Hornets head of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak had talked for the better part of the year about not planning to make a splash in free agency. So it came as a bit of a surprise when Charlotte completed the biggest unrestricted free agent contract of the 2020 offseason, signing Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $120MM contract.
Addressing that disconnect during his Tuesday session with reporters, Kupchak explained that he simply wasn’t expecting a player like Hayward to be available this fall.
“I did not think that we would be in a position to pursue a free agent of Gordon’s caliber,” Kupchak said, per Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.
As for whether Hayward’s injury history made the Hornets nervous about making such a significant investment in the 30-year-old forward, Kupchak downplayed any concerns the team might have had, as Bonnell writes.
“He passed our physical with flying colors,” he said. “He’s a good age for an NBA player and keeps himself in great shape … There’s no reason to believe, knock on wood, that he won’t be healthy here the next four years.”
Here’s more on the Hornets:
- Speaking today to reporters about his decision to join the Hornets, Hayward said the team’s interest in him back in 2014 was a factor in choosing Charlotte, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. He also sounded excited about taking on a bigger role than he had in Boston, as the leader of a young Hornets roster. “The think I like to do most is play-make and create for others,” he said. “Obviously in my career, I’ve done the scoring thing as well. I’m versatile. I can just help us try to impact our time with winning as much as possible. The pieces are there in place. Sometimes with a young team you just need to get over that initial hump to get to that next level. I’m excited about that opportunity and that challenge.”
- Asked today about waiving and stretching Nicolas Batum and his $27MM+ expiring contract, Kupchak explained that it would have cost the Hornets multiple draft picks to dump Batum’s salary in a trade. The team may also have had to take back another (smaller) veteran contract in the deal, Kupchak added (Twitter link via Bonnell).
- The four-year contract that No. 32 overall pick Vernon Carey Jr. signed with the Hornets will have a first-year salary of $1.35MM, followed by minimum salaries in years two through four, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The final year will be a team option, but it sounds like the first three will be guaranteed.