Two years ago, the New Orleans Hornets were entering the playoffs as a young, up and coming team. Led by Chris Paul, the Hornets featured a young, dynamic lineup, and surprised everyone by not only advancing to the second round, but pushing the Spurs to the brink of elimination in a seven game series, losing at home when the buckets wouldn’t drop. Even after losing to the Spurs, the Hornets looked like the team of the future.
Two years later, the Hornets have been eliminated from playoff contention before March is finished. Last night’s loss to the Blazers finished the Hornets’ postseason intentions, though Jeff Bower says they still have plenty to play for.
The loss of Chris Paul for two months was clearly devastating to the Hornets, but considering the impact Darren Collison had in his absence (and continues to have), and the start to their season that led to the firing of Byron Scott, there’s clearly a bigger problem. The Hornets are saddled with aging wings with massive contracts in Peja Stojakovic, Mo Peterson, and James Posey. In a league that continues to get younger and more athletic, even when the older corps can contribute, there’s a downside on the defensive end.
Jeff Bower deserves some credit for pulling this team out of its doldrums, and for drafting the dynamic rookies Collison and Marcus Thornton. At the same time, Bower was the one that established the aging group. And while it’s pretty easy to argue Emeka Okafor was an improvement over Tyson Chandler who can’t stay on the floor due to injuries, the improvement wasn’t a slam dunk enough to make a significant impact.
The Hornets could look at this season as a success given that it’s possible they would have made the playoffs if Paul had been healthy. But they set the bar early with a run to the semifinals. Is making the playoffs really the only goal? Keep an eye on the Hornets this summer.
In his first game in New Orleans, coach Alvin Gentry threw forward Omri Casspi right into the rotation, and he scored a dozen points.
Casspi also broke his thumb and will be out 4-6 weeks.
Because there is so little time in the season and the Pelicans want to make the playoffs, they have decided to waive Casspi, reports Sams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
The idea is to create a roster spot to either grab someone waived by another team over the next few days or to get players on 10-day contracts.
Casspi will be a free agent this summer, and there are a number of teams that think he has real potential once unleashed outside what was going on in Sacramento.
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks have signed forward Ryan Kelly and guard Lamar Patterson to multiyear contracts.
Patterson provides depth across the perimeter, including at point guard. He previously signed two 10-day contracts with the team, most recently on Feb. 8. He has averaged 2.3 points in four games.
The 6-foot-11 Kelly has played in nine games with the Hawks after signing Oct. 31.
The Hawks now have their maximum 15 players. They traded forward Mike Scott to the Suns on Thursday, leaving two vacant roster spots.
Kelly and Patterson are expected to be available when the Hawks play Miami on Friday night.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee fired back at Shaquille O’Neal via Twitter after the former star-turned analyst posted on his verified account a disparaging photo of McGee with the words, “America meet Javale “BUM” McGee.”
O’Neal also responded angrily to McGee , saying he would “smack” McGee’s “bum a–.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Kevin Durant backed McGee on Friday, with Durant calling Shaq “childish” while calling out the retired center’s free throw shooting and other flaws in his game during a Hall of Fame NBA career.
Shaq and McGee went back and forth in a heated Twitter spat late Thursday night, when McGee returned to a reserve role for the NBA-best Warriors as starting center Zaza Pachulia returned from an eight-game absence because of a shoulder injury.
For a couple of seasons now, teams have tried to beat the Golden State Warriors by making the game ugly — slow, grinding, physical, and the opposite of the free-wheeling game they like. Only one team has had any real success with that strategy, and it has LeBron James on it (and even that wouldn’t have been enough if Draymond Green could keep his hands to himself).
So why not beat them at their own game?
That’s what Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey thought when he added Lou Williams to the roster, he said.
There is a sense around the Warriors that the Rockets may be a bigger concern than the Spurs, because Houston can score with them. Don’t confuse that with worry in the Bay Area, they are the best team in the West if healthy, but the Rockets may be the team they face off against in the conference finals.
And if that happens, Lou Williams is going to play a significant role.