David West will opt out of the final year of his contract with the New Orleans Hornets and become a free agent, reports Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. West suffered a major knee injury in late March and missed the Hornets' NBA Playoffs series against the L.A. Lakers. But he's on track for recovery, and tells Smith he'll take the plunge and opt out of a guaranteed $7.5 million to become one of the biggest names on the free agent rolls.
West is one of two major free agents for the Hornets, who will also watch Carl Landry, who ably helped paper over West's absence late in the season, become a restricted free agent. New Orleans's decisions on the market will draw extra scrutiny given that the Hornets franchise remains owned by the league, which is to say it is owned by the 29 other NBA franchise owners. There is widespread community interest in keeping the Hornets' books clean in advance of a hopefully profitable sale; long-term contracts could damage value to some degree, especially for older players (West will turn 31 before the season begins) coming off of major surgeries.
Plenty of teams who feel themselves to be on the brink of contention could target West, though the cap situation for all teams is in question given ongoing labor struggles. It seems highly unlikely free agency will begin any time soon, let alone the normal July 1 start date.
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