In an interesting, in-depth profile of Willie Cauley-Stein for The San Francisco Chronicle, Connor Letourneau notes that the Hornets presented the free agent big man with a $9MM offer during the summer before he opted to sign a minimum-salary contract with the Warriors.
Letourneau mentions the Hornets’ offer in passing and doesn’t provide any additional details on the timing or structure. Charlotte had its full mid-level exception available this offseason and theoretically could have offered Cauley-Stein $9MM for one year, or per year, though it would be surprising if he turned down such a proposal. A two-year deal in that range seems more realistic, but that’s just my speculation.
Either way, Cauley-Stein passed on the offer, which has helped open the door for Cody Zeller to take on a more prominent role in the Hornets’ frontcourt. As Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes, Zeller has suddenly become a cornerstone for the franchise, averaging career highs in PPG (12.8) and RPG (10.5) so far this season. After missing 82 games over the last two years, Zeller says he feels great, while James Borrego suggests the big man is crucial to Charlotte’s offensive attack.
“We want to play through him,” the Hornets’ head coach said. “Cody allows us to play a number of ways, especially with pace. He’s a great runner. He starts our offense in transition. And he has to play-make for us — on and off the ball. He’s been primarily a screener over the years. Right now, I want the ball in his hands at the top of the (key) in DHO (dribble-handoffs).”
Here’s more from around the Southeast:
- In the wake of John Collins‘ 25-game suspension, Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk issued a statement saying the team believes that the big man “is truly remorseful for his actions.” Meanwhile, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic explores what the suspension means for the Hawks, who will start Jabari Parker in Collins’ place.
- A strong second-half run buoyed the Magic into a playoff spot last season, but they haven’t been able to carry that momentum over to the start of the 2019/20 campaign so far. John Hollinger of The Athletic digs into what’s next for Orlando as the team tries to increase its ceiling.
- Wizards guard Jordan McRae, who broke his finger on opening night last month, is anxious to return, as Candace Buckner of The Washington Post relays (Twitter links). “I’d like to play tonight. I think I’m ready,” McRae said. “… I can’t wait six weeks. It’s a finger, I mean, granted, it is broken, but… I feel like I owe it to my team to play through a little pain.”