Posts Tagged ‘Jason Smith’

Gordon Healthy, But Unfulfilled in N.O.


VIDEO: Eric Gordon takes a bump against Toronto and still makes the difficult shot

DALLAS – Friday’s game at Phoenix (10:30 p.m., ESPN) will be the 55th of the season for Pelicans guard Eric Gordon. That is significant because it is four more games than he managed to play in his first two injury-saddled seasons in the Big Easy.

The irony isn’t lost on him. He’s healthy, finally, but the teammates expected to lift this franchise back into the playoff hunt are not.

Starting point guard Jrue Holiday, an All-Star last season in Philadelphia, and Ryan Anderson, the 3-point shooting stretch-4, have played 56 games, total. Neither might play again this season. Starting center Jason Smith has played 31 games. He won’t play again this season.

Tyreke Evans, paid an eye-popping $44 million for four years by the Pelicans last summer, has been hurt off and on. He’s averaging a career-low 12.0 points a game while shooting 14.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

Gordon hasn’t blown anybody away. But he has shown steady improvement, if only sporadic spectacular bursts to the bucket. He describes his season as “OK,” yet at 15.8 points a game and shooting 38.9 percent from deep, he’s been the Pelicans’ most reliable player outside of All-Star power forward Anthony Davis – who was added to the injured list Wednesday with a sprained left shoulder.

Eric Gordon (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE )

Eric Gordon (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE )

“I feel I can do more,” Gordon told NBA.com. “I’ve had some big, explosive games this year. Now for me it’s just all about having the ball a little bit more, shooting the ball a little bit more and being able to do all the playmaking that I’m used to.”

His gains haven’t stopped the team from again shopping him, something that eats at Gordon. As he walked from the American Airlines Center court to the team bus following Wednesday morning’s shootaround, he said, “It is disappointing because … I am back to where I should be [physically] and will be. And just to hear stuff like that out there kind of throws you off sometimes.”

Gordon has become a forgotten man on a losing team, his production not living up to his hefty contract (he has two years and $30.4 million left on it) and his fragile health serving as a trade deterrent. For his part, Pelicans coach Monty Williams says he keeps the faith that Gordon can revive an unfulfilled career after being the seventh overall pick of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2008.

“I’ve probably been the only guy that has [kept the faith],” Williams said. “I’m not backing off of that.”

Throughout his six seasons, Gordon’s career has been filled with more “what ifs” than accolades.

  • What if the original Chris Paul deal in which the then-Hornets sent Paul to the Lakers had never been squashed by former commissioner David Stern — acting as the personnel decision-maker on the then league-owned team – and Gordon had remained with the Clippers to pair with Blake Griffin?
  • What if he had never injured his knee, an issue that lingered and limited him to nine games during his first season in New Orleans?
  • What if New Orleans, as Gordon asked, had not matched the max offer sheet he signed with Phoenix as a restricted free agent?
  • What if he had never pleaded for New Orleans not to match and had simply, and happily, joined the franchise that coveted him?

“He has been through a lot, from the trade and things that happened in L.A. that were pretty disheartening for him, and then the stuff in Phoenix,” Williams said. “That was a time where I’m sure he wishes he could go back and do some things differently. But … check everybody out at 22 and ask what would they do differently [in their lives]?”

Gordon is now 25 and wiser, and he’s set a new course for himself, starting with a heavy-duty conditioning program following knee and ankle surgeries the past two years. He spent a large portion of last summer working out in Los Angeles at Athletes’ Performance under the guidance of Jen Swanson, now the director of sports performance for the Chicago Bulls.

“I was there five days a week … five to six hours a day,” Gordon said. “This is without basketball [activities]. It is all workout stuff to prevent injury. This is the best I’ve felt in a while.”

He’s missed just three games this season with a bruised hip after a hard fall against Sacramento. Which, of course, raises the biggest “What if?” of all.

