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Tag:Emeka Okafor
Posted on: February 1, 2011 9:12 am
 

Shootaround 2.1.11: Super Host

Posted by Royce Young
  • Serge Ibaka has seen only a handful of minutes the past two games and Scott Brooks attributed focus to being one of the reasons. But he's not in trouble Brooks says. "He's not in the doghouse. It's just, do you want him to guard LeBron James? He can't guard LeBron." Ibaka said: "Everybody in the league has a bad game sometimes. Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the world. He has a couple of bad games, too. But the next day, he's working hard for the next game. That's what I try to do, too. So we'll see."
  • Al Iannazzone of The Record: "The Nets almost had everything they wanted Monday night. Carmelo Anthony was in their building in front of a good-size and loud crowd, and they played inspired basketball. But Anthony left Prudential Center with his team afterward and flew back to Denver. If the Nets really got everything they wanted, Anthony would have driven back to his place in New Jersey. But because so many players were involved in the now dormant trade talks, they probably were happy to see Anthony leave after the Nets’ 115-99 victory in front of 14,039 fans. Yet Anthony said something that could help restart the talks when he was asked what the Nets needed to get his signature on a three-year, $65 million extension."
  • Marvin Williams says he's got no issues with Shawne Williams. "It's all good," Marvin Williams told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution . "I have no hard feelings towards Shawne. What happened, happened. I am sure when we go to New York it will be interesting. But I had no problems with him before the game and I have no problems with him today. Like I said, some things happened throughout the game and I just finally reacted."
  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "I wouldn’t have been shocked if I walked into the locker room on Monday and saw Tyler Hansbrough wearing a muscle t-shirt that had 'I’m Free' written across the front of it. To say Hansbrough won’t miss Jim O’Brien would be an understatement. Hansbrough, like some members in the organization, didn’t care for O’Brien constantly tinkering with his rotation."
Posted on: January 25, 2011 4:50 am
 

Game Changer 1.25.11:

Detroit takes a perimeter attack, CP3 overwhelms with help, and Ruy Gay saves the day, all in today's Game Changer. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  

THE BIG ONE: Detroit wings it to victory



You know? If the Pistons can get past their coach screwing with their rotations, their chemistry, and their play, and somehow manage to rely on the talent they have on this roster? This team ain't bad.  Austin Daye was the real hero here, and the youngster is proving that he's a big part of the Pistions' future. 20 points on 5-9 shooting, including 4-4 from the arc and 7 rebounds for Daye. Tayshaun Prince started at small forward, and added 20 points of his own, along with 6 assists, and Tracy McGrady had 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. That's right. The Pistons got 60 points from three small forwards in this game. Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, and Quentin Richardson combined for 15 points. When you lose a position battle by 45? Dwight Howard's 7 offensive boards aren't going to help much.

The Magic had five players out of their nine-man rotation with at least two turnovers, while the Pistons had just two out of their ten-man. Throw in some hot shooting from outside and the Pistons brought the Heat. Big win for the Pistons who continue to have one of the oddest seasons in memory. And guess what?

At 17-28, they're a game and a half back of the playoffs. Weird. 

THE N'ORLEANS HOMEFRONT: Victory through swarm



Trevor Ariza got busy. Ariza swarmed Kevin Durant down the stretch and it was one terrible shot after another, only this time he wasn't hitting any miracles. The Hornets threw multiple waves of pressure to keep the ball out of Russell Westbrook's hand after he had torched the Hornets time after time in this game, and in the end, it was David West's off-balance pivot jumper that won it for New Orleans. 

The Hornets at once seemed completely out-manned in this one and certifiably in control. Basically, whenever David West, Emeka Okafor, or Chris Paul got involved, they looked like the better squad, and when anyone else got involved it was not so much the case. Marcus Thornton was nice, if you think 10 points on 12 shots is nice, but in reality, none of the Hornets outside the Big 3 mattered much. What was relevant was a long stretch in the second and third quarter when Scott Brooks gave Eric Maynor the reins and watched as Chris Paul sliced him into roast beef. Maynor was simply not in a position to defend the MVP candidate, and it showed. 

