We have gained clarity on part of his plan - which was indicated from the outset. The Hornets have matched the Suns' offer sheet for restricted free agent Eric Gordon, just as sources maintained they would throughout this process.
The decision doesn't come as a surprise. The Suns have been active during the 3 day waiting period, with the notable visit from unrestricted free agent O.J. Mayo on Friday. Presumably, this action was taken knowing there was a good possibility this would be the eventual outcome. All indications were that the following tweet was more of a formality than an announcement.
Hornets (taking the full 3 days to decide) announce---as expected, they have matched #Suns' 4-year, $58 million offer sheet to Eric Gordon— Craig Grialou (@Craig620) July 14, 2012
Now that the Suns are officially out of the running for Gordon, they will adjust their focus to other options to fill their current vacancy at the shooting guard position. Although Gordon was the most coveted name on the Suns' list of potential shooting guards, there is still other talent available. Two of the more popular names the Suns are reported to have interest in were mentioned again after the match on Gordon was confirmed.
Besides Mayo and Lee, the Suns may still have interest in bringing back their own free agents Shannon Brown and Michael Redd. This decision by the Hornets has not left the Suns without options. Phoenix also still has the matters of Robin Lopez and Grant Hill to attend to.
Don't be surprised if many of these pieces fall into place quickly now that the Gordon situation has been resolved.
----UPDATE: 3:50PM - Alex Laugan----
Suns official statement on the Gordon offer sheet right here. Suns still have plenty of room to maneuver under cap as long as Beasley and/or Dragic wait a bit longer to sign, so this should not impact them much beyond timing of press conferences.
"We have been notified that the New Orleans Hornets have matched our Offer Sheet with Eric Gordon, as is their right under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. While we are disappointed that Eric will not be a Sun at this time, we have no regrets in doing all that we could under the rules to bring him to Phoenix. Once Eric passes his physical in New Orleans, our full cap room will be restored and we will move forward in free agency. In the meantime, we are on track to pursue our plans."
Today is the day, Bright Siders. We now have hours, not days, left to wait. By 9 p.m. Arizona time, the Eric Gordon saga will have reached its conclusion. By that time, we will know whether or not the Hornets and general manager Dell Demps have decided to match the four-year, $58 million offer sheet Gordon signed with the Suns. If they match, he's a Hornet. If they don't, he's a Sun. That's all there is to it at this point.
The process has been long and taxing for the Suns and their fans. It began when the Suns contacted Gordon after midnight on July 1, the first day of free agency. Then Gordon agreed to sign a max contract offer sheet with the Suns after being wined and dined by Suns brass. The 23-year-old shooting guard officially put pen to paper (or is it stylus to iPad?) and signed the offer sheet on July 11 after the moratorium ended. The Hornets reportedly have already made their decision and will match, but decided to take the full three days anyway. Today is the third day, and today we will find out whether the Hornets were serious about matching or just bluffing.
So for now, we wait. Feel free to wait here with us, as the news could break at any time.
Everything points to New Orleans matching, so don't get your hopes up too much. However, even if Gordon is not able to join the team the Suns are still in a good place going forward. Make the jump to see why.
Owner Robert Sarver is notorious for his penny-pinching ways, and fans, bloggers and reporters alike crack jokes at his expense quite frequently. The fact that the Suns have been luxury tax payers for the majority of Sarver's ownership tenure is irrelevant, and it doesn't matter that the sale of draft picks had more to do with former coach Mike D'Antoni's refusal to play rookies than Sarver's reluctance to pay them. Nope, Sarver is cheap and he won't pay big time free agents.
But even worse, in addition to being cheap the Suns have also built up a reputation of incompetence. Management has made several questionable moves over the last few years. From the way Amar'e Stoudemire was allowed to walk away with minimal return for the Suns, to the subsequent moves to replace him (Turkoglu, Warrick, Childress), to the trade that sent away Goran Dragic and a first round draft pick, the Suns have been anything but savvy decision-makers as of late.
So the Suns are cheap and incompetent. That's the reputation the team has among many fans (and even some writers). Even many Bright Siders here rarely turn down a chance to take a shot at the front office and are constantly lamenting the fact that quality free agents would never choose to sign with Phoenix.
However, judging by the way the Suns have fared in free agency so far this year, it appears the way fans see the team is very different from how the players perceive the organization. Phoenix brass has met with and offered contracts to three free agents -- Gordon, forward Michael Beasley and guard Goran Dragic -- and have secured commitments from all three. Again, the Suns are three-for-three with their targets. So much for nobody signing with the Suns.
The truth is, the Suns have done an excellent job of making Phoenix an attractive destination for prospective free agents.
The most important factor in any free agent's decision is of course money. The Suns have certainly offered competitive contracts, and Sarver hasn't hesitated to dish out the cash. But they didn't just outbid everyone. Eric Gordon was getting a max contract from somebody no matter what; but the Suns convinced him to sign their offer. Goran Dragic was reportedly looking for a contract paying him $10 million per year, yet the Suns signed him for $7.5-8 million annually.
Location and climate certainly don't hurt. Phoenix is a pretty nice spot to spend the winter months, unless of course you enjoy freezing your tail off.
Aaron Nelson and his training staff are considered to be the best in the business, and with good reason. The success the trainers have had extending the careers of the likes of Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Shaquille O'Neal is the organization's trump card when luring in new players.
Once the Suns get a player in for a meeting, president of basketball operations Lon Babby, general manager Lance Blanks, head coach Alvin Gentry and Sarver do a great job of making a good impression. The team goes all out to woo the players and is not afraid to think outside the box, as you cn tell from the welcome parade for Gordon and the comic book for the Suns' own restricted free agent Robin Lopez.
Finally, Phoenix has proven itself to be one of the more player-friendly destinations in the NBA, and that includes both the coaching staff and the front office. As painful as it is, the Steve Nash situation is a perfect example of this. The Suns remained loyal to Nash throughout his time as a Sun, right up the the very end when they even helped facilitate his move to a bitter rival. Players take notice of that.
When you take all this into consideration, things don't look so bad on the free agent front. The Suns went out and signed some quality free agents, and there is no reason to think they can't continue to do the same thing.
Once the Gordon situation is revolved, the rest of the dominoes should fall in short order. Dragic and Beasley will officially sign their contracts, Robin Lopez will be addressed and if the Hornets match the Suns will turn to their second option at shooting guard, reportedly O.J. Mayo. And considering how the offseason has gone so far, I'd be surprised if they weren't four-for-four by the end of the day.