Hornets begin contract talks with Thibodeau

The New Orleans Hornets have begun contract discussions with the representatives of Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Hornets general manager Jeff Bower has exchanged proposals with Creative Artists Agency, which represents Thibodeau, on parameters of a possible deal. Sources say Thibodeau still plans to meet with New Jersey Nets GM Rod Thorn about his coaching vacancy sometime before the start of the NBA Finals on Thursday.

It’s unclear how close the Hornets and Thibodeau are on a possible agreement, but one thing seemed certain: Thibodeau still wants to stay in play for openings with the Nets and Chicago Bulls, and that could become a slippery slope for his candidacy in New Orleans.

Though Bower is eager to work out an agreement with Thibodeau, league sources believe the Hornets GM will quickly turn his courtship toward Portland Trail Blazers assistant Monty Williams should it seem Thibodeau is hedging in order to leverage New Orleans against the other jobs.

It’s possible Thibodeau could discuss the Bulls’ coaching vacancy before the Finals, too. He’s high on Chicago’s list, but league sources believe team officials are moving slowly on filling the job and may keep the position open all the way into the July free-agent market. Thibodeau has told confidants the Bulls job is his No. 1 choice.

Perhaps, it was no coincidence when Thibodeau recently signed with CAA, the agency that represents free agents LeBron James(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes). CAA holds a hammer over several franchises in summer free agency, especially Chicago.

Nonetheless, Thibodeau’s hesitancy to come to contract terms with New Orleans could be a risky move. After all these years of pining for a head job, he runs the risk of getting shut out yet again. After falling short as a head-coaching candidate for several years, Thibodeau’s standing in the league has never been higher with Boston’s second run to the Finals in three years.

Bower is sold on Thibodeau’s preparedness, work ethic and acumen on the defensive end, and sources familiar with his thinking believe it’s been a close call with the fast-rising Williams.

Within the organization, there are some who prefer Williams over Thibodeau, including All-Star point guard Chris Paul(notes). Sources insist Paul isn’t anti-Thibodeau, but has been more enthusiastic about Williams’ candidacy.