Wednesday , Apr , 08 , 2009 C.Y. Ellis

Feeling New Orleans, Not Orlando

Feeling New Orleans, Not OrlandoLet’s start an argument. For starters, it seems as if the Lakers are a sure pick to make it out of the West this year. Especially after the recent damaging news to the Spurs’ playoff hopes. But are we jumping the gun and forgetting about another team in the West that could possibly challenge Los Angeles?

Shifting to the Eastern Conference, is Dwight Howard good enough to lead his Magic past a club like Boston, or even have a shot against Cleveland?

Take this as a discussion of what another team can do, as opposed to what the Lakers can or can’t do.

I think it’s time to forget about the San Antonio Spurs. Yeah, I’m a genius, right? The Spurs were my pick this year to get to the NBA Finals, but with Manu Ginobili out for the rest of the season, I’m jumping off that prediction as fast as I can. With that being said, I wouldn’t call the Lakers a lock to make it out of the West. When I make predictions, I want to make sure I’m not feeding into too much of the hype out there from sportswriters and fans who are so quick to crown Los Angeles as the Western Conference champions.

I’m shifting my prediction to the New Orleans Hornets, but with caution. First, I’ll get the negative out of the way.  James Posey and Tyson Chandler are concerns, more so Tyson Chandler. The inflammation in Posey’s elbow seems to be on the right track as Posey is scheduled to return against Dallas on Friday night. Chandler’s left ankle is a legitimate concern for the post season. From what Tyson has said publicly, it seems as if it will be nowhere near 100%, which understandably must scare Byron Scott. After all this, the Hornets don’t look like an attractive option right? Wrong.

Optimism should rest on the shoulders of Chris Paul and David West. Paul is a year older with more seasoning, and David West has made improvements to his offensive game. To get more specific on West, he’s made improvements in his one-on-one play, notable because it doesn’t require Paul creating the open look for him.

If Chandler is healthy enough to make impact defensively, and key role players such as Butler show up in the post season (Posey should be a given), I don’t see why the Hornets don’t have as good a shot as anybody to knock off a team like the Lakers.

A lot of people love Orlando because of Dwight Howard and the three-point shooters around him. But do I sound like I’m throwing cold water on them by saying I need to see more from Dwight Howard?

I know Dwight is a beast, athletically gifted for a man his size. But is Howard really an offensive game breaker?

Yeah, I’ve watched a Magic telecast before, trust me. I’ve seen Howard seal players under the basket on the pick-and-rolls. I’ve seen Howard and what seems to be his effortless rim runs while Orlando pushes the ball on the break. All these things he does well because of his size and strength, and all of them result in dunks that are thrown down with authority. But how many times do I have to say the following: Dwight Howard’s dunks will be cut down in the playoffs, and he will be forced to consistently score on the block with legitimate post moves.

Has D-12 improved his offensive game in general? Sure he has, but is he going to baby hook you into taking a Hack-a-Howard philosophy? Right now, I don’t think so. And if this holds true, it puts that much more pressure on the Orlando three-point shooting to be as good as they were in the regular season. Is rookie Courtney Lee going to be as effective on the big stage? His play this season has been great, but playing in the NBA playoffs is a far cry from any meaningful games he played while attending Western Kentucky.

Believe me, I’m not trying to be a hater, I’m just showing legitimate reasons to be skeptical.