Game On: Hornets @ Blazers (and Juicy Rumors!!)

Published: February 16, 2011

26 PPG, 9.8 rebounds, 53% FG, 81% FT, 40 MPG, 20 shots per contest- those are LaMarcus Aldridge’s numbers in 2011. If there is a hotter player in the league right now, I don’t know of him, and consequently his team is one of the hottest in the league as well. Portland enters this game with a league-high five game winning streak, and have won 11 of 15 overall. Less than three weeks ago, the Blazers were six and a half games back of the Hornets, but with a win tonight they would actually pull percentage points ahead of New Orleans.

While the Blazers are clearly on their way up, the Hornets have been reeling as of late, due in part to injuries, but Monty Williams will not let the team off that easily, and truthfully the problems extend far beyond the injury report. The offensive sets have been stagnant and the team has settled for jumpers far too often. Defensively, rotations simply aren’t being made and the team is just not being as physical as they were earlier in the season. Okafor will help tremendously, but he won’t be in there tonight, and the Hornets cannot simply afford to continue to lose games waiting for him to come and save them.

When the Hornets Have the Ball:

There is good news and bad news for the Hornets with this matchup. The good news is that the Hornets love to fire away from the perimeter and Portland will allow you to do that. The bad news is that the Hornets have been horrible from the perimeter on the road as a team. In each of the match-ups against Portland, the Hornets drained eight three pointers, which is almost 3 more than their season average. Marco Belinelli, especially, has enjoyed playing against Portland, as he has combined to go 8 of 11 from deep in the two games and is averaging 16 points on just over 8 shots per contest.

Willie Green has also faired well against the Blazers this year, taking 20 shots and connecting on 12 of them, averaging 15 PPG. Portland is so concerned with protecting the interior of their defense, that they are willing to concede jump shots and that is why it is imperative that Chris Paul regain his confidence for the Hornets to steal this game tonight. Shots will be there and probability states that at least 2 of the 4 wings will hit their shots tonight, therefore both Paul and Jarrett Jack will be tipping points in this contest.

When Portland Has the Ball:

Portland has no shame in the fact that they run some of their plays over and over again to the point of exhaustion, but when nobody can stop it, why should they adjust? Expect to see an elbow pick and pop at least a dozen times tonight between Miller and Aldridge, along with several cross screens that will get LaMarcus the ball on the left block. So far this season, West has done a terrific job on Aldridge, holding him nearly 10 points below his season average, and forcing him to shoot under 35% from the field. Aldridge is a different player now than he was in November, however, so don’t expect him to post another 4 for 14 performance.

Wesley Matthews has also been playing at an entirely different level since Brandon Roy left the lineup. He’s been averaging over 18 PPG since becoming the full-time starter and is one of the most consistent and proficient three point shooters in the league. Oddly, however, he is shooting much better on the road than he is at home ( 46% FG, 45% three-point on road vs. 41% and 34% at home), so perhaps the Hornets will catch a break tonight with Portland’s number two scorer.

Other News and Notes:

– Blazers are 19-5 this season when scoring 100 or more points. Since Emeka went out, allowing over 100 points has become common place. Hornets have to change that to get a win tonight.

– Don’t read Marc Stein’s column today on Bill Simmons interview with David Stern (who quite candidly talks about the NBA/Hornets situation), just go straight to the source and listen to the podcast, which was amazingly entertaining (as is anything Simmons does). First of all I don’t know how Stein has the nerve to take another man’s interview and steal a column out of it, but more importantly, he just twisted Stern’s words and used them out of context to get more reads. I am tempted from time to time, as a writer, to do this as well, but I actually like looking at myself in the mirror because I am quite a handsome guy, or so my mother tells me.

– Rumors abound about the Hornets looking at several players, including JR Smith from Denver, a big man from Portland, Troy Murphy, and Antawn Jamison (if they are bought out). Checked into some things on my end and this is what I got back:

– From both contacts in front offices, they confirmed it was true that Hornets were among the most active, but their assets aren’t very valued around the league. Teams are interested in first round picks and the Hornets don’t have one this year and aren’t willing to give up unprotected future picks. Several teams are interested in an unprotected 2013 or 2014 pick from the Hornets (b/c they assume CP3 is going to leave) but Demps is not willing to do that right now.

– Antawn Jamison will not be bought out. I am told by someone I trust more than I trust myself that the chance of that happening is “less than zero”

– Demps would feverishly go after Murphy and might even be willing to negotiate multiple years if Murphy was open to it. The question is whether Murphy would choose the Hornets over teams that most believe have a better chance of competing this year.

– Offer for JR Smith would include either Marco or MT5, depending on Denver’s preference. Will only happen after Denver has agreed on trading Melo, if at all.

– Hornets are 5 point underdogs and the over/under is 183. No clue how to bet this one, so since I have been wrong so often this season, I will pull a George Costanza and say the opposite of what I really think- take the Hornets and the over. Enjoy the Game!


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