A key play down the stretch saw Chris Paul steal the inbounds with the game tied, then come crashing down to the floor holding his ankle. Paul would walk it off, though. David West continues his reliable play and you have to think he and Okafor will determine how far this team goes in the playoffs. Okafor was at times brilliant, and at times extremely vulnerable as the Thunder crashed the glass time after time.  The Thunder held an 8% advantage in percentage of available offensive boards collected. 

Jeff Green had 19 points and wreaked havoc on the Hornets but had no shots in the final 3:16. 


GO-GO-GADGET LINE OF THE NIGHT:



Kevin Love: 24 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists

Runner-Up:  Tyreke Evans: 26 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists

HERO OF THE DAY: RG doin' work








Posted on: January 17, 2011 11:23 am
 

Tyrus Thomas suspended one game for elbow

Posted by Royce Young

Tyrus Thomas of the Charlotte Bobcats has been suspended one game without pay for his Flagrant Foul, Penalty Two against Emeka Okafor of the New Orleans Hornets.

The incident, in which Thomas made elbow contact to Okafor’s head and was ejected following the Flagrant Foul, Penalty Two call, occurred in the fourth quarter of the Bobcats 88-81 loss on Saturday to the Hornets in Charlotte.

Watching the play a few times, it's clear to me that Thomas's elbow was anything but intentional. Not to say Thomas doesn't deserve the Flagranat Two, but Thomas looks to just be clearing a rebound. You're taught that technique at all levels of basketball. Not the swinging your elbow into someone's face part, but you're taught to grab the ball, pull both elbows up and use that to keep people from swiping at the ball. Thomas made the mistake of turning his elbow into a weapon.

Thomas swung slightly, which is bad, but it really looked to me that he didn't know that Okafor was in the area. It kind of looks like -- at least to me -- that Thomas was just turning up court to make an outlet pass when Okafor stuck his face in the path of Thomas' elbow.

My point is, I don't think it was a dirty play by Thomas at all. He immediately walked up to Okafor and apologized and Okafor accepted it. Rules are rules and any time you make contact with an elbow to someone's face like this, the Flagrant Two hammer comes down, meaning an ejection and suspension.

Then again, there could've been intent behind it. That's why even with some gray area, the league is making the right call for a suspension. There's no room for high elbows to faces, even if it was unintentional. It's a dangerous play and swinging an elbow just isn't smart.

Good thing this didn't happen to Chris Bosh or he'd probably be filing a police report right now. Think of his family!

Thomas  will  serve  his  suspension  today  when  the  Bobcats  visit  the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.

Posted on: November 14, 2010 7:35 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2010 8:46 pm
 

10 games in, Heat struggle with identity

Ten games into the Era of the Triad for the Miami Heat, big questions have arisen, even as they show flashes of brilliance.
Posted by Matt Moore






The Heat has played 480 minutes of basketball under the Triad's new era of alleged greatness. And so far? The results have been less than incredible. Miami isn't a bad team. That's important to state right off the bat. It's nearly impossible to be a bad team with the kind of talent they've assembled. But if we're looking at them honestly, game by game, there are significant weaknesses on a team that some thought would compete for 72-10. And they go way further than just "they're getting used to each other."

But to ignore the good is to fall into a very easy trap these days: overreacting to the weaknesses of a team that still has a winning record and has been within range in each of its losses of pulling it out. It's based on an emotional reaction by some to the grandiose approach the Heat gave to announcing their new superteam, most notably Lebron's little television fiasco and the whole "rising from the floor like you're some sort of wrestling superstar" bit. For others? They're simply cashing in on the easy pageviews trashing the Heat garners.

So what have we learned, ten games in? That in terms of X's and O's, this team is superb inside the rotation and weak out (as in great 2-3-4, and weak out, 1 and 5), and mentally they're superb out and weak in.

