The waiting game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Norris Cole marched into its second month, but it appears talks may be finally starting to heat up.
According to a report from Fox Sports on Tuesday afternoon, Cole has garnered significant interest from the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers. However, since New Orleans extended Cole a qualifying offer, it will have the opportunity to match any contract the Pelicans’ backup point guard is offered.
If Cole fails to come to an agreement with another team, he can sign the qualifying offer, which keeps him in New Orleans on a $3 million, one-year contract.
Neither Philadelphia nor New York are considered prime landing spots for Cole.
The Knicks are squeezed financially since they’re over the salary cap, unable to pay Cole more than $1 million for the upcoming season (the veteran minimum), and can only rise 4.5 percent from there, even if a long-term deal is offered.
Meanwhile, the 76ers have an abundance of cap room as they slog into the third year of a rebuilding plan, but already have a litany of guards on the roster and are unlikely to compete for the playoffs this season.
Cole has never missed the playoffs in his first four NBA seasons, reaching the NBA Finals in three consecutive seasons with the Miami Heat to begin his career, before helping spur the Pelicans to the No. 8 seed last season.
New Orleans went 18-11 after trading for Cole as part of a three-team deal at the deadline, and Pelicans players Anthony Davis, Quincy Pondexter and Eric Gordon have all said they’d like him to return for the upcoming season.
General manager Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry have also repeatedly harped on the benefits of roster continuity, and backed those words up by retaining four unrestricted free agents (Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinica, Dante Cunningham and Luke Babbitt) this offseason.
“We definitely hope he comes back because he was a huge spark for us,” Davis said. “He did a wonderful job for us in the playoffs. When we brought him in with Dante (Cunningham) and Quincy (Pondexter), we definitely went to another level defensively.
“He brought a lot to the table for us.”