What if Holiday and Anderson and Smith had all stayed healthy?

“Definitely there’s a foundation here,” Gordon said. “The crazy part is we’re still having injuries while we’re a young team and that’s just something we’ve got to figure out because we’ve always had injuries since I’ve been here. So we still haven’t played our full, collective unit since I’ve been here. But our foundation is good.”

Having a full, healthy team in New Orleans with Gordon a big part of it likely won’t happen until next season. And if Pelicans general manager Dell Demps shops Gordon this summer and finally finds a taker, it won’t happen then.

“You never know,” Gordon said. “Any player can get traded, I don’t care how high or low your value is, any player can get traded at any given time. It’s not like I do anything negative. I do play well and I do give a good, consistent effort every day.

“To me, it’s all about how how we can make ourselves better and how we can win. That’s all that matters.”

Davis Latest To Go Down For Suffering Pels


VIDEO: Anthony Davis sprains left shoulder on rebound attempt in Dallas

New Orleans’ dreadful injury situation worsened Wednesday night with All-Star forward Anthony Davis spraining his left shoulder in the second quarter at Dallas, the first leg of a five-game road trip.

Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he didn’t “know much right now” regarding the severity of Davis’ injury, but it was bad enough to keep him out of the remainder of New Orleans’ fifth consecutive loss, 108-89, to the red-hot Mavericks. When Davis left with 4:13 to go, Dallas led by one, 37-36, and had just made a run to dig out of a 28-20 hole.

Davis played just 12 minutes, 37 seconds and exited with six points, nine rebounds, two blocks and one sweet bounce pass to a streaking Eric Gordon for a layup. Davis hurt himself when he jumped straight up and extended his arms attempting to rebound his own miss against Mavs center Sam Dalembert. Even on replay it’s difficult to discern exactly how the injury occurred, but Davis quickly grabbed the upper part of his left arm, squeezing it as if trying to pinch away the pain.

He attempted to stay in the game, but less than a minute later checked out and headed to the locker room. He returned to the bench during the third quarter with his left arm appearing to be immobilized underneath his warmup jersey. He did not speak to the media after the game.

Davis’ name now moves next to point guard Jrue Holiday, sixth man Ryan Anderson and center Jason Smith on the injured list. Those are four of the Pelicans’ top six scorers. The latter three could all be done for the year. New Orleans can only hope that’s not the case for their 20-year-old face of the franchise who is having a marvelous sophomore season averaging 20.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg and leading the league as the lone player topping 3.0 bpg (3.02). Still, at 23-34 and 10 games out of the final playoff spot, the Pelicans won’t rush their star back until he’s ready.

“That’s life,” Williams said shaking his head earlier in the day as he discussed his team’s crippling injury plight that has robbed it of a playoff chase. Four months ago, that was the goal.

In Wednesday’s first quarter, a Dallas team virtually healthy all season and now 9-2 in February, got a scare of its own during an eerily similar moment with Dirk Nowitzki. The 7-footer didn’t appear to hurt himself in any dramatic fashion after making a lob pass from the perimeter, but something happened as he quickly grabbed the upper part of his left arm. Nowitzki left the floor for the training room, but he did return a few minutes later and checked back into the game.

Afterward Nowitzki said he felt his shoulder pop a little bit, a recurring situation, he told reporters, ever since Karl Malone hacked him in a game back in 1999.

Davis’ severely shorthanded teammates tried to hang tough, going into halftime down six following a spurt by Dallas that threatened to blow the game open. The Mavs, winners of four in a row, were too much and built a 23-point cushion as rudderless New Orleans turned it over 14 times in the second half for 24 Dallas points (21 turnovers for 30 points overall).

“Obviously he’s our best player and it was tough for us, but I didn’t think that was the problem,” said point guard Brian Roberts, the fill-in starter for Holiday. “I think it was the turnovers. We just had too many and they scored off of them.”

