Wednesday , Nov , 01 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Celtics, Hornets begin 2006-07 season in Beantown

(Sports Network) – Two teams that were very busy during the offseason open
the 2006-07 campaign against each other, as the Boston Celtics welcome the New
Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets tonight to TD Banknorth Garden.

During the offseason, the Celtics made a firm commitment to try and
build a winner around All-Star Paul Pierce. The team signed Pierce to a
lucrative contract extension that will keep the star forward in Beantown
through the 2010-11 season.

A five-time All-Star, Pierce averaged a career-high 26.8 points, 6.7 rebounds
and 4.7 assists in 79 contests during the 2005-06 season. Pierce’s excellent
season was not enough to keep Boston from missing the postseason for the first
time since the 2000-01 campaign. The Celtics finished with a dismal 33-49
record, which put them in third place in the Atlantic Division.

The summer was filled with trade rumors that had Philadelphia 76ers All-Star
guard Allen Iverson becoming a Celtic. However, it never came to fruition and
any dreams that Boston fans had of seeing Pierce and Iverson playing together
were just that, dreams.

Head of basketball operations Danny Ainge did make some significant moves
during the offseason. He acquired point guard Sebastian Telfair and veteran
Theo Ratliff, who should see time at center and power forward, from the
Portland Trail Blazers for forward Raef LaFrentz, guard Dan Dickau and the
draft rights to Villanova product Randy Foye, who was selected seventh overall
by Boston in the 2006 NBA Draft. Foye was dealt by Portland to Minnesota in
another trade.

Ainge also added rookie guard Rajon Rondo, who was selected out Kentucky with
the 21st overall pick by Phoenix in this year’s draft. The Suns sent Rondo,
aging forward Brian Grant and cash considerations to the Celtics for a future
first round draft choice.

Wally Szczerbiak, who was acquired from Minnesota during last season, averaged
17.5 points in 32 games for the Celtics. He is the second scoring option,
behind Pierce, on the Boston roster. The 29-year-old Szczerbiak is entering
his eighth season in the league.

Head coach Doc Rivers is on the Boston bench for the third season. He
will once again look to Pierce to lead his club to victories. Even though the
Celtics were active during the offseason, the fact remains that Pierce is
still a one-man show.

The Celtics were 21-20 as the host last season. They will host the Detroit
Pistons on Friday.

What a great offseason it was for the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. They
made moves that will have an impact on their success and the final standings
in the Western Conference.

When forward Peja Stojakovic was acquired by New Orleans/Oklahoma City in a
sign-and-trade deal with Indiana on July 12, 2006, the Hornets became a
serious player in the Western Conference. The 29-year-old Stojakovic, who
signed a lucrative, multi-year contract before being dealt to the Hornets,
averaged 18.2 points and 5.8 boards in 71 games for Sacramento and Indiana
last season. Originally selected by the Kings in the first round (14th pick
overall) of the 1996 NBA Draft, Stojakovic has made just under 40 percent of
his attempts from beyond the arc during his eight-year career. He has played
in 59 playoff contests and will add valuable experience to the youthful
Hornets.

A three-time All-Star, Stojakovic gives the Hornets a deadly outside shooter
who will stretch the defense and create more space on the court for reigning
Rookie of the Year Chris Paul, who averaged 16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and a
team-best 7.8 assists during his first year in the NBA. The lightning-quick
Paul will benefit greatly from the addition of Stojakovic.

Free agency has also been good to the Hornets this summer, as they inked
guards Bobby Jackson and Jannero Pargo to contracts. Jackson and Pargo add
depth to the backcourt, and they will also give head coach Byron Scott more
flexibility with his rotation.

Twenty-four-year-old Tyson Chandler was obtained by the Hornets in a trade
with the Chicago Bulls on July 13th for veteran P.J. Brown and guard J.R.
Smith. The 7-1 Chandler, who averaged 5.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in 79 games
for Chicago last season, will play center and power forward for the Hornets.
His athleticism will help his new squad on defense and in transition.

The Hornets improved 20 wins during the 2005-06 season. They finished 38-44
compared to their brutal 18-64 record during the 2004-05 campaign. Paul was
awesome, as the Wake Forest product, who was drafted with the fourth overall
pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, is the cornerstone of the franchise and the player
that management is building the team around.

David West shocked everyone with his fantastic season. The 6-8 forward led the
team in scoring (17.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 rpg).

Scott has to be excited with his new and improved roster. The Hornets fell
short last season in qualifying for the postseason, but this year may be a
different story.

The Hornets were 14-27 as the visitor in 2005-06. They are scheduled to visit
the Pacers on Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse.

The Celtics have won four straight contests in this series. The Hornets
have lost four of their last six at Boston.

BOS NOH