cp3struggle

So… what’s going on with Chris Paul and the Hornets?

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Let us hearken back to those alabaster days when things were simpler, times were happier. When Chris Paul and the Hornets were 8-0, and by golly, CP3 looked like the MVP. A playoff team? No, the question was if New Orleans would have homecourt in the first round! Can they topple the Lakers? Is Emeka Okafor most improved? Is Marco Belinelli the most stylish man in the NBA?

But alas, those days are gone. The mighty Hornets have sucked in routs.

Since that wonderful time, the Hornets are 5-6, losers of their last 5 of 7, and have lots to teams like the Clippers and Knicks (including letting Amar’e Stoudemire work them over like they were paying him to do it). So the Hornets are slumping in a big way. But what’s to be concerned with? I think we all knew this team wasn’t quite that good (those of us whose fandom does not ride floats up a certain street in Louisiana named after a certain county in Kentucky at least). This is simply the reversion to the norm. I’m sure the issues are with Emeka Okafor going back to looking like the same inconsistent, easy to confuse and overwhelm center he’s always been and Marco Belinelli and Willie Green reverting back to form, right?

Well…

From Hornets blog At The Hive:

It feels weird to blame Chris Paul at the end of a loss. For more than half a decade, the blame has almost always been rightfully directed elsewhere. But our current offensive woes start and stop with him. On a night the team missed David West, we needed him to step up and take over the scoring load. Instead, he deferred and deferred and deferred until it was far too late. When he did start putting up shots as the game wound down, he scored almost at will. That just makes it so much more exasperating. The overall numbers look fine, but anybody that watched this game will tell you that Chris Paul let the Hornets down.

Yikes. Well, that’s one man’s opinion. What say you, Hornets 24-7?

Normally I refrain from talking too much about Paul since everyone else who writes about the game is going to cover every move and breath he takes, but I can’t help but publicly question his passive play. I don’t want to make any accusations, so I’ll leave it at that.

Sure, with 5 minutes left in the game he decided to take over, but what about the other 43 minutes? Too little, too late.

He finished with 17 points on 9 shots, 10 assists to 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds and 4 steals. The numbers are great, but there need to be more of them under the point category to win games like this.

PAUL HASN’T SCORED 20 POINTS SINCE 11/17. SINCE THEN THE HORNETS ARE 4-5. – I felt like that deserved capitalized bold letters. Paul used to drop 30 once a week just for fun.

Hmmm. It would appear that there may be a batch of bad gin (or jazz or crawfish po’ boys or whatever New Orleans cliche you’d prefer here) going around in New Orleans. It’s hard to figure out exactly what the Hornets have to do to get back to their winning ways, since that early streak was so simply excellent in every regard. They defended well, they attacked well, they rebounded well, they passed well, they shot well. Fixing those things may take rotation changes, it may just take time. Tough one for Monty Williams to figure out.

The Hornets are currently 13-6, three games behind San Antonio for the Southwest Division lead, and in fifth place in the Western Conference. They play San Antonio on Sunday.

Watch Kyle Lowry’s tip-pass alley-oop to Jimmy Butler in USA win

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There were a lot of ugly things for Team USA in its exhibition win over Venezuela — the 4-of-25 shooting from three comes to mind. There was more, it was not a strong offensive performance from Team USA.

But like usual, we can overwhelm teams with athleticism, and that means wins and highlights. Like Kyle Lowry‘s tip-pass alley-oop to Jimmy Butler.

Or DeMar DeRozan‘s late-game windmill dunk.

Kyrie Irving helps USA to ugly 80-45 win over Venezuela

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  Kyrie Irving #10 of the United States Men's National Team looks to make a move with the ball against the China Men's National Team during the first half of a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 13 points, DeMarcus Cousins powered a dominant performance in the paint, and the United States pulled away from Venezuela for an ugly 80-45 exhibition victory Friday night.

Coming off three straight flashy victories in Las Vegas and California, the United States shot 42.4 percent from the field and committed 13 turnovers in by far its worst offensive performance of its five-city tour in preparation for next week’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. But the Americans used their superior athleticism to limit Venezuela to 24 percent shooting and owned the interior with a 54-29 rebounding advantage.

Returning to Chicago for the first time with the U.S. national team, Bulls star Jimmy Butler was cheered every time he was announced at the United Center. He had four points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes in his first start with Team USA.

Butler had one of the few electric plays for the U.S. when he ran out on the break and dunked Kyle Lowry‘s tip pass in the fourth quarter. DeAndre Jordan also had a vicious dunk off a lob from Kevin Durant, and DeMar DeRozan drew chants of “USA! USA!” with a windmill jam in the final minutes.

Klay Thompson also scored 13 points, and Cousins finished with seven points and 12 rebounds. Durant had nine points of 3-of-9 shooting.

John Cox scored 14 points for Venezuela, which will play the U.S. again on Aug. 8 in the Olympics.

Irving and company were greeted with a round of hearty cheers when they came out for pregame warmups. Fans lined the side of the court where the Americans had their layup line, and Anthony and Durant posed for pictures with a couple of eager boys.

Before Butler’s introduction drew the most applause of the night, former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau received a thunderous ovation when he was announced with the U.S. coaching staff. Thibodeau took a year off after he was fired by the Bulls in May 2015, and then was hired as Minnesota’s coach and president of basketball operations in April.

The star power also extended to the sideline near the U.S. bench, where former Olympians Scottie Pippen and Dwyane Wade watched the action attentively. Wade was joined by his wife, actress Gabriel Union, hours after he held his introductory press conference for his new contract with his hometown Bulls.

Pippen played on the 1992 Dream Team that rolled to gold in Barcelona, and also helped the U.S. win gold in 1996. Wade was on the Americans’ gold medal-winning teams at each of the last two Olympics.

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.