The Thunder beat the Hornets

The Hornets completed their pre-season with an 86-101 loss(Box Score) to the Thunder in Oklahoma City tonight, bumping their record to 1-7 in meaningless games.  Now the team goes home and gets most of a week to prepare for its first real opponent of the season, the not-to-be-taken-lightly Milwaukee Bucks.

There have been a few things of interest tonight, despite no minutes for Okafor or Paul.  One is that Fluffy can still score at a decent clip,(He had 24 on 17 shots) but he still doesn’t rebound much, snagging 4 rebounds in 29 minutes.  Wait, I’m not sure why this is news, West is always consistent.

The other thing from tonight: Buckets is breaking my heart.

Marcus Thornton

1/10 shooting for Buckets.  He tried to make up for it by drawing five free throws.  He hit one.  An 80% shooter last year, and he hits one.  I don’t even know what to say at this point.  He’s got to get past whatever mental block he’s fighting with right now.  Sure, he’s not getting easy baskets on leak-outs and cuts to the hoop, but 1 of 10?  Without a single three point attempt?  That’s not Buckets.  His first play of the game was a turnover.  His second was being blocked by BJ Mullens, who didn’t even average a block per game in the D-League last year. Then he had an illegal defense call against him.  It’s all Mental.

Jason Smith

Every recap I write, I mention Jason.  At this point, I’d have traded Songaila and Brackins(shooting 34% and 11% by the way) for Jason Smith straight up, much less with the inclusion of Willie Green as a serviceable backup guard.  In 22 minutes of play, he got 6 rebounds, 3 offensive, a steal, a block, and 12 points on 7 shots.  If he keeps up those numbers, he’ll be probably the best backup big man the Hornets have had since Magloire backed up Campbell.  Maybe Anderson behind PJ Brown.  Let’s hope it keeps up during the actual season.   I’d nickname him “the Hustler” if there weren’t some yucky negative connotations to that.

Other Observations

  • Mbenga had a nice line with 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 22 minutes in Okafor’s absence.  At one point, he was projecting to average 18 points, 12 rebounds and 8 blocks in only 36 minutes.  Look out Okafor!  This can’t be a fluke, right?
  • Quincy Pondexter did next to nothing through most of the game, and then got a flurry of garbage scoring when everything was said and done at the end.  Through his first 17 minutes he had 3 rebounds and 2 points, so don’t get too excited by the 10 and 4 he ended with.
  • Willie Green got 6 assists!  Then, he shot 4-11 for 8 points.  There’s a reason he’s a backup.
  • Curtis Jerrells got a cold welcome to his first start as a Hornet, getting the joy of facing the defensive dervish known as Russell Westbrook.  Predictably, Jerrells struggled, going 2-8 from the field and missing all four three pointers.  He had 4 assists and 2 steals, but also had 4 turnovers.  It wasn’t pretty.
  • Belinelli is either really on, or really off.  Tonight, he was really off. 0-5 from the field in 20 minutes.  I guess that tells us why he was available for Julian Wright.  I think it’s pretty clear that he does need a point guard in there to generate clean looks, because he will take bad shots if they aren’t clean.
  • Ariza apparently played 21 minutes.  The Boxscore wonders where he was.  1 missed shot, 1/2 free throws, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 foul.  So essentially, every 4 minutes he did something.
  • Everyone played, though Joe Alexander was the last to enter the game.  Does that mean he’s gone?  I’ve given up reading any sort of meaning into their minutes.

So that’s it.  The pre-season is over and we have been left with a ton of questions about almost everyone!  Of course, we’ll be talking about those issues over the next few days, and we have some other stuff coming up that we’re pretty excited about over the next few days.  Keep your eyes peeled.

Figuratively.  ‘Cause really peeling your eyes would be pretty gross.

33 responses to “The Thunder beat the Hornets”

  1. By my count the whole pre-season has been about assessing everyone on the roster and playing a mix-match of lineups.

    Did our starting 5 on paper ever step on the court together even? Looks to me like they wanted to see what they are going to get out of every player on the roster and the cuts have been made based on performances on the court.

    While the whole outcome of the games may have brought some peoples expectation of certain bench/roster players down to earth the coaching staff can now see who is able to play what roles. Our team has improved greatly from the lineup of the last 2 years, if that isn’t a cause for optimism then I am just going to say people are greedy.

    One minute people are saying Marco should be a point guard and handle the ball and play without CP3 and even supply Thornton… He gets given a game or time on court without CP3 and struggles against a good team and people go all negative instead of seeing the logic now of him being in the starting line up next to CP3. Smith plays almost all of pre-season as a PF and yet people think he can replace Okafor?

    There are real things to worry/think about such as Thornton’s shooting worries, and inconsistency of some players, but seriously…. what would the coaching staff gain by playing our starting 5 and only giving spot minutes to the rest of the roster? We get an awesome pre-season reckon and then come regular season we have no idea what we can expect from the bench? The whole pre-season has basically been a proving and resting ground for everyone on the roster not named CP3, and that is the long and short of it. Some have failed and are gone, some have struggled but are still there and some have shown their value.

