Tag:Chris Paul
Posted on: December 22, 2008 1:00 am
 

New Orleans Hornets Week 8 Review

Right now it's good to be a Hornets fan. Chris Paul is setting all time records, the team has won 11 of its last 13 games, and they have a tough stretch coming up that us Hornets fans are as excited about as any games since the beginning of the season. The Hornets had two good games at Memphis and at home against Sacramento (avenging an earlier loss to the Kings this season in New Orleans) and the week was highlighted with a humongous 4th quarter against the, then, red hot San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night. It was a week that left a lot to be excited about in the Big Easy and also reason for optimism after a frustratingly inconsistent start for the team.

The week began at Memphis with the Hornets overcoming a testy and confrontational Grizzlies squad to set up the big showdown Wednesday night at home against the Spurs. The sting of a seventh game loss still affects me to this day and in no way does this loss erase that unsettling conclusion that your team's run at a championship is officially on ice. But seeing Matt Bonner and Michael Finley miss all those open shots and watching David West nail two different three point daggers sure did make me happy for one night.

But even though West played the role of a hero of sorts in Wednesday's game, his play needs to come into question. Last season, West became so consistently deadly from mid range that he's relied too much on that shot this year. Some games I'll see him roaming around the top of the key instead of doing his job as the only inside scoring presence that the Hornets have. That mid range jump shot should be an asset not a reliance. He leads the team in scoring and his play is so critical to the organization that the Hornets simply can't rely on him shooting 40% for the week. He needs to be more effecient for this team to reach that ultimate goal of a championship.

Morris Peterson came back in a big way Saturday night against the Kings. His 10 points were all critical baskets and I still believe his play is going to be critical for this team down the stretch. I'd like to see him play his way back into the rotation. I love what Devin Brown brings to the team, but with Peja Stojakovic out I'd much rather have Rasual Butler and Peterson starting and have Devin Brown play off of the bench. Speaking of Peja's injury, how on Earth did that happen? He went from hitting a crucial three point dagger against Memphis to surprisingly missing the game against San Antonio and then missing the game against the Kings as well. His injury was extremely surprising and for a majority of that Spurs game his presence was definitely missed. Even if he struggles at the three point line, you know he's a threat and people were playing off of Devin Brown on the perimeter. The Hornets need Peja in order to succeed.

What's happened to Melvin Ely? Is Sean Marks really that better of an option than Ely is? Marks has never contributed consistently on a team and he looks lost out there at times. Ely is every bit as effecient offensively as Marks is and I don't see the point of having Marks getting the big minutes. He even logged more minutes than Hilton Armstrong the game against the Kings. I'm not one to question Byron Scott, but I just don't get it.

The Hornets have an extremely tough week on the brink, with games at home against the Lakers, at the Magic on Christmas Day and against the Rockets at home on Friday night. That three game in four day stretch will end on Sunday at Indiana against a Pacers team that has shown it can beat the top teams in the league. It's a challenging upcoming week for the Hornets, but it's a week that should be fun to watch. Until next week.

Posted on: December 15, 2008 1:43 am
 

New Orleans Hornets Week 7 Review

Alright, alright, alright people here it comes: I was wrong. But I was right in my wrongness. Before the season started I stated that Mike James would have to be a productive player and have to be the backup shooting guard for the Hornets as a result of his contract and the team's lack of depth behind Chris Paul at the position. I stated that the loss of Jannero Pargo was going to cripple the Hornets coming into the season (and said it before everyone else has now noticed it) but stated that James could put up Pargo numbers with Pargo's minutes. That's probably true for James over in Washington but he's not going to put those numbers up in New Orleans. Wednesday's trade for Antonio Daniels and a conditional 2nd round draft pick left Mike James in Washington and give the Hornets the backup point guard they need to be taken with a bit of legitimacy. Devin Brown has been servicable at the backup point guard position but it's clear he's playing out of position at that spot. Now that he's going to move back to his more natural 2 position, it looks as if he's played his way into the rotation: sending Morris Peterson and Julian Wright further down the bench.

Rasual Butler, an afterthought entering the season for most Hornets fans, has taken the starting job through Peterson's injury and has done the most with it this season, playing his way out of Byron Scott's doghouse and giving the Hornets an additional three point threat in the starting lineup. Wednesday's game against the Bobcats was a breeze for the Hornets. The only criticism that should be given to the team for that game would be on those awful New Orleans Buccaneers throwback jerseys. Please no more of those. But seeing as how the Hornets have lost to the Bobcats this season, it was nice to see them stare the opposition in the eye, know they were better than them and soundly show that they were better.

