The Hawks Win, Paul’s Ankle and Okafor Trade Rumors

One step forward, two steps back.  Tonight the Hornets took on a sharp and confident Hawks team and didn’t lose contact until most of the starters came in a few minutes into the fourth.  Then their starters came in, and the Hornets were quickly swamped.  There were a few highlights, a lot of lowlights, and some weirdness I can’t figure out:

  • The loss tonight was on the starters, without any question.  They couldn’t defend the Hawks to save their lives, falling behind even with Peja absolutely smoking from every angle of the court.  Okafor and West gave up easy shot after easy shot on the interior, and Devin Brown defended Joe Johnson as well as the Maginot Line defended France in 1940.
  • West’s play, in particular, was a major reason this game got away from the Hornets.  Usually I can stomach his slow rotations defensively, because offensively he’s giving more than he’s taking.  Tonight – and really, the whole season – that’s not been true.  I’m completely flummoxed about his problems this season, too.  He’s not just missing forced shots – tonight he had 4 offensive rebounds that he had uncontested layups to put back in . . . and he blew them.  He’s done that in multiple games this season.  I don’t get it.  If he’d just put in his open point blank shots, the Hornets would have been up in the fourth.  He also refused to step out to meet several passes while in the post, allowing easy steals, and Josh Smith treated him like a traffic cone.  Frustrating.
  • The second unit played very well.  Both times they entered the game, the Hornets made a run behind Bobby Brown’s (surprisingly) decent shot selection, Thornton’s aggressiveness, and Songaila’s deft passing and willingness to battle.  Even Posey was working out there tonight, getting out on the break and fighting hard on the boards and defensively.

  • Thornton was aggressive and once again showed no fear going to the hole.  He did take a couple really bad threes, but in general his energy, willingness to run, and gumption to attack any player at any time makes me happy.  12 points in 18 minutes.  As I told Niall after the game, the minute he takes Devin Brown’s starting spot, I’ll do a jig.
  • It’s probably not worth a bullet point, but yes, Devin Brown was not good.
  • Collison struggled tonight, looking like a rookie.  On multiple possessions, he drove towards the paint, couldn’t really figure out what to do on the way there, then dribbled around and ended up backing back out or sometimes turning it over.  Still, you can see the promise there.
  • While Collison may have struggled, co-rookie Jeff Teague of the Hawks, selected a few positions before him in the draft, looked awful.  He was completely out of control almost the entire game.
  • Okafor had a poor game, much like West, but he was at least working like a dog out there – sprinting the floor at times, and battling on the boards, typically going one on two.  The camera caught a look of frustration on his face twice when no one covered him when he was trying to get back on defense after battling on the boards on the other end.  Poor communication.
  • Sean Marks got 2 minutes, and Hilton Armstrong got 9.  Last game I was so happy to see Marks playing over Armstrong, and then things went right back where they were.  In related news, the Hornets were killed on the boards in the first half.  Marks changes that equation, even with his propensity for lame fouls.
  • In the third quarter, after the starters had given up a quick six points resulting in a timeout, the camera shifted to the Hornets bench and caught Jeff Bower glaring at the rafters and Tim Floyd looking pained with his hair already messed up from running his fingers through it . . . I’m guessing in frustration.  I’m feeling you, Floyd.

That’s it.  Next game is Tuesday, at home, versus the Clippers. 

Chris Paul’s Ankle Injury

The Hornets, as usual, have been very quiet about Paul’s injury, and only a few rumors have surfaced intimating he’ll be out 1-2 weeks.  Really, the whole situation is now that of an unstoppable force striking an immovable object.  On one side is Paul and his hatred of sitting out and watching.  On the other is the Hornets history of grossly underestimating how long a player will be out.  We’ll see who wins.

Okafor Trade Rumor

I also wanted to comment on the Emeka Okafor($10.5 Mil salary) for Kenny Thomas ($8.5 Mil salary) rumors that have cropped up.  The numbers do match in that situation.  The CBA changed in 2005 to allow trades to occur with a difference of 25% between salaries(up from 15%) – so the trade can be made straight up.  Kenny Thomas, however, is not a rotation player, and getting him does not improve the team at all for the future, which was the entire point of the Okafor trade in the first place.  I could only see the Hornets making this trade if they are completely blowing up the team and have given up on the season already.  If that’s the case, I’d expect them to wait a little longer first and see if they can turn things around.  There’s no reason to rush into that sort of trade, and they’ll have a better idea if the season is unsalvageable in January or February.

On a personal note, there are a lot of other names I’d rather see in trade rumors right now than Emeka Okafor’s.

UPDATE: Video highlights and the NBA TV guys talking about Chris Paul’s injury.

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