It’s a crucial year for the Hornets. Chris Paul can opt out of his contract with New Orleans after this season, and it goes without saying that the franchise would be devastated if Paul left the team. Here are a few ways that the Hornets can build on their spirited first-round performance against the Lakers last season:
– Get Healthy:
After battling injuries for the better part of two regular seasons and seeing his PER drop from 30 in 08-09 to 23.75 in 09-10 and 10-11, Chris Paul used the first round of the playoffs to show everybody that when CP3 is on his game, he’s as good as anybody in the league. Paul is almost unquestionably the league’s best ballhandler and one of its best passers, and he’s turned himself into one of the league’s best outside shooters as well.
If his knees can stay healthy for a full season, he could give the Hornets a fighting chance at getting into the playoffs and winning a series or two all by himself. He’s that good.
David West is CP3’s sidekick on the court, but a torn ACL suffered late in the year kept him out of the playoffs and could cause him to miss a significant portion of this season. If Paul and West both have healthy knees coming into the playoffs, the Hornets could make some noise. If they don’t, it’s hard to envision them as serious contenders.
– Get Players:
It’s not a state secret that the Hornets’ roster is incredibly thin. Outside of Paul, Jarrett Jack, Emeka Okafor, West, and Trevor Ariza, the Hornets don’t have much, and the team desperately needs to stock the roster with some quality role players and veterans (in other words, not Marco Belinelli), who can knock down the open shots that Paul creates and play some defense.
– Stay Defensive:
The secret of the Hornets’ return to the playoffs was their improved defense. Under Monty Williams, the Hornets were a top-10 team in defensive efficiency last season. If the Hornets can maintain their commitment to defense and become the best defensive team in the Western conference (only the Lakers and Mavericks had a higher defensive efficiency in the West than the Hornets did last season), and simply let a healthy CP3 do his thing on offense, they could end up being a very tough out in the playoffs.
Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.
There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.
Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.
Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.
The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.
Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.
More than fine.
Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.
Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):
The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.
Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.
Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.
The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?
Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:
If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.
The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.
It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.