Friday night's game at Boston was encouraging despite the 94-82 loss. Moral losses aren't much for a team hoping to win a championship this season, but playing that way without Tyson Chandler proved that the team has a lot of heart and a lot of grit. But when you play a team as sound defensively as the Celtics are and you watch players consistently kill you on the offensive boards, you know that Chandler is missed. But let's be honest: Chandler's been missed all season. This new injury (a stiff neck) can join his ankle injury and back stiffness this season and continues to trouble the Hornets starting center. Something has not seemed right and you can only hope it's not serious and that he can still come back and be the player he was last season for the Hornets. Hilton Armstrong has stepped in strongly in his absence but his knack for picking up fouls has left Sean Marks playing double digit minutes the past few games. Nothing against Marks, I'd just rather him be a guy like Ryan Bowen, who comes in in garbage time and is a fun locker room presence. I don't like him taking Melvin Ely's minutes because Ely is more of an inside scorer, which is what you'd idealy want on the Hornets since players like David West tend to stay around the perimeter too much. But Ely has to earn his minutes and apparently Marks has earned them.

Speaking of David West, he saved himself from a lashing from yours truly with a strong performance today at Toronto. His shooting percentage this year is solid right around 50 percent but what was a great tool for him last season has turned into something he depends on this year. He's a great mid range jump shooter but you'd like to see him take it down to the low block a little bit more and use his agility and size to his advantage. The way he played against Chris Bosh today was very admirable and furthers the notion that the Hornets can win with him as the number two scorer.

James Posey has been great this week as well and especially today at Toronto, knocking down six three pointers in the win over the Raptors. He still has yet to get into a groove (in my eyes) but I think with time he'll be able to easily gain confidence in the rotation and be able to effortlessly contribute on a nightly, routine basis.

The Hornets continue their little road swing at Memphis on Tuesday before coming home to face the red hot Spurs on national television Wednesday night before hoping to exact revenge on the Kings Saturday night in New Orleans. Wednesday night's game will be huge for the Hornets as they don't want to develop habits of coming up short against the better teams (such as Friday's game at Boston). But they can't overlook a solid and streaking Grizzlies team on Tuesday. But the way they've been playing lately, Byron Scott seems to have this team's attention. And as we've seen in a league where five coaches have been fired already this season, having the attention of your team is a fantastic thing. Until next week.

Posted on: December 10, 2008 2:42 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2008 4:10 pm
 

New Orleans Hornets Land Antonio Daniels In Trade

It's a dream scenario here in Hornets land as they basically give up Mike James for Antonio Daniels in a three way deal.  Also involved in the deal are Javaris Crittenton joining Mike James in Washington with the Wizards, and the Grizzlies are receiving a first round draft pick that they originally gave to the Wizards in the Juan Carlos Navarro deal back in 2007.  The Hornets also land a conditional 2nd round draft pick from the Grizzlies. 

This is a fantastic move for the Hornets.  Antonio Daniels will be a solid backup to Chris Paul and while he's never been potent on offense, his defense and championship experience off of the bench will be a perfect balance for the offensive prowress that Chris Paul provides.  Along with James Posey, Devin Brown, Melvin Ely and Sean Marks he joins a bench that now boasts four players with championship rings (although Daniels and Posey are the only ones to play prominent roles in those championship runs while Brown was a nice contributor to the Spurs' 2005 run).  Antonio Daniels is going to be a great addition and unloading Mike James also does wonders for the team's salary cap: Daniels' contract should go up in the next year or two.

All in all, an under the radar tinker with the roster but altogether a great addition by the Hornets.

Posted on: December 8, 2008 1:25 am
Edited on: December 9, 2008 3:03 pm
 

New Orleans Hornets Week 6 Review

Another solid week here in Hornets land as the Big Easy Bugs took a short week and made the most out of both of their favorable games. It's always nice to be able to relax and look back at a couple of games and see nothing but positive come from them. In many cases, people would look at an easy week and blow it off as fool's gold but in the Hornets' case, it's a blessing in disguise as the team was in dire need of regaining their identity and getting a continuity with one another that's seemed lost this season. So in many cases, two home games against a Phoenix team without Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal followed by a home game against the Grizzlies could be overlooked, but coach Byron Scott did the right thing and kept this team motivated and is starting to get them into a nice little groove once again.

One performance this week that was remniscent of last season was that of Peja Stojakovic. After speaking of his importance last week, he put in two very good games this week. Stojakovic averaged 22 points and shot 63 percent from three point land (10 for 16) this week and looked every bit as good as he did last season. Chris Paul tallied his 14th double double of the season already (in only 17 games) and gets closer to Alvin Robertson's consecutive games with a steal streak.

