The first smell of something fishy arose when they pushed back a noon press conference to 3 p.m.
Then it became clear on July 12 that the Hornets were about to acquire free-agent forward Peja Stojakovic through a sign-and-trade with the Indiana Pacers rather than signing him to an outright contract, leading to only more head scratching. And the terms of the deal - Andrew Betts to the Pacers in exchange for Stojakovic and cash considerations - didn’t exactly help anyone sort out the team’s reasoning.
“It helps us in a number of ways,” said an evasive Hornets general manager Jeff Bower, when asked why his team agreed to a last-minute sign-and-trade for Stojakovic after originally planning to sign him.
The cash considerations, believed to be about $250,000, that the Pacers gave the Hornets didn’t seem to be enough to warrant going through with the deal. Especially since the cash doesn’t count toward the salary cap.
By the Hornets agreeing to the deal, they sent the Pacers a $7.5 million trade exception, which can be used toward the salary cap when signing free agents or making trades. The move helped pave the way for Atlanta Hawks free-agent forward Al Harrington’s upcoming sign-and-trade with to Indiana. The Pacers and Golden State Warriors were the biggest suitors for Harrington, and the Hornets likely wanted to keep Harrington out of the Western Conference so the Warriors wouldn’t add to the already complicated task of making the playoffs next year.
Hornets owner George Shinn perhaps wanted to help out good friend and Pacers co-owner Herb Simon. The Pacers traded Ron Artest to Sacramento in mid-season in exchange for Stojakovic. Indiana was on the verge of losing Artest and Stojakovic with nothing to show for in return.
That last nugget is where things get complicated. Typically, certain NBA owners and general managers have a comfort level with dealing with one another. It’s not uncommon to see friendships between teams’ top executives often lead to them doing favors for one other.
But Simon has been a member of the league’s past expansion/relocation committees, leading to rumors about whether Shinn mandated the move in an attempt to seek Simon’s help in a permanent move out of New Orleans.
“I can’t even comment on that,” Shinn said. “I feel like I’m friends with all the owners. And Herb is a friend of mine, but that’s absurd.”
Andy Miller, the agent for Harrington, said he and Harrington were still considering other offers when the Hornets and Pacers agreed to the trade. He added that he didn’t think the Pacers “under any or every circumstance were going to get Al Harrington.