The American Airlines Center has been a painful stop for several players this season. Bobcats small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist broke his left hand against the Mavs on Dec. 3 and missed six weeks. On Jan. 3, Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul separated his right shoulder there and didn’t return until Feb. 9.

No one can blame the injury-plagued Pelicans if they’re fearing the worst. Hopefully, for their sake, on Thursday positive news will prevail.

It’s Time For New Year’s Resolutions

VIDEO: The Starters review the year so far

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Ring out the old. Ring in the new. As the calendar turns, it’s time for resolutions throughout the NBA:

Atlanta Hawks — Look Back to the Future: This was supposed to be the start of a brand new era for one of the NBA’s most moribund franchises, and things were actually looking good until Al Horford tore a pectoral muscle. With their undersized big man done for the season, the Hawks will only stay afloat because they’re in the horrid Eastern Conference. But they’re going in the right direction under GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer, and will get the lottery pick of the sinking Nets, so there’s reason for hope out of a draft class teeming with talent.

Boston Celtics — Move Fast on Rondo: According to the old saying, you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. When Rajon Rondo is finally able to get back onto the court and prove that he’s close to his old self, rookie coach Brad Stevens and GM Danny Ainge have to find out right away if he’s mentally ready to anchor the rebuilding project. If not, the Celtics could reap a windfall in new pieces ahead of the trade deadline.

Brooklyn Nets — Fuhgetaboutit: OK, it was a nice little pipe dream to think that a couple of old codgers like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce could shuffle up and down the court in slippers and robes to tangle with the Heat and Pacers. Fortunately, team owner Mikhail Prokorov can afford their salaries with the kind of change he finds in his sofa cushions. Pay them off, send them away and get back to building around Brook Lopez and Deron Williams with players who aren’t signing up for Medicare.

Charlotte Bobcats — Keep Him: For the first time in who can remember how long, Michael Jordan won’t have to spend next summer looking for a coach. The merry-go-round can stop. Steve Clifford has given Charlotte a sense of purpose, respectability and a solid identity on the defensive end. Now they’ve got to work on boosting production out of that woeful offense. One thing at a time.

Chicago Bulls — Play Derrick and the Dominoes: Even Layla couldn’t have knocked the Bulls off their feet like the second straight significant injury to their All-Star, MVP guard Derrick Rose. It might be time to reshuffle the bones on a club that hasn’t even won a conference title and already has significant money locked up in Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson before re-signing Luol Deng to a big contract.

Cleveland Cavaliers — Stop Winning the Draft Lottery: Of course, that would require the Cavs to actually make the playoffs and not qualify for the lottery. This is a team that was supposed to be on the rise with enough young talent to make LeBron James think about returning, but instead has Kyrie Irving trying to do everything, Dion Waiters angry and Andrew Bynum maybe ready to give up the game. Time for an adult to take control here, coach Mike Brown.

Dallas Mavericks — Embrace Reality: It’s a bit ironic that a guy like Mark Cuban that has made a name for himself in the world of reality TV shows rarely faces up to it with the Mavs. He’s fun. He’s entertaining. He’ll say anything, such as there’s no telling whether Houston getting Dwight Howard or Dallas getting Monta Ellis was a better free agent signing last summer. Now go get yourself some defense, Mark, before Dirk Nowitzki winds up running on his tongue trying to outscore everybody.

Denver Nuggets — Respect Yourself: There shouldn’t be a decent team that breaks camp without a solid sense of its identity. A year ago with George Karl pulling the strings from the sidelines and Andre Iguodala setting the pace on the court, the Nuggets had that. Now they are often just a bunch that is stuck in the middle of the pack on offense (18th) and defense (16th) and too often can’t defend its home court.