Tyson Chandler looked good against the Suns and honestly he always does. He put up 14 points and 9 rebounds against Phoenix on Wednesday night in what's looked like his best outing all season. He looked fresh and played with intensity on both sides of the ball. But then again, maybe that's just against Phoenix (in 3 games against the Suns last season Chandler averaged 15 points and 14.7 rebounds) because he put up a lackluster performance against an extremely small Memphis team.

Not much to speak of from the bench this week and all in all, it was a quiet, yet encouraging, week from the Hornets. Next week brings a home game against the Bobcats, a game that the Hornets should look at as a revenge game for their earlier loss at Charlotte this season and then they travel to Boston for a nationally televised game with the defending champions Friday night. They then finish the week at Toronto on Sunday and all in all, it looks like a tough week ahead for the Hornets but for another week, I'm able to rest easy as far as the Hornets are concerned.

Posted on: December 1, 2008 4:02 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:26 am
 

NBA Power Rankings Through November 30, 2008

1. Los Angeles Lakers (1) - They've been number one all season long, and even though a part of me really wants to move them behind Boston, I simply can't.  They've been winning, they've been winning consistently and they've been winning with a new player stepping up every night (ironically, the same can be said about Boston).  They, though, have been great since the start of the season and I can't move them behind Boston.  Not yet.

2. Boston Celtics (2) - Kevin Garnett is having probably his quitest season.  Paul Pierce has been wildly inconsistent and Ray Allen's been a steady version of last year's diminished Ray Allen, yet this team continues to win.  Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo, the two unheralded starters, are giving this team quality starts and they compliment what the big three do so well.  Perkins' game has really improved this season.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (3) - I hear people asking "who have they beat", well they've only lost 3 times this season-all on the road.  A mark of a good team is winning games that you're supposed to win and that's what the Cavaliers are doing.  Charles Barkley is right in saying that LeBron James needs to shut it and start diverting all of his attention to the game and to his team, but a part of me believes that LeBron is more infatuated with the money and stardom than he is actual results on the court, which is why he'll always be a notch behind Kobe Bryant.

4. Denver Nuggets (4) - Even though they had a dissapointing loss at home to New Orleans on Thursday, this team continues to chug along with Chauncey Billups in the lineup.  This past week J.R. Smith really heated up and if he regains the form he had for much of last season then this team can only get better.  Chris Andersen coming back helps, but he can't be a savior for this frontcourt.

5. Orlando Magic (6) - Rashard Lewis is starting to play really good ball (even if you would like to see better rebounding numbers out of someone his size) and Dwight Howard is improving on his free throw shooting.  Losing Mickael Pietrus for three weeks will hurt but this team continues to do what they did last year, quietly win ball games.

6. Portland Trail Blazers (9) - I got some criticism putting them as high as I have the past couple of weeks but they proved me right this week.  Brandon Roy is one of the hottest players in the league and they're getting great production out of players like Travis Outlaw and Joel Przybilla.  They're deep and they're talented.

7. Houston Rockets (5) - They get Shane Battier back and now Tracy McGrady is having problems with his knee (he's looked dinged up all season, what with his shoulder and whatnot).  They are still winning, though, and they're doing it without any of their players playing consistently great ball.  Luther Head has stepped up the past couple of games, but Adelman's system allows this team to make up for whoever is struggling on that given night.  That's the sign of a good team.

8. Utah Jazz (8) - They had a bad loss to New Jersey but Deron Williams is slowly regaining some of the form he showed last season.  It's slow, but steady, progress.  Meanwhile, Paul Millsap has been outstanding in Carlos Boozer's absence and you have to believe he's going to see an amazing increase in minutes even when Boozer comes back.

9. Atlanta Hawks (10) - They're getting better play out of Mike Bibby (which is good because teams are starting to double Joe Johnson consistently) and they're surprisingly getting great contribution from Maurice Evans lately.  This team just continues to stay around.

10. Phoenix Suns (7) - I've had this team high all season but the intensity and execution they showed the first couple of games has worn off and the honeymoon period has already ended in Phoenix.  Amare Stoudemire is now complaining about coach Terry Porter's system and the team is searching for an identity all over again.  A tailspin may be in this team's future.

11. Detroit Pistons (11) - Allen Iverson is already missing practice and Rasheed Wallace continues to jack up three pointers.  Michael Curry was supposed to bring needed change in attitudes in Detroit but the players and player styles and attitudes continue to hold this talented team back.  They should be in better shape than they currently in.

12. New Orleans Hornets (12) - A good win at Denver and a quiet four game winning streak have gotten the Hornets back on track, but they still need some consistent ball out of anyone not named Chris Paul.

13. San Antonio Spurs (19) - Despite the loss to Houston, this team is above .500, they're getting good production out of their young players, and both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are back.  Those pesky Spurs just never go away.

