Buzz about Mo Pete
The Hornets are poised to make a run at signing Raptors forward
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
The Vince Carter rumours continue to swirl, but it's Morris Peterson who could be on the next train out of Toronto.
The New Orleans Hornets are interested in signing Peterson, a 26-year-old restricted free agent who has spent the past four seasons with the Raptors.
According to sources in the NBA's Western Conference, where the Hornets will be playing next season, New Orleans is close to offering Mo-Pete a two-year contract, possibly with a team option for a third year.
It's not known what kind of money the Hornets are dangling, but surely the proposed pact would be worth considerably more than the qualifying offer of one year at $2.4 million US that the Raptors already have made to Peterson.
That qualifying offer essentially was a bookkeeping move, with the figure and the one-year term being determined by NBA regulations. Because the Raptors made the qualifying offer before the July 1 deadline, Peterson is a restricted free agent rather than an unrestricted free agent.
Thus, the Raptors have the right to match any contract offer Peterson garners on the open market. Plus, regardless of any outside offers, there's nothing stopping the Raptors from negotiating a longer, more lucrative pact with Peterson.
But do the Raptors truly want Peterson back?
And if they do, how much are they willing to pay?
Raptors GM Rob Babcock yesterday said the club wants to keep Peterson. However, Babcock indicated that as of late, he has had only a few casual discussions with Peterson's representatives. In other words, nothing has been going on that could be categorized as serious talks.
Peterson has said his first choice is to stay in Toronto, but he certainly isn't going to pass up millions of dollars for the privilege. And don't forget, where a player's salary ranks in terms of his teammates often is far more important in the ego-driven world of the NBA than actual numbers.
Case in point, the Raptors yesterday held a media conference to announce the signing of point guard Rafer Alston to a six-year contract. The sixth year may not be guaranteed fully, but Alston has cashed in big-time, agreeing to a pact that could be worth about $28 million US.
This opens the door for Peterson's representatives to say, "Hey, Morris is worth more money than Rafer."
Now, you may or may not agree with that assessment, but agents will use whatever tactics they can. The only real question is if the Raptors are willing to shell out any significant cash to keep Peterson in purple.
Meanwhile, the Hornets desperately need a shooting guard or small forward. New Orleans general manager Allan Bristow yesterday said he is "working on some things," but he would not confirm any interest in the 6-foot-7 Peterson specifically.
Peterson's game has plateaued in the past few years, but the same can be said for several Raptors, including Carter.
Actually, Peterson and Carter have many similarities. They're both nice guys with questionable work ethics. They both have auxiliary business interests in Toronto. They both genuinely like the city.
But Carter has become so frustrated with the Raptors that he wants to be dealt, which has led to quiet trade talks and intense speculation about destinations. When asked yesterday about Carter, Babcock said, "I don't go to bed worrying about whether Vince wants to be here or not."
Well, if the Carter situation isn't causing Babcock to lose any sleep, he isn't likely to develop insomnia over Peterson.
Ultimately, the Raptors probably will be forced into a corner. Do they like Peterson as much as the Hornets do?
The Raptors say they don't want to lose Morris Peterson, in theory. But theories don't write cheques.