The Flames On The Floor


Watching the Heat, it's not as if you're left with nothing positive. There's a ton that you look at with this squad and marvel at. Particularly, the fast break with these kinds of athletes. There have been several times in the Heat's first ten games where LeBron James or Dwyane Wade would slip out on the break off the outlet pass, forcing the defense to overreact in abject panic as they sprinted up the floor. As the defense turned concave to guard them from getting in the paint, they gave up the backdoor to the other one sprinting, only realizing what was happening as the alley-oop sailed over their heads. Furthermore, there is not a single team in the league that possesses their kinds of players in isolation. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, man-up? Impossible to guard.

Those elements are why offensively, Synergy Sports has them pegged with shooting 62% in transition, in the top 10 teams in the league in that category, and 42% in isolation, which is in the top half of the league. The latter will almost undoubtedly rise as the season continues and 20% of their games aren't taken up by playing the best isolation defense team in the league in Boston, who constantly sends help.

Then there are the spot-ups. The Heat is the fourth best team in points per possession in spot-ups. You can probably figure out why. With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade driving and kicking to the perimeter, the defense is forced to collapse, and the Heat shooters find themselves wide open. This strategy is brilliant against teams that can't close out and don't have sound defensive principles. But against the good teams in the league, like the four teams the Heat have lost to? It's not working out so well. In wins, the Heat is shooting 45% from the arc. In losses? 31%. That's a huge difference in their games. But this element is greatly impacted by the absence of Mike Miller. Miller will have to be a better shooter than James Jones and Eddie House have been, particularly in the big games. If he's not, James and Wade will have to start taking more shots instead of jump-passing on so many plays that are contested.

But that's an element that's not clearly a disaster. What is a disaster? Their point guard play and interior defense.

Carlos Arroyo is not getting it done. Period. Arroyo is shooting fine, at 49%. His turnover ratio is low, losing the ball on less than 10% of all possessions. But he's averaging 3.3 assists per 40 minutes, 1.8 per game. The only point guard playing 20 minutes a game who's been worse at creating or teammates is... Eddie House. The idea coming into camp and that Erik Spoelstra has turned to is to let LeBron James play point guard. Which seems like a terrific idea, him being the best player in basketball.

But James too often is simply trying to bowl over opponents. Against teams like the Celtics who have the book on him, he's forced either into jump passes that go wild, off-balance leaning layups that carom off front-rim, or charges. He's not creating masterful plays like Magic Johnson. He's just running towards the rim, jumping and then throwing it in a general direction. Playing point means managing the offense, not simply lighting a fuse and hoping the charges blow.

Mario Chalmers is not the answer, that's pretty clear. But it's hard to argue that having a younger, more aggressive point guard would really be a worse option at this point. At least Chalmers will be able to give a full effort versus Arroyo, who seems largely overwhelmed by the task at hand.

Speaking of overwhelmed , how about Chris Bosh? When Bosh was taking calls from teams this summer, there were rumors that he was adamant about not playing center. Those talks simmered after he signed with the Heat, because obviously, he was expected to be the top big man on the team. The problem? This is no longer a big man's league, and even acceptable centers are hard to find. Meanwhile, Bosh looks lost on both sides of the floor. For some reason the Heat isn't using him in pick and roll situations, despite him being perfect for pick and pop scenarios. He's not rebounding, not attacking, and unable to fight like you need your primary big to .

This is nothing new; we knew this about Bosh coming in . But the team is trying to get him to be someone he's not , and in the interim, have no one to take the reins. For whatever reason, the subject of Erik Spoelstra's blame in the Heat's center problems has fallen on Joel Anthony. This despite being no worse than Zydrunas Ilgauskas and more capable of getting up and down the floor. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a pick and pop shooter. That's what he does. And he can do it against teams like the Raptors who don't close out. He cannot do it against teams like the Celtics who do, even with Shaquille O'Neal on the floor.

In wins, the Heat actually does pretty well inside. It's only against teams which challenge them that they struggle. Kevin Garnett, Paul Millsap, Emeka Okafor. These players are getting what they want and it's simply been too easy. Either Joel Anthony or Chris Bosh will have to step up, or the Heat is going to have to find another option at Center.

