This week leaves us very malcontent in Hornets nation. Entering this week the Hornets were coming off a very dissapointing second week, in which they lost at home to the Hawks and at Charlotte before finding a way to overtake the Heat in New Orleans. But this week brought more of the same for the big easy bugs. As of today, they've now lost four out of their last six, and it looks as if this team is struggling to regain the identity that it possessed for so much of last season. The swagger and confidence that was there in April and May is gone, and this is a team playing off of expectations and habit. A 5-4 record is nothing to scoff at, especially since everyone in the NBA has had an up and down week and they remain only a half game behind Houston in the southwest division, but this is a team that needs to regain its confidence. Its bench, all too often a hindrance to the Hornets has continued to be inconsistent and unpredictable. James Posey has been every bit what the Hornets signed him up to be and the price tag, at the moment, doesn't seem as high as it did when they offered it to him, but after him there's no guarantees. Moments like this the Hornets miss the big game production and swagger that Jannero Pargo brought to the team. Mike James can put up Pargo numbers (he put up 10 points against the Heat last week) but doesn't have that presence or command the attention that Pargo did and hasn't yet produced like Pargo did. Overall this team needs to develop options and currently there aren't any that you can rely on past Chris Paul and David West.
Coming into this week was the highly anticipated matchup with the Lakers on Wednesday night. The Lakers proceeded to continue to be the Lakers and took a 21 point lead into halftime before the Hornets came back and cut it down to 3 points with a minute and a half left. That shot that Kobe Bryant hit over James Posey was a thing of beauty and completely unguardable. But this was a problem that the Hornets had last season; first half performances. The Hornets ended the season and played in the playoffs very lackadaisacally in the first half and the same problem has followed the team to this season. The Hornets need to get up for games like this (especially with three days off in between them and with the Lakers being on the second night of a back to back) and with their chance to get a little confidence they played flat against the best team in the league.
Then came the game against Portland on Friday night in New Orleans. The Trail Blazers came into the game on a winning streak and the Hornets, though ugly, pulled out a victory over the Blazers to get back on the board. But that ugly win was followed by an ugly loss at Houston on Saturday night. The Rockes bottled Chris Paul and a weak 18 points by David West was all that kept the Hornets to a respectable 9 point loss.
I don't want to come across as harsh on my team but they had an awful week (even though they did win against Portland). Their performances in these three games leave a lot to be desired and don't exactly inspire us onlookers. Tyson Chandler may still be bothered by that ankle as he has yet to kick it into stride this season and Peja Stojakovic has been wildly inconsistent with his shot. He's not automatic as he was last season (37.4% from the field) and he has yet to find his groove. This all could be attributed to still being in early season mode, rust and continuity lacking on the team but it's not encouraging when you're playing this way against teams that are playing well as a team themselves.
Rasual Butler (a favorite of the first two reviews) had a quiet week but still remains in the regular rotation. With Mike James missing the games against Portland and Houston and with Melvin Ely missing every game since the Phoenix game, the Hornets have played Hilton Armstrong and Devin Brown heavy minutes this week. Devin Brown responded (7 points 2.6 rebounds this week) but Armstrong continues to just be another body out there. He needs to show aggression if he wants to keep his job, because Antonio McDyess is available (though I'm not sure if the Hornets could afford him) and there's a chance they could go after P.J. Brown at midseason. His seat is hot and I'm not seeing the immediacy I need to see out of him. Coming up next Wednesday is a game against Sacramento who fields an impressive list of big men. Armstrong will need to be productive and will need to have some sort of presence if the Hornets are to feel safe with him in the lineup.
Coming up next week is a meeting in New Orleans against the Kings, a return to Oklahoma City that I'm much looking forward to and a rematch against the Thunder the next night in New Orleans. So The Hornets have an opportunity for three impressive victories this week and time will tell if they get back to that team you knew would win last season. Until then, we'll have to think of last season to have good memories of the Hornets.