Detroit Pistons — Say It Ain’t So, Joe: A few years ago, it was signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva as big-money free agents. This time GM Joe Dumars figured it would be a good idea to upgrade the Pistons by tossing the combustible Josh Smith onto the fire to light up the frontcourt. So, Smith is already calling out coach Mo Cheeks and the Pistons are backsliding from the .500 mark. Things are getting ugly early again in the Motor City. And, oh yeah, nobody is coming to watch the Pistons, who are last in the league in attendance.

Golden State Warriors — Do the American Hustle: Like the hit movie, was last year’s magical little run through the playoffs by Mark Jackson’s team just one glorious con job? Yes, they’ve played a tough schedule, but something is missing. Lack of last year’s bench? A failure to take care of the ball? You get the sense that the Warriors were just trying to pick up this season right where they left off without putting in all of the gritty groundwork.

Houston Rockets — Rebound, Then Run: Everybody loves watching the Rockets run like methamphetamine-fueled hamsters on a wheel. But for a team that has Dwight Howard in the middle, they are horrible at giving up second-chance points to opponents and it has often proved costly. It’s nice to run, but better not to turn your back and head down the court while the other guy is dropping another put-back into the net.

Indiana Pacers — Don’t Stop Believing: The Pacers came into the season convinced that they could live up to the old axiom of playing them one game at a time and that grind-it-out method would eventually deliver the best record in the league and home-court all the way through The Finals. With Paul George tossing his hat into the MVP ring and Roy Hibbert making opponents ears ring with his physical style, it’s working quite well for coach Frank Vogel’s team.

L.A. Clippers — Say Goodbye to Hollywood: The sooner the Clippers can get rid of all the extraneous things in their game — yes, you, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — and get down to the serious business of playing some real defense around the basket, the sooner we’ll take them seriously as real contenders in the Western Conference. At this point, despite all the good work by Chris Paul, the Clips are still one of those acts that gets eliminated early on “American Idol.”

L.A. Lakers — Lock Up Kobe: Yes, we know he’s the Black Mamba. We know that he’d be the guy standing out in the rain with a fork and still believe he’d quench his thirst. But the Lakers aren’t going anywhere this season and it doesn’t help their cause for next year if Kobe Bryant returns and pushes himself to the limit again in a debilitating run that winds up far short of the playoffs. It’s time to think about the limited — and high-paying — future he has left. Oh yeah, and trade Pau Gasol.

(more…)

Pelicans’ Big Five Seeing More Time


VIDEO: Holiday, Pelicans knock off Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Sometimes, you just have to put your five best players on the floor.

That’s what New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams is able to do now that Ryan Anderson is healthy. And on Friday in Philly, Williams played his big five – Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Anderson and Anthony Davis – for 18 1/2 minutes, the most they’d seen as a group in the six games since Anderson returned from a fractured toe.

Prior to Friday, the group had played almost half of its 32 minutes in the fourth quarter. But in Philadelphia, Williams went to the lineup midway through the first quarter, with Evans and Anderson replacing starters Anthony Morrow and Jason Smith. And the big five went right to work offensively, scoring 23 points on 11 possessions to end the period.

Evans attacked in transition, while Anderson and Gordon spaced the floor, getting easy 3s off pick-and-rolls here and here (video) thanks, in part, to the attention Davis drew in the paint. Davis is the Pelicans’ best player and that lineup’s success starts with him.

“When he runs the court, all of the attention focuses on him,” Anderson said. “So he leaves an open shot for me or, if we actually get set up down at the other end, Tyreke’s going to attack the rim and force a lot of attention himself. I think we just have a group of guys that really just know how to play in that lineup.”

That lineup struggled in a stretch during the third quarter, but overall, scored 54 points on 38 possessions on Friday, a rate of 142 per 100, which is pretty incredible.

Defense was another story, and that’s the trade-off. The Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Anderson-Davis group allowed the Sixers to score 48 points on 36 possessions, a rate of 133 per 100, which is pretty terrible.

During that same first-quarter stint, they continuously got beat by Tony Wroten on high pick-and-rolls here, here and here.