The Spark

The biggest problem with the Heat, however, has less to do with their ball movement and such. Their defensive numbers have been good, but fallen off against good competition. The problem has been mental. They have lacked the aggression of a team that seeks to go out and dominate. Instead, they seem meek, confused at most times, and uncertain. Their ball movement is tentative, and their offense most times seems most like a group of players trying to convince themselves to make something work they're not really sure of. That will surely improve as they learn the offense more fully. But in the interim, they need fire.

The Celtics smacked the Heat in the face. Twice. Without a home court advantage to speak of , this team of promise is going to have to look inside, to all that anger they talked so much about in regards to the haters. They have to play with passion, with desire, and most importantly, with urgency. When the Hornets came out and blitzed them, they simply went through the motions. When the Jazz stormed back on them, they acted shell-shocked. And when the Celtics blasted them from start to finish, they made their close to finish the game, but lacked the intensity to prevent the gap from being insurmountable, and the drive to finish the job. If the Heat wants to become the team they assembled to be, the team they were promoted to be, the answer is simple. They are going to have to want it more.


Posted on: November 5, 2010 11:10 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2010 1:47 am
 

At the Buzzer: CP3 bests the Miami 3 in Big Easy

Hornets topple Heat as CP3 shines alongside Okafor. Posted by Matt Moore

Chris Paul overcame a furious comeback from the Miami Heat, dishing to a wide-open Trevor Ariza for the game-clinching three-pointer while David West nailed the key free throws to hold on for a 96-93 win in New Orleans to push the Hornets to 6-0.

Notes and miscellanea:

  • First off, the Heat, for reasons beyond comprehension, continue to work with their stars to create wide-open shots for teammates who are not capable of hitting them to the volume they are being asked to. Worse, they continue to force the issue even when said teammates are obviously colder than a polar bear's toenails. James Jones and Eddie House were a combined 2 of 13 from 3-point land, and yet House the shooter they went to, down 3 with seven seconds remaining. Not Wade, Not James. 0-fer Eddie House. 
  • But if the Heat want to really examine why they lost their second game in the first two weeks of the season, they have to examine the two areas everyone pointed to coming in. The Hornets abused them both at the point guard and center positions. Carlos Arroyo tried for about a half to guard Chris Paul before Erik Spoelstra was forced to turn to Wade to defend CP3, who did a much better job. Well, I mean, held him to only 19 assists and 13 points.
  • Meanwhile, Okafor was dominant, with 26 points on 12 of 13 shooting and 13 boards. Best of all, for the first time that I've seen, Okafor really looked to understand the kind of movement he needed to have with CP3. He even had some of those alley-oops Tyson Chandler used to catch back in the Hornets run of 2008. He had the mid-range going, the baby hook, the swing-up fadeaway, the whole repertoire. And by whole repertoire, I mean a lot of shots he's never shown reliably before this year. Devastating inside-out attack.
  • For Ariza to nail the corner three to finish the game was a shock because he didn't look good for much of the game, opting for pull-up threes in transition and other Ariza-shots. But he hit the one he needed to.
  • The Hornets broke out in transition ridiculously fast. With Paul getting 5 steals, they managed to burst out and all the Hornets would rush out. The Heat on the other hand seemed to be trying to glide down court, with little to no intensity. 
  • Jason Smith was huge for the Hornets, as he continuously burned the Heat who let him have the 18 foot jumper.
  • Wade had 28, 10, and 7, but also had 7 turnovers. His matchup with CP3 late was pretty epic.
  • The Heat eventuall switched to a shallow perimeter trap on Paul, which is the best way to go. A high trap he'll split and in space he's killer. Unfortunately, the Hornets switched to a double-screen which freed him to do damage down the stretch.
  • The game nearly came down to a technical foul called on Paul after throwing his fist following an offensive foul. Paul even tried to contain himself afterwards to not get busted, to no avail. The officials are still not kidding about the tech rules. 
  • Chris Bosh had a rebound tonight. A single board. And was useless in the post. He was great from mid-range and on tip-ins, but Bosh is simply not the kind of low-post big you'd want him to be.
  • The Heat defense, which had been so good, gave up a 107.9 efficiency rating, and 49% field goal percentage. That's not going to get it done.
  • Conversely, it may be time to start accepting that the Hornets are for real. The trifecta of firepower they brought in (Paul-West-Okafor) is firing on all cylinders, their shooters are hitting from the outside, and true to Monty Williams' word, they're out and running in transition. It's still early, but the Hornets very much look for real.