14. New Jersey Nets (17) - People said I had them too high last week, I probably have them too high this week, but they're playing tremendous basketball.  Devin Harris has played tremendous basketball so far this season and he and Vince Carter have consistently been there every night.  They're supporting cast is hit and miss but they're getting a different person to contribute each and every night.

15. New York Knicks (14) - They need to get this Stephon Marbury situation over and done with, because it's clouding what's been a good season so far for the Knicks.  David Lee has played great and Tim Thomas has been lights out since coming over from Clipper land.  His best season came with D'Antoni in Phoenix, though, and his increase in production doesn't surprise me, and it won't surprise me when his production dips.

16. Dallas Mavericks (18) - There's not a hotter player in the NBA, currently, than Jason Terry and he's keeping this team afloat lately.  They still can't get consistent production out of the small forward position and aside from Terry they can't really get an answer at shooting guard either, but Jose Juan Barrera looks like a solid backup at the point guard position.

17. Toronto Raptors (21) - They turned a horrible last week into a solid week this week until they ran into the Lake show.  Chris Bosh has been outstanding this season and currently there's not a better big man in the league.  They're getting great play out of Andrea Bargnani lately which is very encouraging, though the injury to Jermaine O'Neal isn't.

18. Miami Heat (13) - The Heat have been wildly inconsistent this season and it has to be frustrating for any Heat fan to watch this team win one, and then lose the very next game but at the same time they have to be happy with Dwyane Wade's production.  This team is still relatively young and still has room to improve and should probably be around the playoff picture all season long.

19. Chicago Bulls (20) - All things considered, I believe Vinny Del Negro has done a solid job with this team.  They're slowly starting to get healthier (and will be better when Kirk Hinrich returns) but they still are an inconsistent bunch.  Drew Gooden has played well lately and Luol Deng is slowly returning to form as well. 

20. Philadelphia 76ers (15) - Andre Iguodala has played like a guy with a fat new contract, in other words he's definitely underperformed but I think with the offense having to adjust to the half court offense that Elton Brand flourishes in takes away from the strengths of both Iguodala and Andre Miller.  Maurice Cheeks needs to succeed this season if he wants to keep his job and it looks increasingly difficult for him to do.

21. Milwaukee Bucks (16) - They're struggling without Andrew Bogut but Richard Jefferson is quietly having a solid season.  Charlie Villanueva has put up good number this season but still hasn't brought it consistently like he should in a contract year.  He needs to develop a solid game and put that tremendous talent to use but he plays like a small forward and is too slow to play that position.  He should look at a player like David West and try to emulate a version of his game and then he can fully reach his potential.

22. Indiana Pacers (22) - The Pacers are puzzling because they just can't seem to get over that hump and win basketball games.  Danny Granger has been great, proving last year was no fluke, and Marquis Daniels has continued to play encouraging ball but they can't seem to get going as a unit.  Early in the season it was T.J. Ford playing while everyone else was struggling and now Ford has lot a step lately.  They need to get it together and I believe they will in the coming month.

23. Minnesota Timberwolves (25) - It feels weird putting them this high but I believe they're the best out of all of the lower tier teams.  Sebastian Telfair has been a steady force at point guard with Randy Foye and Mike Miller has had a couple of good games lately.  They won't make the playoffs, but winning nearly 30 games this season would be a huge step in the right direction for this squad.

24. Charlotte Bobcats (27) - Jason Richardson has returned and rumors are circling whether or not he will be shopped around.  Gerald Wallace has also been rumored to be out the door lately as well and this team looks to be in questionable shape.  D.J. Augustin has continued to play great and looks to be the best draft pick the team has made, which is ironic because he was not drafted at a position that needed filling and therefore his selection was criticized.

25. Golden State Warriors (24) - This team has been stuck in reverse all season long and they have to be hoping that when Monta Ellis returns they will make some progress this season because this team is young and in need of a step in the right dirction.  Andris Biedrins has cooled off lately and Jamal Crawford, though a need at guard, can't run the offense like they need someone to. 

26. Sacramento Kings (23) - This team is reeling and is doing so in a hurry.  Even with Mikki Moore's return, this team still needs Kevin Martin as he's not only their best player, he's the team's leader.  John Salmons will be a great running mate when Martin returns and if Beno Udrih plays as well as he has without Martin in the lineup then this team can take off.  Until then they will continue to struggle.

27. Memphis Grizzlies (26) - The team is slowly reaching irrelevance again and they're really struggling to find ways to win basketball games.  I don't think coach Marc Iavaroni has any chance to retain his job which is sad as he was once a promising candidate around the league.