“We try to get to that lineup, but that’s not a cure-all,” Williams said afterward. “It is a lineup that can cause problems. But we just have to learn how to defend and share the ball better.”

In 51 minutes through Friday, the lineup has scored 132 points per 100 possessions and allowed 116. So far, the great offense has outweighed the bad D. But Williams doesn’t just want to accept that trade-off.

“You can’t just put a defensive lineup on the floor [to get better defense],” Williams said before the game. “Whoever you put on the floor has to play better defense. We’re a month into it. Our guys are going to figure that out. I would like to find more minutes for that group.”

He did find more minutes for that group. Of course, more minutes for that group could mean a heavy burden for Holiday, Gordon and Davis, who start the game and with a different pair of forwards and will remain on the floor to give the big five a good run. Holiday and Gordon each played season highs in minutes on Friday.

Williams knows that Gordon, in particular, needs monitoring. He’s now played in 15 straight games for the first time since January of 2011.

“I want to play him more,” Williams said. “But I have to be aware that this is the most basketball he’s played in 2 1/2 years. So I didn’t want to rush him into it and I’ve been talking to him lately about how he feels.”

How many minutes the big five lineup gets, as well as how it performs both offensively and defensively, will be something to keep an eye on all season. Williams clearly likes bringing both Evans and Anderson off the bench, but he’s still searching for a starting small forward. Al-Farouq Aminu started the first 13 games there, but was replaced by Morrow on Friday.

“The [starting] lineup can change the next game,” Williams said. “That’s where we are right now. We haven’t gotten a ton of production out of our starting small forward position.”

They have gotten a ton of production – at least on one end of the floor – from the big five.

Howard Debut Passes Dream Test

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HOUSTON
– After a warm, if not thunderous, welcome from his thousands of new fans in Texas, Dwight Howard received the positive feedback he wanted from his new teacher.

“He ran the floor, he established himself as a big man in the post and he made plays,” said Hakeem Olajuwon from his mid-court seat on the front row at the Toyota Center Saturday night. “This was just the first game, an exhibition game, but it was a good start.”

The Hall of Famer, who led Houston to back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995, has been tutoring Howard on low post moves in special sessions for the past several summers and the relationship has intensified since Olajuwon re-joined his former team as a part-time assistant coach working with the big men.

Howard scored 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dealt three assists and blocked one shot while playing 27 minutes in his Rockets debut, a 116-115 loss to the Pelicans. He shot 6-for-11 from field and 7-for-11 from the foul line.

“I’m especially glad that Dwight got to play as many minutes as he did tonight,” Olajuwon said. “It will do him good to build up his legs and his endurance was soon as possible, so that when the regular season begins he will be ready to dominate.

“What I saw from him tonight were many of the things that we have seen from Dwight earlier in his career. He was athletic. He was alive. But most of all, I think he looked like he is having a good time out there. He is happy and I can tell you from personal experience that means a lot. You need to know that your coach believes in you, that your teammates truly believe in you and that the city is behind you. I think after a couple of difficult seasons, Dwight has that again here in Houston.”

A crowd that was decidedly less than the full house that will be on hand for the Rockets’ Oct. 30 season opener versus Charlotte, was excited even when he lost the opening tip to the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis and moaned when Howard stepped to the free throw line for the first time and missed the first of a pair of free throws with 8:37 left in the first quarter. He made the second shot.

Howard’s first bucket in a Rockets uniform was a five-foot turnaround jumper that came off a feed from Jeremy Lin with 6:14 to go in the opening quarter. On the very next possession, Lin got the ball right back into Howard a slam dunk.

Midway through the third quarter, Howard received the ball paint and used his quickness to spin by Jason Smith and score on on a nifty reverse layup.

“Good move! Good move!” shouted Olajuwon from his seat on the front row. “Don’t hesitate when you see an opening. Take it.”

Howard went to the bench and was done for the night, drawing a defensive three-second call with 56.6 left in the third quarter.

