By Wes Lilliman
Head Coach: Monty Williams
PG – Chris Paul
SG – Marco Belineli
SF – Trevor Ariza
PF – David West
C- Emeka Okafor
G – Marcus Thornton
F – Peja Stojakavic
F- Craig Brackens
F – Quincy Pondexter
C – Aaron Gray
I wanted to “copy and paste” my article about the Denver Nuggets, swap out Carmelo Anthony’s name for Chris Paul’s and call it good. I really did.
However, as a considerate young man, I decided to reward the loyal readers with an original preview as it pertains to the Hornets. I’ll just warn you by saying that, if it sounds familiar, there’s a good reason for that.
You have one of the top players in the league, Paul, wanting out so badly that he couldn’t contain himself during the summer. As the story goes, Carmelo’s wedding featured a toast from “CP3” that promoted the idea of the two joining Amar’e Stoudamire up in New York to form a trio of terror, which is all the rage in the NBA right now.
Anyway, all the talk of “Car-paul-amire” and Paul wanting out if the organization didn’t go get winning pieces to compliment him really has to make you excited for this season if you’re a Hornets fan. As with Melo, there has to be a lot of doubt concerning Paul and a future in New Orleans. Regardless, he’s with them for now, and he’s damn good. He’s not the type to take plays/games/seasons off even if he’s unhappy, and he’ll just be glad to be out there after a season full of injuries last year.
Besides, it’s not like New Orleans didn’t try to appease Paul. The hierarchy of the organization went was shaken and flipped upside down, ultimately culminating with a new owner in Gary Chouest (who was probably spending most of his time worrying about his offshore service company and how they could assist in a little oil-spill thing you might have heard about), a new GM in the form of Dell Demps (who Paul apparently likes), and a new head coach by the name of Monty Williams (a 39 year-old ex-player/assistant whose top “career highlight” on NBA.com is:
“Made his first career 3-pointer against the Phoenix Suns on 2/22/98.”
Nevertheless, Williams was a respected contributor to the Portland coaching staff and is admired by players like Paul for his willingness to get involved during practice and his enthusiasm. With that in mind, Paul seemed to look motivated and hungry when I watched him play during a preseason battle against Orlando.
The Hornets got beat 135-81, but it’s the preseason. It means nothing (right?).
As far as player personnel goes, the team made a strong move in picking up versatile swingman Trevor Ariza but it came with a price – the loss of backup guard Darren Collison. The hope is that Ariza can
give the team in a slightly different look and help open up the floor to keep the opposition off balance. His presence should take some pressure off of Paul and the rest of the backcourt.
Unfortunately, “the rest of the backcourt” basically consists of Marco Belinelli and Marcus Thornton (I know… I will let you catch your breath). Seriously, this team has a bit of a depth issue. Backing up Ariza is Peja Stojakovic, who is known for:
A) Shooting, and
B) … actually, it’s just “A) Shooting”
The U-DUB’s own Quincy Pondexter was a solid pickup on draft night, but it’ll take time for him to get comfortable and he probably won’t be ready for extended minutes anytime soon. GOD FORBID Paul gets hurt again, because the remaining perimeter players leave a lot to be desired.
Depth is also an issue when it comes to the big men. The Hornets have a former All-Star in David West at power forward. West can score, but there are holes in his game (particularly his defensive abilities). Emeka Okafor is back at center and then… well, I’ll just be honest: they’ve got a bunch of guys. Aaron Gray, Sean Marks, newly-signed D.J. Mbenga – this sounds like three-fifths of the next Lou Pearlman boy-band. Gray is a legitimate big man who can at least take up a lot of space, Mbenga can speak a bunch of languages and once had a double-double (against, you guessed it, the Hornets), and Sean Marks is the first native of New Zealand to play in the NBA. I don’t know, maybe I’m selling these guys short, but I doubt it. The Hornets are likely praying on some lightning-quick development from their other 1st round draft pick, power forward Craig Brackins.
IF THEY GET LUCKY: Paul really is happy, stays happy, and plays happy. Some sort of synergy develops between he, Ariza, and West. Guys on the bench overachieve, and the rookies adapt quickly. Additionally, Williams injects some sort of new life into the squad, and they run wild to 40 wins.
IF THEY DON’T: Paul either gets hurt or disgruntled and looks to the future. If that happens, it’s over. No Collison to fall back on this year.
REALITY: This is likely to be another tough one for Hornets fans, even with Paul at his best. Williams has to learn how to be a head coach with a group that is well-aware of Paul’s situation and desires. This team will have to deal with losing from the get-go, and it’s only a matter of time before that breaks somebody down… whether it be CP3, Williams, or just the teams morale, in general. A postseason run looks like a pipe dream at this point, but at least the Saints won the Super Bowl.
BONUS SECTION: The New Orleans Hornets dance squad/cheerleaders are known as the HONEYBEES.
… a clever little name and a fairly standard group of young ladies. However, the real gem of the entertainment provided by the organization for the home crowd has to be their senior-citizen cheer squad, THE USED-TO-BEES. Just watch (especially when they kick it into high-gear at about 38 seconds in):
Just goes to show, it’s never too late to “bee what you want to bee.”