Just before the end of this season, New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams predicted they wouldn’t have problems attracting free agents because he said a number of players approached him during games acknowledging their interest. Whether Williams’ prediction turns out correct will be determined over the next 10 days, starting on Monday when the free agency negotiating period begins. The Pelicans are hoping they will be able to entice the free agents they target because of the potential of their emerging roster, a new 55,000 square-foot practice facility at the Saints complex in Metairie and stable ownership with Tom Benson, who is pushing for improvement next season. After making a significant upgrade to their backcourt by acquiring Philadelphia 76ers All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday in a surprising draft night trade on Thursday night, league sources say upgrading the small forward position is the Pelicans’ biggest priority in free agency. ``We want to upgrade the roster,” Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said after this past Thursday’s NBA draft. “They’re (ownership) giving us all of the resources we need to upgrade the roster. That’s what we want to do.’’ At the top of their pursuit list is expected to be New York Knicks small forward Chris Copeland, 6 feet 8, 225 pounds, who will become a restricted free agent on Monday. At $79.9 million, the Knicks’ payroll is over the NBA’s $70.3 million luxury tax threshold. As part of the Knicks’ tax penalty, they can only offer a reduced mid-level exception of $3.1 million as opposed to the $5 million mid-level the Pelicans and other teams under the tax can offer. John Spencer, Copeland’s agent, said by telephone on Friday they would seriously consider an offer from the Pelicans if they make a substantial push to sign him. ``Would he have any interest in playing for the Pelicans?,'' Spencer said. ``I think any basketball player in the right mind would want to play in the NBA. He’s very interested in the situation, but that being said, he’s got to listen to everybody. ``New York gave him his first opportunity. He’s very loyal and he would love to go back to New York. He would like to show the level of appreciation back in Madison Square Garden like they actually showed him.’’ The Pelicans are likely to have plenty of competition for Copeland from the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks and Lakers, who are all expected to make a push to sign him.
Pelicans are expecting to upgrade their small forward in free agency
New Orleans Times-Picayune | Jul 1