Good not great: Chris Paul and New Orleans Hornets must improve record
22-12 is good. Problem is we were expecting great.
New Orleans, currently fourth in the Western Conference, is hardly a bust or disappointment. However, the Hornets have failed to duplicate the, well, buzz of 2007-08.
Instead of challenging elite squads like Boston, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, ‘The Big Easy’ has slipped into the league’s second tier of very good (but not great) teams. With the west becoming increasingly competitive, home court advantage is far from a given.
Well, why haven’t things gone to plan?
They lack a third scorer. Two summers ago, Peja Stojakovic was handed the job and a 5-year, 60 million-dollar contract to boot. Clearly, his Sacramento success is in the past. At 31, and following several surgeries, he can’t ease the offensive pressure on the Chris Paul-David West duo or even create space by spreading the floor. Never a great defender, Stojakovic could soon fall out of favour with coach Byron Scott.
Tyson Chandler isn’t healthy. Over the last two years, the lanky post was a defensive catalyst; he altered shots, grabbed rebounds, and, most importantly, provided energy. This year, a sore foot has limited his effectiveness and statistics. The timing is especially rough. A healthy Chandler could have replaced Stojakovic as the third option.
Depth remains an issue. Other than big-ticket free agent James Posey, no reserve has provided consistent scoring. Morris Peterson, after being demoted to the bench, has struggled. And the club is still waiting for Hilton Armstrong, Devin Brown, and the newly acquired Antonio Daniels to step up.
Of course, Paul is the ultimate equalizer. The world’s best table-setter could help the Hornets go on a regular season run or, if need be, single-handedly upset a higher seed in the playoffs.
In today’s declining economy, a smaller market like New Orleans needs the revenue from every possible home playoff game. Finishing near the top of the Western Conference is key. And, at least in that respect, just being good won’t cut it.