The Pelicans have signed Dante Cunningham, the team announced via press release. The team reportedly worked him out this past weekend and had been doing their “due diligence” to investigate domestic assault charges against Cunningham that were dropped over the summer, as Jimmy Smith of the The Times-Picayune wrote earlier this week. The NBA is unlikely to punish Cunningham, a league spokesman tells Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). The NBA recently took a tough stand against domestic violence with a 24-game suspension for Jeff Taylor, but Taylor had pleaded guilty to the charges against him. Cunningham is getting a one-year deal for the minimum, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com hears (Twitter links), though it’s unclear if there’s any guaranteed salary involved.
Agent Joel Bell told Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press this fall that he estimated that Cunningham would have received annual salaries of more than $4MM had it not been for the charges. That figure was debatable, but it was surprising that, according to Bell, Cunningham hadn’t received so much as a minimum-salary offer as of October. It demonstrated the chilling effect that the NFL’s much-criticized handling of domestic violence among its players had on the NBA market, even for Cunningham, whose charges were dropped in August.
The now 27-year-old Cunningham pulled down a career-high 5.1 rebounds per game and came close to a career mark with 8.7 points per contest last season for the Wolves, who were reportedly in talks with him about a new deal shortly after the charges against him were dropped. Still, it seemed even at that point that the Timberwolves were a long shot to re-sign him, since Minnesota’s roster was already full. The Wolves added power forward Jeff Adrien instead last week when the league granted them an extra roster spot.
The Pelicans made space on their roster Sunday, when they let go of Patric Young and Darius Miller. The addition of Cunningham, who’ll begin his sixth year in the NBA, still leaves one open roster spot for New Orleans, which has reportedly been aggressive in its pursuit of trades lately.