McRoberts’ agent: Hornets allow him to be ‘the player he can be’

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comJuly 1, 2014 

The Charlotte Hornets “absolutely” expressed their desire to retain power forward Josh McRoberts, according to McRoberts’ agent.

But they aren’t the only team interested in signing the seven-season NBA veteran.

“Quite a few teams have expressed” interest, Mike Conley Sr. said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We haven’t gone into any in-depth discussions yet, but we know how the Hornets want him.”

McRoberts chose to opt out of next season on his contract, becoming an unrestricted free agent at midnight Monday. While the Hornets have drafted two power forwards – Noah Vonleh and Cody Zeller – with top-10 picks in the past two drafts, general manager Rich Cho and coach Steve Clifford both said McRoberts is a priority on this roster.

Shortly after the Hornets selected Vonleh ninth overall Thursday, Clifford texted McRoberts to reinforce that.

“Josh is the starter, coming off a great year,” Clifford said Friday. “We need him back. I made sure he understood that.”

Conley said that message registered.

“He knows they value him. That’s definitely something he values,” Conley said. “(Clifford) allows him to be the player he can be.”

Conley, father of Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, Jr., is more than just McRoberts’ agent. He was McRoberts’ AAU coach on an Indianapolis-based team that included Conley’s son and center Greg Oden.

So Conley appreciates McRoberts’ ballhandling skills – he averaged a career-high 4.3 assists last season – and knows not every NBA team has used McRoberts to his strengths.

In addition to his assists, the 6-foot-10 McRoberts averaged 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds and shot 36 percent from 3-point range. He was scheduled to make about $2.7 million for the 2014-15 season. By hitting free-agency he might double that salary on the open market.

Conley said it was unclear how long it might take for McRoberts to decide where he’ll sign. NBA teams can start signing players July 10, after the annual moratorium period ends.

Notes: The Hornets have hired Portland Trail Blazers director of scouting Chad Buchanan to be their assistant general manager. Buchanan worked with Hornets general manager Rich Cho in Portland...

A story on the grantland.com website says the Hornets lost about $12 million last season, despite a $22 million revenue-sharing payment from the NBA.

Grantland writer Zach Lowe obtained a confidential NBA memo describing league-wide finances for the 2013-14 season. According to that story, the Hornets basketball operation ran at a $34 million loss, which was partially negated by the $22 million revenue-sharing payment – largest the NBA redirected under new rules attached to the collective-bargaining agreement.

Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129; @rick_bonnell

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