Finally, these images from our GameTracker pretty much put it in perspective.








Note the numbers, for Okafor. That big square down in the paint? That stands for 9 shots, 8 makes. Manly.

Posted on: October 13, 2010 2:49 pm
 

D.J. Mbenga to NOLA?

Posted by Royce Young

I'm not entirely sure this is what Chris Paul had in mind when he asked the Hornets to do some damage in free agency.

According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, former two-time champion D.J. Mbenga is in New Orleans today working out for the Hornets. Things are expected to go well and Stein says the two sides are close to a one-year agreement.

Mbenga hasn't been much more than an end-of-the-bench practice player in his six NBA seasons. The most minutes he's played a game in a season was 7.9 in 2008-09 with the Lakers.

Reports have had Mbenga close to signing in a number of other places including Portland, Indiana and back with the Lakers among a few others. So I'm not believing this one until I see it. 

But here's the thing: The Hornets could definitely use him. Inside, New Orleans has Emeka Okafor and David West starting. No issues there. But behind them, it's Aaron Gray and newly acquired Jason Smith. So yeah, maybe Mbenga doesn't seem like such a minor signing now. The Hornets are thin on the inside and while Mbenga isn't going to blow anyone away, he may be close to inking with a team he might actually see minutes for.

Last season, Mbenga appeared in just 49 games and averaged 2.1 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. At 29, he probably doesn't really have a ceiling to reach towards, other than maybe getting legitimate minutes to prove what he can really do. If he does latch on with the Hornets and cracks the rotation - which he should do - then maybe Mbenga can actually make a small impact. I mean, he does have two championship rings you know.
Posted on: September 20, 2010 4:14 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2010 4:15 pm
 

Preseason Primers: Hornets

Posted by Royce Young

Time to give the hardwood a good waxing and to put some air in the roundball. Training camp is seriously just days away. Ken Berger has already kicked the priming off looking at Boston and San Antonio's training camp issues . And so let's start over here with a team with a disgruntled star that had people talking about where he could go before Carmelo Anthony took over - the New Orleans Hornets.

New Orleans Hornets


Training camp site: New Orleans, LA

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Trevor Ariza (trade), Marco Belinelli (trade), Craig Brackins (draft), Quincy Pondexter (draft), Mustafa Shakur (free agent)

Key subtractions: Darren Collison (trade), James Posey (trade)

Likely starting lineup: Chris Paul, PG; Marcus Thornton, SG; Trevor Ariza, SF; David West, PF; Emeka Okafor, C

Player to watch:   Chris Paul. Coming off an injury that caused him to miss the last 37 games of the season, some wonder if Paul will be the same player. Add in the turbulent offseason with rumors about his New Orleans future and all eyes are on CP3 as he heads to camp. Marcus Thornton is maybe the most intriguing player on the roster because of his potential to break out as a big time scorer, but the Hornets are Chris Paul's team and therefore, he's the one to be watching.

Chemistry check: Though Chris Paul tried to sooth some of the chemistry questions kicked up by him this summer by reportedly asking out of New Orleans, it's still something that's likely to linger over the team. Since it appears that Paul is kind of running the team with Dell Demps catering to Paul's wishes and desires, how does that make the rest of the squad feel?

