- Associated Press - Monday, June 27, 2011

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Hornets leading scorer David West has decided to test free agency.

West, a two-time All-Star who was drafted by New Orleans in 2003, started 70 games last season, averaging 18.9 points to go with 7.6 rebounds before tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament during a game on March 24.

He had an option to extend his contract for one more season at $7.5 million, but after mulling his options with his agent, Lance Young, he informed the Hornets he would not exercise the option and made the decision official Monday.

West had surgery April 12 and his rehabilitation is expected to take six to eight months.

Hornets general manager Dell Demps has said he would still try to re-sign West if he opted out.

West’s decision means the Hornets must find a starting power forward through free agency, whether that means bringing back West with a new deal, re-signing fellow free agent Carl Landry, or finding someone else.

New Orleans was not able to add to its roster during the draft. Because of past trades, the Hornets did not have a first-round draft pick and only one pick in the middle of the second round, which they sold to the New York Knicks for about $750,000.

After West went down last season, Landry, who had been acquired in a trade that sent Marcus Thornton to Sacramento in February, moved into West’s starting power forward spot. The Hornets won five of their last 10 regular season games to finish at 46-36, good enough for the seventh playoff seed in the Western Conference. Landry averaged 14.9 points during those final 10 games, then averaged 15.8 points in the Hornets’ first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, which New Orleans lost in six games.

If Landry also chooses to go elsewhere, that would leave the Hornets thin at power forward.

New Orleans currently has only five players under contract: guards Chris Paul and Jarrett Jack; center Emeka Okafor, small forward Trevor Ariza and second-year swingman Quincy Pondexter. Center Aaron Gray could exercise a player’s option for one more season at the end of the month. Shooting guard Marco Belinelli and forward Jason Smith are both restricted free agents and might return as well.

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