    Sorry for the long post but i think people are just flying off the rails half the time before considering the reality of the situation.

  2. I think there’s still a lot to feel good about so far in the preseason.

    1. Reserves – Jason Smith, and Willie Green have done serviceable jobs. Sure there’s still a lot to be figured out with Peja coming off the bench, and who will play the majority of backup minutes at Center, but getting solid productivity out of guys that we’ll be seeing, maybe, 20 minutes tops from is something to feel good about. Jason Smith will be energetic off the bench, and if Willie Green can just control the tempo, and run the offense like he has been, then I think our bench is much better off than what we’re giving it credit for.

    2. Davis West – He’s still providing the same ol’, same ol’ and that’s something to be happy about. Even after being out a couple of games with his wrist bothering him he still played well tonight.

    3. Okafor – In the limited minutes that we saw him in preseason he played solid, snatching up rebounds, and playing powerful down low on offense, which led to lots of foul shots with much improved foul shooting. In the games that he played, with the way he was getting fouled down low, it quickly put the other teams in the penalty, which allowed for a lot more foul shots for people like CP3, Bellinelli, and Ariza. That’s something to be pumped up about.

    4. Bellinelli – to think that he is what we got for Julian Wright is nothing short of a miracle. Sure he may be either on or off, but when he’s on, he’s on. He is easily an upgrade over Peja, if all we used him as was a spot-up 3 point man, and I think he’s going to give us so much more than that.

    Going into the preseason we were looking at so many variables, and I think there are still a lot to hammer out, as far as rotation goes. Marcus had a rough preseason, and Ariza may not have been what we thought, but I think at the end of the day, once things settle down, and we get some real game situations, and real rotations established I like our odds.

  3. Marcus Thornton … unbelievable … 1-10 FG%?

    Look, I know he’s talented, but I don’t want to start making excuses for players who don’t produce based on the fact they have talent. Remember we all made excuses for Julian Wright, year-in-and-year-out, because he had some good moments during his rookie year when the Hornets won 56 games.

    Maybe that’s why I’m so critical of Marcus. If you have talent, you shouldn’t be going 1-10 from the field in a preseason game. I’m shocked like everyone else, but no matter what anyone says about ‘don’t overreact’, I’m sorry, he’s an important piece to our rotation …. their is a reason for concern now! Marcus didn’t have 1 good preseason game … not 1 … Pops had atleast 1 good game this preseason. Mbenga had a decent game tonight. … and to compound everything else he shoots 1-5 from the line.

    A coach says to a player, “Ok kid, your having an off night. Let’s get to the foul line so we can get in a rhythm.” Player then shoots poorly at the foul line. What can the coach say at that point? ‘winze’ it is mental, but mental toughness is apart of the game. Marcus didn’t really have to be mentally tough last year after Byron Scott got fired, and Devin Brown was traded. The red carpet was laid out for him at that point. It’s a different story this year. He obviously plays better when their is absolutely no pressure on him at all. The pressure is on now!


  4. On the one hand, pre-season games are meaningless. On the other hand, you do want to establish some winning habits early. The pre-season seems to have turned Thornton into a basketcase, which seems to be the exact opposite of what you want to happen. Bellinelli and Ariza seem… inconsistent. It’s nice to see some good moments out of back-up bigs, but I’m still not sure if we’ve got “Bobcats” Okafor back, or a re-run of 09/10 Okafor. So while there are a number of mitigating factors to explain the 1-7 pre-season record, I’m still filled with trepidation.

  5. While the ceiling is still unclear, the basic performance of this team will be better than that of those in the recent past. Even the good team was better than average, had an amazing January, traded Bobby, and had an adjustment period. Remember that adjustment period our measuring-stick-team had? I’ll spot this team an adjustment period. January, I start tracking a side record from then on.

    I hope IM there when Marcus goes bananas and puts up a triple double. Talk about cheering!

  6. Most national “experts” will tell you the Hornets are doomed to trade Chris Paul at or before the trade deadline because of how bad they have looked thusfar. They couldn’t be more wrong. I look at it like this; their record as it stands now is 0-0. Besides, this preseason wasn’t about Chris Paul anyway; allow me to explain.

    This preseason went about as expected for me. I think the latter part of the offseason and preseason was more about the front office and the head coach putting their fingerprints on the team as a whole than about the actual product on the court. If you take a carefull look at what Monty “The Python” Williams and Dell Demps did, both this summer and into the preseason, they moved every player that they possibly could with the exception of Aaron Gray and Q-pon. They weren’t ridding themselves of CP or West, couldn’t move Mek or Peja right now, and there would have been rioting in the streets if they touched Marcus Thornton over the summer. The remaining 8 roster spots are filled with new guys. When you turn over more than 1/2 your roster, you’re rebuilding, albeit around a top 5 NBA talent. Now comes the hard part, getting these guys to gel as a team.

    Don’t expect a fast start out of these Hornets. Schedule-wise they will drink water from a 5000psi pressure washer for most of the 1st month of the season. Hopefully they will learn, adapt, and grow together. Make no mistake though, this preseason was about the TEAM, not Chris Paul. Ask him, and he’ll tell you the same exact thing.