28. Los Angeles Clippers (28) - Zach Randolph was a good acquisition and Al Thornton has played as well as he did last season but this team is missing something.  I don't know what it is, but I think this team would be making a horrible mistake in ridding themselves of Chris Kaman.  Even though he and Randolph don't mesh well, Kaman is a better player than Randolph and is a much better player than Marcus Camby.  They should find a way to keep him on this roster even though they could get a lot for him.  Eric Gordon has played great this week.

29. Washington Wizards (29) - As predicted last week, Eddie Jordan was fired but nothing has changed with this team.  They have Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and not much past those two players.  Because of the guaranteed contracts, this team is in such a deep hole that they're going to be stuck in this position for the next few seasons and may lose their best player (Butler) soon.

30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - The 14 game losing streak is over and Kevin Durant and Jeff Green have played great ball this week.  The offense looks a lot more fluid with Scott Brooks running the show.  Why is Earl Waton still starting and how many chances is this team going to give themselves to draft a productive center in the lottery?

 

Posted on: November 30, 2008 2:39 pm
 

New Orleans Hornets Week 5 Review

 The economy is bad.  I can't afford Christmas presents for my friends and therefore I'm assured they can't afford presents for me.  I have to take a defensive driving class on Saturday to nullify a "rolling stop sign" ticket I received nearly two months ago.  I've had turkey for dinner for three straight nights and my last three Hornets weekley reviews have been negative.  I have a college algebra test this week and finals all next week, but today is good.  Today is a day for positive thoughts in Big Easy Bugs land.  Two wins over the lowly Thunder (see last week's review) and a win over the equally lowly Clippers helped get the Hornets back on track with a four game winning streak and although the Hornets still look a tad discombobulated out there, things are at least feeling good again in New Orleans.

The first game of theweek, played on Monday night in Los Angeles, proved to be a solid victory against the Clippers.  Eric Gordon is the last in a string of swingmen who continue to dominate against the Clippers (see J.R. Smith and Brandon Roy as well) but the Hornets were able to use their talent advantage to, well their advantage, and overcome a game Clippers team.  The Thanksgiving night game at Denver, though, was the best game that the Hornets have played since their game at home against the Cavaliers three games into the season.  James Posey and Rasual Butler were huge in the game, providing the Hornets with two strong performances and hope for the bench for the future when Morris Peterson eventually returns to the lineup (he missed all three games this week as well).  All of the good will that was gained in the surprising game against the Nuggets (despite efforts from scorned former promising Hornet J.R. Smith) it was lost just as quickly in their game at Portland the very next night.  Back to backs are tough, but traveling to two different time zones in two nights is even more difficult and the Hornets looked sluggish all game.  They did a good job controlling the paint (which is surprising as the frontcourt is supposed to be the weakness of this team) but frontcourts are killing the Hornets currently.  That's something that needs to be addressed and I'm sure Byron Scott will get around to it.

Peja Stojakovic has come to life the past few games for the Hornets, serving as their leading scorer against the Trail Blazers, shooting 47 percent from three point land this week.  I think a majoritiy of people undervalue the importance of Peja to this team.  When he's making shots and when he's spreading the defense the team flourishes and David West is allowed operate down low and Chris Paul is allowed to operate from all angles around the floor.  Speaking of Chris Paul and David West, they both had quiet games against Portland and West, especially, has looked sluggish the past two games, shooting 35 percent from the field at Denver and Portland after having great games against the Thunder and Clippers.  Paul, meanwhile, struggled against Portland but followed up two straight triple doubles with an amazing fourth quarter performance at Denver and has had a steal, now, in 99 consecutive games-bringing him within six games of the NBA record set by Alvin Robertson.  Here's to a Hornet setting any kind of milestone.

Speaking of struggling, Tyson Chandler still continues to pile up lackluster performances at center.  Hilton Armstrong continuously improves by the game and he is on par with Tyson Chandler as far as averages per 48 minutes (Armstrong is averaging 14.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per 48 minutes while Chandler is averaging 12.3 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in the same categories).  Congratulations to Chandler for welcoming his son into the world on Thanksgiving day, but he needs to improve if the Hornets are to have any legit shot at a championship this season.  Also on the topic of big men, I'm surprised to see Sean Marks get more minutes than Melvin Ely this season.  I understand that Sean Marks has a better long range shot but I'm not too sure if long range accuracy is a necessity for the Hornets at the moment.  Melvin Ely has a good low post game and I'd like to see him get more minutes than Sean Marks but he's been in and out of Byron Scott's rotation so far this season.