Obviously CP3 is the leader. Obviously, he's the star. But how does all of that fit in with the rest of the group? Plus, Paul has a new running buddy in Trevor Ariza, a player that shoots first and asks questions later. How does Paul integrate his game with Ariza's trigger happy approach? Luckily for the Hornets, Monty Williams is a good man to have in charge of these issues and someone that can likely solve any kind of chemistry uptick.

Camp battles: One key area is up for discussion going into camp for the Hornets: Who's Chris Paul's new backup point guard? After trading Darren Collison as part of the Ariza deal, the Hornets signed D-Leaguer Mustafa Shakur in the offseason and have recently inked D.J. Strawberry to come to camp and compete for the job. It's the type of position battle that's not overly important because if all goes well, whoever wins the job will only get 8-10 minutes a night. But if something goes wrong like it did last season, it could become a very important spot for the Hornets.

At shooting guard, Marcus Thornton is almost assured of having the starting job, but Marco Belinelli could potentially push him a bit.

Long shots: Strawberry isn't necessarily a long shot, but the job is Shakur's to lose. The Hornets also are bringing in D-League journeyman Daryl Watkins who has spent time with the Kings, Spurs and Clippers. He's a big guy that has somewhat of a chance because of the thin Hornet front line, but it's not likely he makes the team.

Biggest strength: The starting five. Not to pull a Rodney Stuckey here, but on paper, NOLA has a pretty nice first first. Paul, Thornton, Ariza, David West and Emeka Okafor. That five should be able to match up with most, assuming Thornton continues his rise as a prolific scorer. West is a former All-Star, Okafor should have a full run with Paul and is a quality rim-protector and Ariza can score and is a capable lockdown defender.

Glaring weakness:   Depth. As is the case with a lot of teams with good front line talent, there's just not much waiting in reserve. The Hornets traded James Posey and Collison to get Ariza, which definitely hurt their depth. Add in the fact that they might have a D-Leaguer backing up CP3, Darius Songaila spelling West and Aaron Gray as their backup center, and you've got a team with issues on the bench. If rookies Quincy Pondexter and Craig Brackins can step up, those issues can be resolved but as of right now, it's a major question.
Posted on: September 7, 2010 12:49 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2010 12:51 pm
 

Hornets aren't done pleasing CP3 yet

Posted by Royce Young

It's pretty obvious that the Hornets' offseason moves this summer were done for a pretty specific reason - to keep Chris Paul happy. The acquisition of swingman Trevor Ariza and then a deal to bring in shooting guard Marco Belinelli were both accomplished after reports of Paul's unhappiness surfaced.

And according to head coach Monty Williams, the Hornets might not be finished competing for CP3's heart.

“My gut feeling is that we are not done yet," Williams told the Times-Picayune. ”Dell and I share information on both sides. I talk to him about players and he talks to me about things we can do. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why we work so well together."

Granted, a lot of people pull the "We're not done yet!" card. Everyone is looking to improve if the opportunity presents itself. But the Hornets will actually be called on it if they're bluffing.

Some have mentioned New Orleans being a destination for Carmelo Anthony, though it's unlikely. I'm teaming with Chris Paul is intriguing, but it's not the market he wants and the Hornets probably don't have the assets to complete a trade with the Nuggets.

And while Williams talks about more players, the reality is the current Hornets roster might just be good enough for a playoff birth if everyone starts playing to their capability. Already in place is the best point guard in the league, plus a rising scorer in Marcus Thornton, then the addition of a quality defender and scorer Trevor Ariza. Add in David West who is an all-star caliber power forward and then center Emeka Okafor who has underachieved and that's a nice starting five.

Obviously a higher caliber scorer would be on the wish list, but as it stands, there's not really a clear cut hole in the first five. Okafor has been a disappointment for the most part, but he's definitely a capable player. Plus, he didn't have the luxury of playing with Chris Paul for the entire season. Do the Hornets need to make a few more moves? Of course. They need a new backup for Paul, a reliable bench scorer and a couple secondary big men. They aren't good enough right now to be a real contender. But are they that far off? Surprisingly, probably not.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com