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Collison and Thornton: A New Hope

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Published: February 1, 2010

And just like that one of the best players in the NBA and the top Hornet is unavailable for an entire month.  At first blush, losing Chris Paul makes it likely that the Hornets now have no chance of reaching the playoffs.  But hope springs eternal, and as such, I will embark on a tortured analogy to prove otherwise:  I prefer to think of their chance as equal to the one Anakin Skywalker had at landing Queen Amidala.

Amidala was mature, gorgeous, clever,  righteous, and only a good 15 years older than him.  Skywalker was immature, whiny, arrogant, brash and unsubtle.  The whole idea of them hooking up seemed ridiculous, but despite all their differences, Amidala still fell for him. (pardon me while I resist jokes about skillfully wielded lightsabers . . .)

So here are the Hornets:  In the starting backcourt are two rookie guards.  One was taken 21st in the draft, the other 43rd.  Both had enough perceived weaknesses and faults that more than half the teams in the league passed on them.  There were seven point guards taken in front of Collison. (nine if you include Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry as PGs)  There were twelve shooting guards taken in front of Marcus Thornton. The expectations for them were not high.

The results have said otherwise.  Despite all the perceived weaknesses, the two of them have formed one of the best drafts any team can claim.  As starters, they have combined for 32.9 points on 25.8 shots(1.28 points per shot), 8.2 assists, and 7.7 rebounds a game.  That’s comparable, or better, than a good 75% of the backcourts in the rest of the league.

And then we can even go beyond the numbers.  It seems to me that the rookies insert an infectious energy onto the floor when they play.  I wouldn’t say that the other players are inspired by them as much as the veteran frontcourt players (West, Okafor, Peja, Posey) are forced by the rookies to play with more fire.  Those guys have pride, and with the rookies leaving everything out there, they tend to raise their game to match what the rookies are doing.  Peja is a good example:  During the Memphis game, when Collison was running the point, Peja was actively engaged, calling for the ball, giving direction, and making himself available on post ups and cuts.  When Paul plays, Peja goes where he is supposed to and lets Paul makes the decisions.  He’s passive, and it’s true for a lot of the team.

So with the rookies, the other veterans have a different level of activity and personal investment in the result, and it shows.  It’s refreshing and makes me wonder – with the veterans playing hard, and if the rookies can keep up their torrid pace, can the Hornets(Anakin) reach the playoffs?(Amidala)

It’s seems unlikely, but we can hope, right?

(Oh, and lets all ignore just how unbelievable, forced and badly written the romance between Amidala and Anakin was in the movies.  We’ll also ignore the fact that in the end Anakin became an evil psychopath and Amidala ended up dying of grief.  It’s my analogy, and I can ignore the inconvenient bits if I want to.)

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