Olajuwon shrugged off the criticism of his pupil from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who said Howard did not have a “go-to move.”

“Dwight has the fundamentals. He has the basics,” Olajuwon said. “What I am trying to help him with is to show him where there are certain things and certain spots in the defenses that he can take advantage of.

“What I did see tonight was him making his presence felt at the defensive end. He had it in mind at times that he wanted to dominate. That’s the way a big man has to think all the time.

“What I also saw were times when he passed the ball back out to a guard or someone else when he should have turned and taken the shot himself.

“I know he wants to fit in with his new teammates. I know this team has played a style where they ran and shot a lot from the outside. But the Rockets have a big man now. A real big man. An All-Star. The kind of big man who can dominate and take them places.

The significance of Howard entering his 10th NBA season is not lost on Olajuwon, who led the Rockets to a championship in his 10th year in the league.

“I can sit here and say that the team and Dwight can really think that way,” Olajuwon said. “It’s early. This is just a start.”

Vasquez, Gordon Give Hornets Some Hope

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Greivis Vasquez deserves a raise — which he’ll get in due time — or the key to the city or, heck, just make him mayor of New Orleans.

The city, and its beleaguered basketball team, couldn’t ask for a better ambassador than the Venezuelan-born point guard who’s leaving his heart and sweat on the floor every night as he emerges as a top talent in the league.

“The biggest thing is I’m getting an opportunity,” said Vasquez, a recent player of the week recipient. “Still, people don’t know about me as much because I’m playing in a small market, which I love. I love this city, I love this team.”

Pretty refreshing stuff from a third-year player just starting to hit his stride for a franchise that’s endured it’s share of hard knocks in recent years — including a hard-luck 7-25 start to this season.

Yet as I wrote after Saturday’s 99-96 overtime win at Dallas, the season really started at that moment. Add Monday’s impressive thumping of the San Antonio Spurs in front of 11,599 that ended a seven-game home losing streak, and Wednesday’s fourth-quarter comeback against the previously streaking Houston Rockets, and the Hornets are on a roll with their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Why the reset on the season?

Because the ridiculously youthful Hornets finally got game-changer and now-healthy shooting guard Eric Gordon in the starting lineup Saturday. It allowed coach Monty Williams to make other changes and roll out the starting five he envisioned.

And this is where Vasquez’s ambassadorial value comes shining through. A 6-foot-6, bearded jolt of energy, smiles, enthusiasm and positivity, his team-first attitude is absolutely contagious. It’s critical to the evolution of this franchise, and no more so than as it relates to Gordon, the 6-foot-3 scoring machine deemed the future of the franchise when New Orleans acquired him in the painful CP3 trade 13 months ago.

“I have a good relationship with Eric and I tell you this, we have been talking a lot,” Vasquez said before Saturday’s comeback victory. “Eric is a pro. I feel him as a player too, because his knee was really bothering him. But now he feels like his teammates got his back, we all got his back. We all know he’s going to make us better and we’re going to make him better. And now, we talked [Friday] night, we’re going to make this situation a great situation. We’re going to start winning games.

“For a guy like that to say that to a guy like me, that means a lot. I’m sure he’s saying that on behalf of the whole team because we’re winners, we want to win and we work. And that has been the main thing of our team, we’re going to work regardless. Whether we lose or win tomorrow we are getting better because our vision is in the future.” (more…)

Draft Comparisons: Leonard, Marshall, Zeller and Rivers





HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – As Draft time rolls around and we learn about the next class of NBA rookies, there’s a desire to compare each to players we’re already familiar with.

No two players are exactly alike and some players are more unique than others. But you can find comparisons by watching video, crunching stats or matching measurements. For this exercise, we did the latter two.

Listed below are four of the top picks, along with the current NBA players they compare with most. For this exercise, we looked at 10 stats from each player’s last season in college, and eight measurements taken at the annual pre-draft combine.

