FO’ with the FOES: N.O. HORNETS

This Sunday morning edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” — Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponent CP3 and the sliding New Orleans Hornets. 

We really like the 76ers chances of winning this matinee game today.  As we all know the 76ers have won 5 of their last 6 home games and played arguably their best game of the year in their gut wrenching, one-point L to Boston on Thursday night.  So after a horrible start, the Sixers have absolutely been playing much better ball of late. 

On the other hand, after a very hot start, the Hornets are reeling, and have lost 7 of their last 10 (including 3 out of the last 4).  Additionally, the NOH played Friday night and then traveled to Philly, so this odd afternoon start time could benefit a rested Sixers team.  In short, the Sixers are getting the Hornets at a great time and if they play like they did Thursday night the 7-6 should win this game.

However, there is one way the Sixers could lose this game…The NOH love the pick-n-roll game and with an all-world point man like Chris Paul who can blame them.  The Sixers of course have a tough time guarding the pick-n-roll.  As we all know it’s an issue that has plagued this group for a few years now.  So if Philadunkia’s home team allows the NOH to run their pick-n-roll sets all night with little or no resistance, then expect Paul, David West, Emeka Okafor and Marco Belinelli to have big nights and for the Sixers to take a loss.    

For a little more insight into the Celtics team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Michael McNamara @ to answer two questions on the Celtics from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on this Boston squad from an insider’s perspective. 

Philadunkia :  After a ridiculously hot start, the NOH have lost 7 of their last 10. What’s gone wrong?

Michael McNamara @ :  The Hornets were never as good as the 11-1 start indicated and they are not as bad as their last ten games either. In all honesty, the Hornets are somewhere in the middle, a 43-48 win team that was overachieving and catching people off guard to start the season.

For the first twelve games, nobody had New Orleans circled on their schedules, but after all the national attention they got from their 8-0 start, their opponents started to get up for games against the Hornets and they have yet to adjust to being the Hunted as opposed to being the Hunter.

The truth is that when the Hornets are hitting on all cylinders they can beat anyone in the league, but game in and game out there are two players who always show up; David West and Chris Paul. Marco Belinelli has had games where he goes off for 20-25 or shuts down Dwayne Wade and then the next night he will go 0-6 and play average defense. Same goes for guys like Ariza, Okafor, and even Jason Smith (who was a revelation the first 10-12 games until teams got a scouting report).

The Hornets are transitioning from an offensive first team to a defensive first team and there will be bumps in the road. Right now they are able to beat up on the bad teams, but fall short against the quality squads in the league. They want to model themselves after the 90’s Knicks teams or even the 80’s Bad Boys but obviously just don’t have the personnel right now to match the results those teams had.

Philadunkia :  The NBA just purchased your team and you have the ongoing Chris Paul drama. What is your prediction on how all of this plays out for this franchise? What are the fans saying in NO?

 Michael McNamara @ : The easiest thing to say for sure is that there is NO way this team gets sold before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement gets worked out. That is what stalled the deal between the old owner (Shinn) and the perspective new owner (Chouest) in the first place and it is why the NBA stepped in to bridge the gap.

 Basically, any buyer will want to see if the NBA has a new model going forward because the old model simply is not working for owners. The Hornets have been losing money for years and if the new CBA is similar to the current one, most franchises in small markets will suffer.

When the new CBA is finalized, there will be several offers for the Hornets assuming the league crushes the players union, as expected. Some offers will come from New Orleans and some will come from other cities like Seattle, KC, Chicago, and Vegas. The NBA will give New Orleans first dibs and most likely, the right to match any other offer. However there are investors with deep pockets in Seattle and a beautiful arena in KC. At the end of the day it will be hard for a local buyer to match, so it will come down to Stern and the NBA. Do they take slightly less to stay? Will Hornets fans show they can support the team in good times and bad?

The feeling in New Orleans is that the city can support two pro franchises, but Shinn has so poorly run the Hornets that they are kind of apathetic in a lot of ways. Currently the team does not even have a local TV deal that allows fans to see games and the fans are just sick of Shinn’s lies. Perhaps with him gone, the front office will conduct itself with the class needed to win these fans back.


Two Points of Analysis from Michael McNamara @ : 

1) Chris Paul is only shooting the ball ten times per game and Hornets fans are pulling their hair out over it. In the 2007-08 campaign in which CP3 was 2nd in MVP voting and the Hornets won 56 games, Paul took over 16 shots per game and still led the league in assists. That is what Hornets fans are used to, but this is a new era for this team and this era does not center around CP3 as much as the last one did.

Coach Monty Williams has been adamant about keeping Paul to 34-35 minutes per game and does not want to see Paul dominate the ball in the half court offense while others just stand around. Paul is as hard to guard as ever, as efficient as ever, and quite frankly is an elite shooter at this point in his career, but he doesn’t seem to want to just take over games. Instead, he wants to be able to trust his teammates and give them the respect they deserve as professional athletes.

Williams and Paul are giving the rest of the team rope. Right now they are hanging themselves with it, but the hope is that eventually they will pull themselves up. 

2) The Hornets are still extremely active on the trade front and their new deal with the league probably gives them more incentive to add another piece than if Shinn were still running the team. Right now the Hornets have a significant hole at backup center in their lineup (and power forward too in my opinion, but our readers seem to love J Smitty for some reason). They have a 9.7 million dollar TPE, several expiring contracts, and interesting trade chips in Marcus Thornton, Marco Belinelli, and Trevor Ariza that they would be willing to move if a quality wing player or big man became available. 

 The players they have right now can get the Hornets into the first round of the playoffs, but if they were to add another piece and create some buzz, the fans would return and it would show local investors that it is a quality product. In that way, it behooves the NBA to encourage the Hornets to take quality offers if they arise, even at the expense of exceeding the luxury tax.

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