Friday, November 24, 2006

The Rise of the Hornets

by SonDog

As I said yesterday, NBA League Pass is the greatest invention since the automobile.

Despite the ridiculous yellow uniforms they often wear (which combines for a horrifying effect on your retinas when paired with Peja Stojakovic and his laser-hair removed skin), the Hornets have become one of the scariest teams in the Western Conference.

Wait... One more thing about the uniforms. In Phoenix the other night, New Orleans broke out the egg-yolk yellow jerseys against the Suns. I don't know if they were just trying to scare the fans, but the combination of the yellow, plus the Suns' orange, plus Steve Nash and Peja made for something out of a kindergartener's water-color painting. I've had binge-drinking purges that have had a better mix of colors. I have no factual evidence on this, but I believe that over 37 fans were struck down by seizures at US Airways arena. It was simply wrong, on so many levels.

Anyways, the most obvious reason for the Hornets' early-season success is the brilliance of point guard Chris Paul. As I've said before, I have never been so wrong about a player as I was about Paul. In other words, I was Billy King and the Atlanta Hawks. When Paul was at Wake Forest, I thought he was too much of a shoot-first point guard in the mold of Steve Francis or Stephon Marbury. In the NBA, Paul has rapidly become the undisputed floor leader and best player on one of the NBA's most exciting teams. Without question, Paul is one of my top-5 favorite NBA players to watch.

Chris Paul has been great. The uniforms... not so much.

Paul is the biggest reason for the Hornets' improvement this season. That being said, there are other factors that have contributed to the team's success as well. Primarily, NOK leads the NBA in offensive rebounding thanks to Tyson Chandler and his mutant-like wingspan. Chandler is fifth in the league in total rebounds per game (11.9 heading into Friday night), leads the league in rebounds per 48 minutes (18.8) and is second in offensive rebounds per game (4.3). Not to sound like John Hollinger here, but Chandler's efficiency when it comes to rebounding is fantastic. Surely, Hollinger has a statistic somewhere to show, mathematically, how important this is to the Hornets' winning ways.

As much as it pains me to say this, Peja has played a large role in the Hornets' success as well. He's playing with more energy than at any time since 2003. His shot looks confident and he's playing like the dead-eye marksman that he was just a couple of years ago. You can credit Paul here too as the two have formed a nice chemistry early this season. He's having a Vlade Divac-like effect on Peja's game. Basically, Peja looks like he's having fun again, and when Peja is on, he's deadly. Especially if it is the first quarter.

The Hornets' best pure scorer is probably David West. The Xavier product has been injured recently with a strained forearm, but he's deadly and clutch when he's on the floor. Desmond Mason (who shoots jumpers about as well as the fans who have the opportunity to win an SUV at halftime), Bobby Jackson, Jannero Pargo, rookie Cedric Simmons and Marc Jackson have all contributed as well.

It will be interesting to watch this team the rest of the year. If they can stay healthy (see: Stojakovic, Peja and Chandler, Tyson), they can be a force throughout the season.


OZ said...

Peja will dissappear when they need him most. Mark my words, he will get the hodini award before this season os out.

SonDog said...

We need more additions to the Houdini List. We know Peja. He's in teh Houdini Hall of Fame. Brandon Lloyd, formerly of the Niners, was another one who simply disappeared when it mattered. It's a little too early to tell, but Vernon Davis may be headed in that direction.