The Hornets have two home games this week, against Phoenix on Wednesday and Memphis on Saturday.  Tyson Chandler and David West should both look to have bigger weeks against the competition and hopefully the Hornets won't let the confidence from their four game winning streak be lost with underwhelming performances this week.  Hopefully Morris Peterson, who had a huge game at Phoenix in the second game of the season, will return this week and it will only strengthen the Hornets bench with Rasual Butler adding firepower to an impressive set of frontcourt players off the bench for the Hornets.  Until next week, people.

Posted on: November 24, 2008 1:45 am
 

NBA Power Rankings Through November 23rd, 2008

1. Los Angeles Lakers (1) - I really thought about dropping them behind Boston but I can't if they don't lose.  They continue to get production out of a ton of players.  Kobe Bryant may be having the quitest 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists start to any season.

2. Boston Celtics (2) - The Celtics would probably be 1a but since 1a isn't a number I'm going to put them here at number two.  They're getting tremendous production out of their bench with Leon Powe, Tony Allen, Eddie House and even Brian Scalabrine putting in quality minutes.  They not only boast one of the best starting fives in the league, they're incredibly deep as well. 

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (3) - Even though they lost at Detroit the team continues to chug along and has looked good so far this season.  Mo Williams is starting to bring his offensive production up and he's looked like a solid acquisition so far in the young season.  This team is actually fun to watch and I think they're going to be a tough out for anybody in the postseason.  By the way, what's all this talk about LeBron James leaving?  You have all these teams gearing up to get him, when the team he's on will probably be in the best position to win.  I don't see him going anywhere.

4. Denver Nuggets (7) - Nene has quietly had a great season and although this may seem high to some, this team has been absolutely lights out with Chauncey Billups on board.  If they continue to get production of Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith, that gives them two dynamic options off the bench and with Kenyon Martin playing as he is this team should be in good shape.  I still think they could use frontcourt help if they're to advance deep into the postseason.

5. Houston Rockets (8) - The Rockets turned out a solid week.  Aaron Brooks continues to play amazing ball and Tracy McGrady just quietly hits big shots.  In the regular season at least.  Yao Ming missing a game is cause for concern and is something to keep an eye on.

6. Orlando Magic (5) - There's been a J.J. Reddick sighting.  I don't know how this team wins but they do.  Dwight Howard had a tough week and Rashard Lewis is struggling shooting the ball but they still churn out victories.  That's impressive enough to keep them as high as they are.

7. Phoenix Suns (4) - They drop by virtue of the two tough losses they suffered this week.  Shaquille O'Neal continues to have a productive season and they're getting good minutes out of Grant Hill lately.  They need Leandro Barbosa back and when he returns their bench will greatly compliment the production the starters have given.

8. Utah Jazz (9) - Andrei Kirilenko is playing some really good ball off the bench and C.J. Miles has looked great this week.  They're going to get Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer back this week, and that alone keeps the team in the top ten.  They need to get a solid, set rotation and start to gel and when they do they'll return to top Jazz form.

9. Portland Trail Blazers (12) - Portland is playing some great ball.  Brandon Roy has picked up his all star form and even though Greg Oden's production has slipped the past couple of games, he's looked great off of the bench since returning from his injury.  They're doing all this while LaMarcus Aldridge is in a shooting slump and when he returns to form it will only make them better.

10. Atlanta Hawks (10) - Marvin Williams has slowly showed why the Hawks chose him 2nd overall over both Chris Paul and Deron Williams.  It may still be a bad move, but the guy's talented and he's playing some good ball.  Joe Johnson continues to perform and they're even getting good minutes out of Acie Law.  They have a solid, if inconsistent, bench.

11. Detroit Pistons (6) - That whoopin' they took at Boston ruined all momentum they had gained after the Allen Iverson trade.  They followed that up by getting thrashed at home by Minnesota and the Pistons are back to square one.  I don't doubt they'll climb out the hole, I just wish they wouldn't keep falling back in it.  At least Rasheed Wallace has come to play, but Tayshaun Prince has cooled after his hot start and Richard Hamilton looks out of sync.  It's still early, though, and this team is still the Pistons.  You never can count them out.

12. New Orleans Hornets (11) - Peja Stojakovic can't make a shot and Tyson Chandler looks sluggish.  This team looked to be set at the guard position, but Devin Brown is playing point guard and I'm not too sure if the combination of Morris Peterson and Rasual Butler is going to get it done.  We'll see.

13. Miami Heat (17) - Dwyane Wade is playing like a mad man and there's been a Shawn Marion sighting this week.  If they continue to get great production out of those two the other stuff should fall into place.  They're recommitting themselves to the defensive end, as well, and you like to see Wade performing at the level that he is.

14. New York Knicks (13) - I'm not too sure what to make out of the moves that they made, other than they've given up on this season.  Al Harrington, Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas all fit into D'Antoni's system but I don't think they're as good as the players they let go.  I thought there was an outside shot they'd make the postseason, but why fight to make the playoffs when you can build for a championship?  That looks to be Donnie Walsh's approach.  Things are at least interesting again (for all the right reasons) in New York.

