After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, New Orleans forward David West has been lost for the rest of the season and will face six months of rehabiliation, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Friday.
The season-ending injury is a crushing blow to the Hornets, who are clinging to the seventh seed in the Western Conference. Memphis trails the Hornets by one game, and Houston is three back now.
After dunking the ball for his 29th point on Thursday, West buckled to the floor and had to be carried off the court. After averaging nearly 19 points and 7.6 rebounds a game, the Hornets' frontline will struggle immensely to overcome the loss of West.
It’s possible West, who has until June 30 to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, has played his final game for the Hornets. He turned down an offer for a contract extension earlier this season, and had hoped to make as much as $10 million a year in a new deal. West had planned to exercise the opt-out clause on the $7.5 million owed him 2011-’12, but it’s too early to tell if the severity of the injury could cause him to re-think going onto the market coming off a knee injury.
League executives believe that is unlikely that West would opt out of the $7.5 million on his contract for 2011-12. Sources close to West say it's too soon to know how the injury will affect the possibility of the opt-out, but one Eastern Conference executive told Yahoo! Sports, "He's got the double whammy of the injury, and the uncertainty of a new CBA that could lower the salary cap. I would think he just stays put in New Orleans another year, rehabs the knee and comes back there."
And with the possibility of a long lockout, it's possible that West could be fully rehabiliated by the start of a delayed training camp.
West hadn’t closed the door on returning to the Hornets, who drafted him in 2003, but it’s been unclear how far the franchise would go to meet his demands. Several teams with cap space in 2011, including Indiana and New Jersey, have an interest in signing West.
West, 31, was expected to be one of the premier free agents on the market this offseason.