Hornets start new season at the Ford Center
(Sports Network) - Rookie Chris Paul is scheduled to make his NBA debut tonight, as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets host the Sacramento Kings at the Ford Center in the opening night of the 2005-06 campaign.
The 2005-06 season should be interesting for the Hornets. Due to the damage sustained to the New Orleans Arena from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the Hornets will play a majority of their home schedule at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City Council members approved a lease that would allow the Hornets to play 35 of their 41-game home schedule and all playoff games at the 19,675-seat arena.
The Hornets are scheduled to play their six remaining home games at the Pete Maravich Center on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA.
In the 2004-05 campaign, under the guidance of first year head coach Byron Scott, the Hornets were a dismal 18-64 and did not make the playoffs for the first time since 1999. During last season, the Hornets decided to steer the team in a different direction for the present and the future. They traded two- time All-Star Baron Davis at the trade deadline to Golden State for Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis, who was released and is now a member of the Detroit Pistons.
Center Jamaal Magloire missed 59 games during the regular season because of a broken right finger. He averaged 11.7 points and 8.9 rebounds in 23 games in 2004-05. The Kentucky product was an All-Star in the 2003-04 season and his absence created a huge void that the team was not able to recover from. However, the Hornets traded Magloire to the Milwaukee Bucks on October 26th for swingman Desmond Mason, a 2006 first-round draft pick and an undisclosed amount of cash.
Even though the Hornets and their fans endured a terrible season in 2004-05 there were still some positives. Rookie J.R. Smith was a pleasant surprise, as he averaged 10.3 points in 76 games and showed that he has a bright future in the league. Veteran forward P.J Brown, who scored 10.8 points per game, gave New Orleans a strong rebounder (9.0 rpg) and provided steady play while playing in all 82 regular-season contests.
The 2005 draft should prove to fruitful for the Hornets for many years to come. The multi-talented guard Paul was available for the Hornets to select with the fourth overall pick. The Wake Forest product, who was the second point guard selected in the draft behind Illinois Deron Williams, was arguably the best overall talent in the draft. He has great play-making ability and can score. Paul is an impact player who will help bring excitement back to the fans of the Hornets.
Forward Brandon Bass, who played his college ball at LSU, was the Hornets choice at No. 33 in the second round and was a steal. Like Paul, the 6-8 Bass should be able to help immediately as he is an excellent rebounder who can score around the basket. The Hornets hope they have found their power forward of the future.
Also gone are point guard Dan Dickau, who was traded to Boston, and forward Lee Nailon, who signed with Philadelphia as a free agent. Last season, Nailon averaged a team-best 14.4 points, while Dickau registered 12.5 points and 4.9 assists per game.
It is a new beginning for the Hornets. Scott, who led New Jersey to two appearances in the NBA Finals during his tenure as head coach of the Nets, will try and get his young club on the right track by being positive and preaching tough play off the glass and on defense. Bass, Paul and Smith are young players who should mix well with veterans like Mason and the 36-year-old Brown.
Sacramento starts the 2005-06 campaign with a new identity. The Kings started the process of restructuring their squad when they traded star forward Chris Webber to the Philadelphia 76ers last February for forwards Brian Skinner, Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson. Sacramento, which fell in five games to Seattle in the first round of the 2004-05 playoffs, still has a talented roster which is led by point guard Mike Bibby, center Brad Miller and sharp- shooting forward Peja Stojakovic.
During the offseason, the Kings inked multi-talented forward Shareef Abdur- Rahim to a multi-year contract and acquired guards Bonzi Wells and Jason Hart in separate trades. The team traded guard Bobby Jackson to Memphis and center Greg Ostertag to Utah.
Forward Darius Songaila, guards Cuttino Mobley, Maurice Evans and Eddie House all left via free agency. Songaila joined the Bulls, Mobley signed with the Clippers, Evans inked a deal with Detroit and House signed on with Phoenix.
Louisville product Francisco Garcia was selected with the 23rd overall in the first round. Garcia can play shooting guard and small forward and could be a contribute immediately.
Abdur-Rahim was the team's big offseason acquisition. He appeared to be headed to New Jersey in a trade with Portland back on August 2, but the deal was rejected by the Nets when he failed to pass the club's physical because of scar tissue in his right knee. The third overall selection of Vancouver in 1996, Abdur-Rahim has averaged 19.8 points with 8.1 rebounds in 672 games with the Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks and Trail Blazers. Abdur-Rahim, who is a one-time All-Star, averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 boards in 54 games with the Blazers last season and should do a solid job at power forward for the Kings.
Sacramento, which qualified for the playoffs for a seventh straight year in 2005, follows the lead of Bibby, who had an excellent 2004-05 season as he averaged 19.6 points and a team-best 6.8 assists. Miller, who registered 15.6 points and 9.3 boards in 56 contests, gives the Kings a tough center who can play inside and outside. Stojakovic averaged a team-best 20.1 points in 66 games last season.
The Kings once again will have solid leadership on the bench as head coach Rick Adelman, who completed is 15th season as an NBA coach and seventh with Sacramento in 2004-05, is back. He has guided the Kings to three Pacific Division titles. A former head coach of Portland and Golden State, Adelman led the Trail Blazers to two NBA Finals appearances (1990, 1992).
Last season, the Kings won two of three from the Hornets. Overall, Sacramento has won eight of 10 and 12 of the last 15 meetings in this series.SAC NOH