The news sent shockwaves throughout the NBA.
Miles Bridges used to be arrested in Los Angeles hours prior to what should have been one of the greatest periods of his 24-year life. Words from CEO Mitch Kupchak expressing how much the Charlotte Hornets love Bridges were still doing the rounds, sparking a social media storm that was part sun, part monsoon.
Keyboard detectives were looking for any clue about Bridges’ future, assuming he was already out of town. Kupchak once again assured the people that Bridges remained a priority† Bridges’ return seemed inevitable.
It was all unraveled hours later. Bridges turned himself in to police on Wednesday after a warrant was issued against him for a reported felony of domestic violence. The woman’s identity was not released in the police report, but in an Instagram post posted late Thursday night, Mychelle Johnson, the mother of Bridges’ two children, indicated she had been the victim of abuse and posted different photos.
Many people are still in fact-finding mode as Bridges prepares for a July 20 court date to face the serious charges, and basketball is not on everyone’s mind due to the situation. But the business world is waiting for no one, and certainly not the rest of the league, given the flurry of transactions that have taken place since 6 p.m. Thursday, when teams were officially able to negotiate deals with free agents.
As a restricted free agent, Bridges is not under contract, but the Hornets are still essentially determining his fate. There are three possible outcomes that could unfold in the coming days as more information emerges about what led to Bridges’ arrest.
Here are the scenarios:
Bridges gets multi-year contract
What felt like a given at the start of the week, whether it was with the Hornets or elsewhere, is now arguably Bridges’ longest shot. Making a deal north of the $60 million four-year deal he turned down in the fall before the season started seems unlikely for a number of reasons.
The legal case he faces will force a team’s key decision-makers to talk deeply about the potential ramifications for the future. Guaranteeing more than a full season without knowing what will happen if the case goes through the legal system could be seen as a risk, despite Bridges’ talents, which saw him become the Hornets’ top scorer in his fourth season, and a public resistance.
In addition, there is also the possibility of a substantial suspension.
Years ago, the Hornets were in a similar situation to Jeff Taylor. Selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, Taylor received a 24 game suspension in 2014 after pleading guilty to a Michigan domestic abuse charge.
When announcing the suspension, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made the reason for the length perfectly clear.
“It is fitting in light of Mr Taylor’s conduct,” he wrote, “the need to deter similar behavior in the future and the evolving social consensus – with which we fully agree – that professional sports leagues such as the NBA should respond to such incidents in a more rigorous manner.”
Those words will not be taken lightly by the competition in the next instance.
Taylor played in 29 games the following season, starting in 13. The Hornets did not offer him a qualifying offer and he became an unrestricted free agent. He never played another minute in the NBA and spent five seasons in Europe with Real Madrid, a Spanish professional basketball team.
Bridges signs his qualifying offer
In order to maintain their leverage in negotiations and have the ability to match any offer Bridges might receive in the open market from another team, the Hornets implemented the move instituted years ago by the NBA to allow small-sized teams. market to retain their best young players after four seasons of service.
By extending a qualifying bid — in Bridges’s case, it was $7.9 million — the Hornets kept themselves in the game in case he got a better deal elsewhere. If that happened, the Hornets would have had two days to match it when the moratorium expires Wednesday to secure Bridges for likely four more seasons.
Usually the qualifying offer is just a formality leading to a larger multi-year contract. But in Bridges’ case, now could be his best chance to stay in the league. If he signs it, he will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and can agree to terms with any team.
Hornets sever ties with Bridges
The Hornets could also pull the qualifier offer completely off the table. That would untie Bridges, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Such a move would mean his expulsion from the team and put his career in further uncertainty, months away from his best season since joining the competition in 2018. But it is a serious possibility.