15. Philadelphia 76ers (18) - Well Kareem Rush isn't going to single handedly make the Sixers a three point threat and they still can't shoot the long ball.  There may not be a better rebounding team in the NBA, but with those jump shooters they get plent of opportunities.  Elton Brand hasn't produced as he was expected to so far this season but he hit a big shot against his old team this week.  He followed that up with a solid game today and we'll see if he builds off of that.

16. Milwaukee Bucks (19) - Andrew Bogut and Ramon Sessions are playing great basketball.  They've played solid ball this season and all of it without Michael Redd for a majority of the season.  Maybe he could be used as trade bait as I'm sure his value is still relatively high.  They could get some nice building blocks for now and for the future in return for Redd, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (I spelled that without clarifying and I hope it's right) has been the most surprising rookie this season.  What a find in the 2nd round!

17. New Jersey Nets (20) - Don't look now but Vince Carter is having a tremendous season so far.  Devin Harris has been perfect in the sidekick role as well, and even though the rest of the team is so inconsistent, they find themselves at .500 for the season.  Impressive job by Lawrence Frank.

18. Dallas Mavericks (25) - The Mavericks went undefeated this week so I probably should move them up higher, but I'm still relatively unimpressed after looking at their competition.  Still, Dirk Nowitzki is playing tremendous basketball (what else is new) and Rick Carlisle finally has the team clicking on offense.  They just are so bland as a franchise and organization, though.  I doubt the Mark Cuban fiasco will be a distraction, but it has the potential to be.

19. San Antonio Spurs (15) - It was a quiet week for the Spurs, but they looked impressive against a depleted Utah team and received word that Manu Ginobili may be coming back earlier than expected.  I'm not sure what to make of that news, as I thought he was supposed to be waiting until he was fully healthy, that way he'd be in top form for the stretch run.  They're playing admirably without him, I see no need to rush him.  George Hill looks like another one of those Spurs finds in the draft.

20. Chicago Bulls (16) - Luol Deng is the latest to bite the injury bug in Chicago.  Although Ben Gordon had a slow week, Derrick Rose continues to perform beyond his experience.  History tells us he'll tail off but I don't see it.  Larry Hughes came back this week as well, adding some depth to a backcourt that was so depleted it signed Lindsey Hunter for insurance.

21. Toronto Raptors (14) - Even with tremendous weeks from Anthony Parker and Andrea Bargnani this team is continuing to struggle.  Bargnani is out of place starting at the 3 spot and although Chris Bosh continues to flourish, I question the direction and overall makeup of this team.  I'm not sure what to make of them as a squad as I've thought of them highly and at the moment think of them poorly.  They need to develop consistency and find a way to build that team around Chris Bosh and do it quickly, or else he may be out the door.

22. Indiana Pacers (22) - They're losing tough games and they're missing Mike Dunleavy.  Right now Danny Granger and Marquis Daniels are playing strong basketball but everyone else is a little inconsistent.  Why is Jamaal Tinsley still on this payroll? 

23. Sacramento Kings (21) - John Salmons has looked terrific in Kevin Martin's absence.  A win at New Orleans this week is the only thing that keeps me from pointing at their slow decline, but injuries have hit hard in Sac-town.  Mikkie Moore and Kevin Martin will come back soon and when they do I look for this team to continue to be a thorn in the opposition's side.

24. Golden State Warriors (23) - Now that Al Harrington is gone and Jamaal Crawford is coming in, this team improved both the clubhouse and the talent level on the squad.  Anthony Morrow cooled considerably after a great two game stretch early in the week, but if he brings half of that production backing up Crawford then this team will be in good position to make some sort of run around mid to late December.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (29) - A good week for Minnesota as they pick up two wins and get a good game from Randy FoyeAl Jefferson is as steady as they come and they looked impressive in that game at Detroit.  I'm not too sure what to make of their last two first round draft picks (Kevin Love and Corey Brewer) but maybe I'm being too harsh when I say they look like good players who were taken too high in the lottery.

26. Memphis Grizzlies (26) - Well the hot start to the season that the Grizzlies had is the only thing saving their season.  O.J. Mayo is this year's Kevin Durant (as far as putting up good rookie numbers on a bad team) and Rudy Gay hasn't been as commanding as he was last season.  They're not getting much production past Marc Gasol in the front court but we didn't expect them to get much either. 

