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Guerry Smith, New Orleans Sports Examiner:

Paul, one of the five best players in the NBA, deserved better. Everyone else on the team let him down.

Power forward David West gave ammunition to the critics who suggested he was a third option forced into a role as a second option despite his breakout performance in 2007-08. His regular-season numbers were close to his stats from a year ago, but he shot below 40 percent in the playoffs and was a no-show defensively.

Small forward Peja Stojakovic, bothered by a bad back, averaged fewer points (13.3) than in any season since 1999-2000, shot worse (.399) than in any season since his rookie year in 1998-99 and was under 38 percent from 3-point range for the first in nine years.

Center Tyson Chandler, limited by an assortment of foot injuries, was useless in the playoffs before sitting out the series clincher. After averaging 11.8 points and 11.7 rebounds in the regular season a year ago, he produced 8.8 points and 8.3 rebounds.

Shooting guard Rasual Butler had a career year (11.2 points), but he would be a role player rather than a regular on a championship-caliber team. Consider: his lone assist against Denver in game 5 was his only one of the series.

James Posey, a free-agent signee who was supposed to put the Hornets over the top after winning championships with the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, was the only live body off the bench but fell short of expectations. He shot 15 for 40 against Denver when New Orleans needed his playoff savvy the most.

Doug Smith, Toronto Star:

Byron Scott’s coaching tenure is in question – but having a year left on his deal could get him into next season; they’ve already tried to deal Chandler away – a pure salary dump that they’ll likely re-visit this summer; and I guarantee you Paul is having second thoughts about his long-term future in New Orleans.

Brandon Gallawa, Talk Hoops:

I picked the Hornets (to win the series) becuase I thought Chris Paul was that good, but it was a terrible pick in hindsight.  He doesn’t have a single teammate that can match his intensity.  The roster is devoid of a quality post player.  Tyson Chandler makes Adam Morrison look tough.  Peja Stojakovic’s game has a yearly expiration date of April 18.  David West is a 6’9″ guy that doesn’t grab boards or play a bruising style.

It’s tough to decide what we should think about Paul.  Should we think he is worse than we thought because he couldn’t come through in the playoffs (and he had a horrible series 5.3 TO, 1.3 steals and 44% from the field)?  Or does this just exhibit how good he was this season?  He led a team to the playoffs despite a number of obvious flaws and was more a pinball than point guard in this series.  His legacy is still in the balance after this game/series, and it only got a lot more gray.

Holly MacKenzie, SLAM Online:

Chris and Deron out of the playoffs and Rondo’s averaging a triple-double in the series. I’m not debating anyone’s greatness, I’m just sayin. To everyone who tried to tell me that Rondo is only good because of the players around him kindly step off and admit you were very, very wrong.

Zach Harper, Talk Hoops:

Michael Jordan was notorious for being a complete asshole in practice and often called out guys on the court for missing an assignment, allowing a three-point play instead of fouling hard enough to stop the shot, or not playing with enough passion and aggression to win ball games. He famously hated guys like Horace Grant in the early years because they weren’t tough and didn’t have the fire and desire of someone like Charles Oakley. He started fights in practice and had a fouler mouth than the lovely ladies on Rock of Love. In the world of hating guys like Bobby Knight for being too hard on his players, that kind of intense leadership can become grating and alienating.

And that may be what will happen with Chris Paul. He’s probably going to alienate more teammates than win over in his career. He’s fiery and intense. He’s hard and unwilling to accept failure. But in today’s world of sensitive athletes who want the world given to them on a silver platter that might not fly with everybody. I could be simply reading for too much into this and perhaps the Hornets were just primed for a beating against the Nuggets. There was a play when Chris Paul was planted mid-court and none of his teammates moved towards him to help him up. Perhaps, it was because they’re tired of his criticism. Perhaps, it’s because of a gesture he made with his arms that they know to mean don’t help me up. But it seemed odd to me.

John DeShazier, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Fans who have pleaded for the Hornets to trade Peja Stojakovic either don’t realize there’s no market for Stojakovic, or simply want to hear their own voice. Stojakovic is a one-dimensional player who, lately, hasn’t satisfactorily performed his one specialty, shooting. He has two years remaining on his contract, reportedly for $14.2 million and $15.336 million; no team is going to take on that deal for that player.

While I still believe Tyson Chandler is a critical piece for the Hornets, the fact is that now, the team probably can’t get rid of him. He’s been classified as damaged goods – the Thunder vetoed his trade to Oklahoma City because of what the organization deemed a troublesome toe, and a bad ankle helped limit him to 45 regular-season games – and he has two years left on his deal.

And there aren’t any takers for Morris Peterson, Antonio Daniels and Hilton Armstrong…

Think changing the head coach will be the solution, especially after the Denver series, which included an NBA-record 58-point home loss? Here are a couple of reasons why that probably won’t happen.

First, Byron Scott signed a two-year extension after 2007-08 and no owner, in this economic climate, is inclined to pay a coach to not work. Second, the guy won Coach of the Year after last season; he didn’t suddenly forget how to do the job. Third – though fans obviously are accustomed to better results from New Orleans’ NBA team, judging by the outrage – the Hornets advanced to the playoffs for the second consecutive season and won a franchise-record 56 regular-season games last year.

Usually, that doesn’t amount to a fire-able offense.


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