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New Orleans Hornets
|7:30 PM Pacific / 10:30 PM Eastern|
|Steve Nash||PG||Chris the Paul|
|Raja Bell||SG||Mo Pete |
|Matt Barnes ||SF||Peja Stojaiwyhlkj|
|Amare Stoudemire ||PF||D West |
|Shaq??||C||Tyson "Lob" Chandler |
In the Suns home opener we get what most people consider the second best team in the West. CP3 is always explosive and provides even more problems for the Suns. He exposes our biggest defensive liabilities - staying in front of point guards and big man pick and roll D.
Both teams played their season opener on the road last night and both teams won. We will have to wait and see if Shaq is going to be held out tonight after playing a solid 30 minutes last night. This isn't a good match up for him and I would be somewhat surprised to see him play. Will Lopez start instead? Will Diaw? It's all new in Porter's world.
Looking at both rosters it's pretty clear that the Suns will need another solid bench performance to win. We are the deeper team and if the second unit can keep the pressure on and the score close then perhaps we can see a repeat of last night's closing moves by Amare and Nash.
No predictions for tonight. At this point in the season there's really nothing that could surprise me about this game.
For this game we are fortunate to have input from two great Hornet's blogs At The Hive and Hornets 24/7.
I answered different questions for both but was lazy and asked them each the same set of questions
Both of these guys represent their city well and demonstrate a certain measure of southern charm and hospitality.
1) People look at the Suns and see an old injury prone team. But don't CP3, West and Peja have their own history with injuries? How do you think the Hornets will fair if one of the starters goes down for an extended period of time?
At the Hive - Well, if Chris Paul goes down for extended time, I'm not sure the Hornets have the pieces to stay afloat. On the other hand, I think if David West or Peja go down, this team is deep enough to cover for that. A player like Chris Paul can elevate a guy like Rasual Butler to a Peja-lite role, which can be huge. It sounds funny, but Tyson Chandler might be a harder injury to recover from if he goes down than David West. West is the better player, but we would miss Tyson's defense a ton. If West goes down, I assume Posey would fill in.
Hornets 24/7 - Chris Paul has had one freak injury that resulted in a very bad high ankle sprain. It cost him 16 games his sophomore year, but it's not the sort of injury that causes lasting damage. Other than that, he's only missed 4 games a season. Peja Stojakovic had one terrible year when his back turned to mush. But realistically, Peja's been fairly durable over his career other than that. Toss out that season, and he averages 74 games a year.
David West is my real concern though. For every good year he's had, he's had a bad one - and he's due for a bad one this year. He's also notoriously slow to heal from real injuries. He had a bone bruise that kept him out 50 games one year. Yes, a bone bruise. Two years ago, he had some inflammation in his elbow that wasn't caused by an injury and just got worse and worse. He shut it down for a couple weeks and it didn't get better so he had surgery with a recovery time of 4-6 weeks. He took the full six. He worries me.
If Paul or Tyson Chandler go down for a while, the Hornets will hurt, no question. The other three starters have capable backups, but they don't.
2) It feels like the Suns fans went through the same process of being thrilled with the first year's overacheivement and then going into the second year as favorites we all got pretty cocky but the team certainly felt the pressure. Are you ready for it?
Hornets 24/7 - Probably not. But I'd rather be in the position to have the high. Oh - and my team is built around three players who are 27 or younger. Your guys were, and are, old. Old. Did I mention they are old? There, that's what you get for trying to ruin my buzz. Oh yeah - how's Shaq working out?
At The Hive - I don't think the Hornets or their fans view last year as an overachievement. I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that the Hornets were better than the Spurs last year and should've won that series. A sloppy game 7 cost them, and they had a chance to take care of business in Game 6. So, if anything, the fan base feels like it fell short of where this team could've gone last year.
Sound familiar Suns fans?
3) Who's the best PG in the league? Ok, just kidding I already know your answer. Is there any real chance that CP3 takes a step back? We've seen guys explode out of the gates like this before only to come back to earth.
Hornets 24/7 - It's entirely possible. He played at a crazy level and the two players he's most commonly compared to; Kevin Johnson and Isiah Thomas, actually peaked at ages 22-24 and then declined - a bit. Still - a vast amount of Paul's game is cerebral - so I don't expect much of a decline.
At the Hive - Hah. Of course, there's the chance he takes a step back. I'll be the first to admit that. However, there are many areas of his game he can improve on: perimeter shooting, one on one defense over extended series, and finishing with his weak hand come to mind. And most guys that play crazy basketball before coming down to Earth don't maintain that crazy basketball level for 82 games. The fact that Paul did it for an entire season, then the playoffs is a good indication for the future.
To top it all off, let's say Paul inexplicably regresses to his rookie levels. By John Hollinger's PER, and most other statistical measures, he'd still be the best point guard in the league.
4) What are the Hornet's achilles heal (besides the aforementioned injuries)?
At the Hive - Front court depth, number one. Posey helps out a little bit, but there are no legitimate centers behind Tyson Chandler. The other glaring flaw is the Hornets' inability to get to the free throw line. They were second last in FT/FG last year. Not having the luxury of free throws to fall back on during an off shooting night is never a good thing.
Hornets 24/7 - The Hornets fielded a top defense last year, but what was hidden in those numbers were the Hornets having difficulty stopping Shooting Guards and Centers, while crushing Forwards and breaking even on Point Guards. Posey and Devin Brown replacing the defenseless Bonzi Wells and Jannero Pargo will help with the Shooting Guard, but we'll still have some problems stopping Centers. Too often the Hornets leave Chandler on an island against them. It hurts sometimes.
5) You've now had a chance to feel the bitter pain of being eliminated by the Spurs. We're gunning for revenge this year and would love another shot at them come spring. How about you? Who are you hoping to get a peice of?
Hornets 24/7 - My personal antipathy is towards the Jazz. The Spurs I can live with - I felt that Bruce Bowen got absolutely abused to my satisfaction by Paul in the playoffs, so I don't have the Bowen-spurred hatred other team's fans do. But the Jazz? They need to be humbled.
At the Hive - Beating the Spurs would be nice. But I truly believe this Hornets team was better than them last year, and is even better than them this year. I'd love to see us take on the Lakers. Their size and depth challenges our two biggest weaknesses, and it'd be amazing if we could knock them out of the playoffs this season. The other team I'd like to get a piece of is the Jazz. Deron Williams has dominated Chris Paul throughout his career, and that head to head matchup is the last thing Jazz fans can point to in the Deron vs. CP3 debate. I hope Chris can figure that matchup out soon.
Jazz fans haven't been making a lot of friends lately...The Nugs and Rockets also hate them and they got mad at me because I refused to accept that the Suns and Jazz had a rivalry based on sharing a state boarder...
Thanks again to these fine gentlemen. Be sure to check out both great blogs at At The Hive and Hornets 24/7.
WARNING: This Phoenix Suns team is very much a work in progress
DO NOT PANIC if there are early season losses and a general look of discombobulation