Mourning, Hornets just a cap away

November 11, 1992|By Leonard Laye and Rick Bonnell | Leonard Laye and Rick Bonnell,Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Hornets and Alonzo Mourning have reached agreement on terms for a multi-year contract, an NBA source close to the negotiations says.

The agreement leaves the Hornets one step shy of ending Mourning's holdout, which has kept him out of training camp, the Hornets' entire preseason schedule and the first three games of the regular season. The team still must reduce its payroll to fit Mourning's first-season money under the NBA's $14 million-per-team salary cap.

Mourning, a 6-foot-10 center from Georgetown who was the No. 2 pick in the college draft last June, could join the Hornets this week if the salary restructuring is complete.

The Hornets have $1.96 million available under their cap. To sign Mourning, they will likely need at least $300,000 to $500,000 more.

Hornets president Spencer Stolpen and David Falk, Mourning's attorney, have been negotiating for months. Hornets owner George Shinn and John Thompson, Mourning's college coach, expanded their roles in the talks last week, bringing the sides closer.

Hornets coach Allan Bristow, speaking before Charlotte's 112-108 victory over the Orlando Magic last night, said he hoped the Hornets wouldn't act hastily.

"I want to make sure the decision [on how to get more room under the salary cap] is made right whether it will be made in one more day or five or seven more days," Bristow said.

Trading center-forward Kenny Gattison is considered the quickest fix. Gattison makes slightly less than $500,000 this season, and several NBA teams consider that a bargain.

But the Hornets director of player personnel, Dave Twardzik, calls trading Gattison "the last option."

Other options include trading a player or renegotiating one or more contracts. The Hornets have discussed trades with other teams.

If the Hornets choose restructuring, they figure to extend guard Dell Curry's contract three years to create as much as $330,000 of room. Curry, forward Johnny Newman and Bristow all denied a USA Today report that Curry and Newman have been approached about restructuring.

A Hornets source said that restructuring Newman's contract isn't a popular choice.

The Hornets already have approached forward Tom Hammonds about moving $200,000 to a partly guaranteed contract extension next season. Hammonds declined that request, saying he wanted two more guaranteed years as compensation.

It's clear the Hornets are leery of adding many more contract extensions to their current obligations. They have already changed four contracts trying to sign Mourning.

In the end, the Hornets' only option in signing Mourning could be to trade Gattison for a draft pick. Bristow would consider that a mixed blessing.

"You don't want to do something that will hurt you in a month or two months from now or a year from now," Bristow said.

Don Coleman, Mourning's Nike marketing representative, was in Charlotte yesterday preparing for Mourning's arrival.

Coleman said he had not been informed that negotiations were complete, but that he was sent here because the outlook was so positive.

Coleman said Mourning is delighted by the breakthrough.

"He's really, really happy," said Coleman. "You can tell by the change in his voice, his emotions, the up-ness and the laughing.

"This has been very frustrating for him. If I could just tell people, he's wanted to be here so bad.

"It's taken a toll on him, but let me tell you, he's ready to go now."

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