Because we used college numbers and combine numbers, the only current players we could compare this year’s prospects to were the ones who played in college (so no LeBron James or Dwight Howard) and participated in the combine since 2000 (Rajon Rondo is one notable name missing in that respect).

The following comparisons aren’t gospel, of course, but they’re one way to get ready for the Draft on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). (more…)

Blogtable: Winner Of The Offseason?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Which non-L.A. team has improved the most since June?

Steve Aschburner: Indiana. I like what the Pacers have done in adding David West, in making Frank Vogel the permanent head coach (in NBA terms, anyway) with an upgraded staff and in challenging their core to improve from within. Even Danny Granger, an All-Star, is being nudged to grow his game, which sets a standard for the other guys. If George Hill and Tyler Hansbrough are on the second unit, that’s a pretty solid rotation. The key remains Roy Hibbert, who will put it all together one of these seasons. Unless he doesn’t.

Fran Blinebury: Putting Tyson Chandler in the middle of the lineup with the big guns of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Baron Davis should enable the Knicks to finally move up and out of the Borough of Mediocrity where they’ve been cozily living like it’s a rent-controlled apartment for years.  Note that I said should.

Scott Howard-Cooper: The Pacers, beating out the Knicks. Indiana turned a mid-first pick in a bad draft into George Hill and later signed David West at the low risk of a two-year commitment. Not only two proven starters, but at very good prices.

(more…)

All The Right Moves

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For the longest time, going all the way back to middle of summer, we weren’t sure what it was Chris Paul was looking for.

We heard the rumors. Then we heard from him, dispelling the rumors. And then came the sit down meeting with the Hornets’ brass and word that everything was good.

But we still had no idea what it was CP3 wanted.

Then the season started and everything cleared up. The Hornets rolled to the best start in the league and went about their business like the summer and all the drama had never happened.

We see it now. Chris Paul wants his crown back, the one Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Derrick Rose and several others have tried on in his absence from the throne as the NBA’s top point guard.

Even better, Paul is going about getting it back the ol’ fashioned way, he’s going to earn it back. It always helps when the organization has your back. And the Hornets are making all the right moves these days.

Their weekend trade — Toronto sent Jarrett Jack, David Andersen and Marcus Banks to New Orleans for Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless — is just the latest master stroke of new GM Dell Demps, who knows a thing or two about building a winner after working in San Antonio prior to taking over the Hornets in the summer.

(The Nuggets might want to take notes or at least call Demps for some pointers, what with Carmelo Anthony‘s name being mentioned more prominently than Paul’s in nearly every trade rumors since draft night.)

The message the Hornets are sending is as simple as it is impressive. If you want to keep your superstar happy and in the fold, don’t just talk about it, act like it!

The Hornets have not only reshaped the roster and shown Paul that they can put the winning pieces around him, they’ve also slid out from under the looming guillotine of the luxury tax, proving that you can be proactive and tax-minded at the same time (while retaining just enough usable assets to make more moves, if need be, in the coming months).

Think about all the work the Hornets have done since summer, all of the new faces that have been added and all of the dead weight tossed overboard. It’s a rather remarkable makeover on the go when you sit back and admire the changes. And they’ve used a splendid mix of old and new to run off this 11-1 start, which is a product of the approach of coach Monty Williams (the defensive-minded Hornets have allowed just one opponent to score 100 point so far).

David West and Emeka Okafor are playing fantastic basketball right now, as the top-flight recipients of Paul’s assists tend to do. But raise your hand if you knew where Marco Belinelli‘s played this time a year ago. Trevor Ariza, Willie Green and Jason Smith are all doing their part. And the additions of Jack and Andersen give the Hornets some much-needed depth.

With Jack in the backcourt rotation, he can play both spots, ensures that Paul’s minutes can be managed throughout the course of the season and the Hornets can continue their feel good story for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, it might be time for someone to get Paul his crown back!