27. Charlotte Bobcats (24) - Larry Brown has to be kicking himself in the head.  This organization has been badly mishandled, from the placement (why you would give a town that failed it's previous franchise another franchise befuddles me, especially when you see them failing this team as well) to the operation of the franchise (Michael Jordan being in any executive position disallows us from taking them serious), to the production of the players (D.J. Augustin is the only reason to get excited in Charlotte) and you have all the makings of another, dissapointing season in Charlotte.  You have to wonder when the Bobcats will make the turn.

28. Los Angeles Clippers (28) - Chris Kaman has played just as strongly as he did last season but he and Zach Randolph have similar games.  Both are good low post, back to the basket type players (although Kaman is much better) and I'm not sure how they'll fit together.  I also don't know where this puts Marcus Camby in the rotation as well but I guess we'll have to watch it all unfold.  I don't think there's any chance of Mike Dunleavy finishing this season.

29. Washington Wizards (27) - So irrelevant I almost forgot them.  There's not much to be said about this team and there's not much of a chance Eddie Jordan sticks around.  Not when Gilbert Arenas is already calling for a tank job and with the rest of the squad being worthy of a last place finish.  They are awful to watch.

30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - They become the first team this season to fire a head coach and although I like P.J., he outstayed his welcome.  The team looked uninspired under him and they played with a little fire under new coach Scott Brooks.  Russell Westbrook is too much of a "me" player to learn the point guard position and I would try and move him to shooting guard.  Kevin Durant needs to add some muscle and start playing more down in the post, but haven't we said that for two years?  He may lack the work ethic to make him a great player in this league.

Posted on: November 23, 2008 2:05 pm
 

New Orleans Hornets Week 4 Review

 "I told our guys, they are full of themselves if they step on the court and think teams are scared of them."  Two victories over the last place Thunder couldn't mask the obvious.  Hornets coach Byron Scott put the entire team on notice: you've gotten soft.  My week 2 worries have been brought to fruition following the Hornets Wednesday night loss to the Kings.  A home loss to a Sacramento team minus Kevin Martin is inexcusable for a team whose ultimate goal is to become an NBA champion.  In addition to the earlier loss in the season at Charlotte and Byron Scott said it best: these teams don't fear the Hornets.  Nor should they.  The Hornets don't play with that "us against the world" mentality that they had last season.  Last season they were wild and aggressive and played an inspiring brand of ball.  This season they're trying to copy that, and it looks forced.  This team still lacks its identity but Chris Paul and David West have to continue to keep this team afloat until everyone else remembers that the Hornets are supposed to be a great team.

What's wrong with Tyson Chandler?  This week Chandler averaged 6.7 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.  Normally those are solid numbers but Tyson Chandler is above that average style of play.  Those are his Chicago Bulls numbers.  I don't know if his ankle is still bothering him or if he's just trying to do too much after lifted expectations this season, but he needs to get back to playing strong defense, running the floor and blocking shots.  Hilton Armstrong stole a majority of Chandler's minutes in the teams two victories over Oklahoma City and played strong: taking all of his shots around the basket and showing an aggressive drive for the ball near the hoop.  That's very encouraging for a team that's playing Julian Wright at the 4 a lot the past couple of weeks.  But I'm not sure if Wright will continue to play the 4 since Melvin Ely returned at Oklahoma City on Friday night. 

Speaking of injuries: it's tough to watch Devin Brown go down Saturday night against the Thunder.  He's taken over as the second scoring option off of the bench (after James Posey) and played a majority of his minutes at the point guard position.  It's necessary for him to play or else Mike James will get a lot of minutes, and I'm sure Byron Scott is not playing him for a reason.  Further on the injury report, Morris Peterson was a late scratch for the Wednesday night game against the Kings but missed both of the Oklahoma City games as well.  Rasual Butler has stepped in admirably for the Hornets and has now started four games this season but the team misses Peterson's defense: most notably when John Salmons went off for 29 points Wednesday night.  They can't get by without him but he does help the team more than what pepole notice.

The Hornets return to Oklahoma City Friday night was a lot of fun to watch.  I miss the days when the Hornets played in OKC and anyone who has been on the boards long enough knows that I actually wanted the Hornets to stay in Oklahoma City.  The return to New Orleans has been nice, but the fans will turn on the team when they start losing again.  Oklahoma City fans cheered rabidly for the team in two losing seasons.  Even though the Thunder didn't add any excitement during the game (Friday night's blowout was embarassing) the fans warm reception to the Hornets players and to Byron Scott was nice to see.  I wish those fans nothing but the best, even though their team doesn't leave much hope.

For the past three weeks the Hornets have played Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday night games.  They've played 9 games in 21 days and they will again play only three games this week.  They hit the road for games at the Clippers, at Denver and at Portland.  It's essential that the Hornets win at least two of these games for their own confidence, but they still posses the talent to steal all three. 

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