    • Good post Mikey. Of course all the ‘experts’ are only watching Paul though. I’d even go so far as to say they’re hoping the Hornets fail so Paul can get the heck outta here. And with that being said, I’ll say to them what I said in the Tim Legler thread, I hope the next time they’re driving all of their tires blow out. No injuries, just some blown out arse tires. LOL! I think Chris Paul can play with just about anybody. Therefore you’re right, now it’s only about getting all these new people folded into the mix.

  7. Guys…the Hornets will be fine. We have 2 players that can and will draw doubles every night in Paul and West. Everyone’s else job will be pretty easy compared to the jobs they had in preseason with no, or limited minutes from, Paul and West. Marco is an upgrade over Peja, in the fact that he shoots from distance just as well, but he can also pump fake and go, or slash and kick out to another player. Look at him as a mobile version of Peja. Thats a good complement to a West and Paul type offense. Ariza will have more of an impact on defense and fast breaks than on the half-court offense. Yall seem unsatisfied with Okafor, but the guy is a beast. For the MIA game, I sat in row 4 on the side (Sect 102), and we dont appreciate how tough this guy is by watching further away from the action or on tv. Okafor is very strong and plays with alot of heart and aggression, especially on defense. These players all have roles, and those roles revolve around CP3 and West…so when those 2 players dont play, we struggle. Its the facts.

    I promise we will see a different Hornets team come next Wednesday when key players are playing more minutes. We have alot to look forward to down here with our NBA team. I feel good about the team, especially the starting core. Our bench will be pretty nice too once Thornton gets out his funk and becomes a legit threat to score 15-20 pts off the bench every night. Willie Green is consistent, Thornton will score and hopefully draw doubles, Peja will feed off of that and hit shots, Smith is very servicable, and Gray/Mbenga are big. I doubt theres ever a time when we play all 5 reserves at one time, so the blend coach Williams comes up will hide our inefficiencies on the 2nd unit. This team is solid, we havent seen anything yet. To me the question isnt the playoffs, the question is home court as a top 4 team. Lakers is the only garauntee to get in. spots 2-8 are all up for grabs and I think we got enough to scare some people. CP3 alone gives us a huge edge. As long as we support the team and pack the hive and cheer loud, we can do our part as well to give our team an added spark. GO HORNETS!

    • I agree with everything you said. Our starting fives usually played better than the opposition in preseason, as the game went on Monty tried things and scrubs played a lot against starting caliber players and the game was lost. Our starting five is better than most in the NBA. I am cautiosly optimistic.

  8. My main concern is that the starting five never got a chance to play sustained time together against competition during the preseason.

    Everything was out of whack yesterday with Jerrels and Mbenga, who have not even practiced much with the team, both starting and playing extended minutes.

    The team will compete because the starting five is good and complement each other well. Jason Smith, Peja, Willie Green, Mbenga, and Gray deserve minutes. Thornton, too, if he can finally get it together.

    Belinelli is streaky but you have to stay with him if he misses a few because he’ll get hot if he stays on the floor. Even the best players miss their first five shots. He can’t be blamed for the floor game yesterday because except for Ariza, he hadn’t practiced with anyone out there. West hurt. Mbenga new. Jerrells just off the bus.

    I know Monty wanted to see everyone in game conditions, but we never saw the Hornets in preseason. Now they have a week to organize that against intrasquad competition. Not the best plan.

  9. I see it as… starting 5? Hornets are top 5 team in the West. After that the Hornets dont seem very competitive. Players 6-9? Lots was lost in the “lose role-players to limbo under the cap era.”

    Our back up PG is a combo guard which will work for the when he’s in with the starters but not as well for the second team. Our back up centers are no low post threats really, but ample defenders. Our back up 3 can stretch the floor but is a defensive liability. Our backup SG (poor preseason aside) is apparently streaky but not quite the defender we need him to be. Smith? I like him. I am hoping that the bench doesnt become Smith and the one dimensionals.

    It seems that Monty’s substitution scheme will have a significant impact on how the Hornets do. Almost all of the back ups seem to have at least one glaring weakness (defense, scoring ability, turnovers, indecision, aggressiveness or lack there of ) and managing that mix of weak spots in the lineup without wearing down the front line over the season seems a big task.

    48 wins. is that enough?

    • Right…the key is how we mix starters with reserves. That will come with time and experience. I think once we figure that out we will see how good our team really is. Thats why I feel people should stop being so worried about how lack the quality of our bench is from 6-12. Most teams only have a 8 man rotation. I think our 8/9 man rotation is pretty solid. Plus we have “specialists” as certain needs pop up in a game. For example, Pops might not be in the normal 8 man rotation but if we are losing the rebounding battle, throw him in and see if he gives a spark. Need some 3s, obviously insert Peja. CP3 is our engine so he’s the guy that will be in most of the game, so no we might not have a great backup PG, but would us having a steady combo guard (Green) playing PG for 10 minutes a game really cause us to consistently lose a game? No. Would a weak backup center that has no offensive ability in the game for 10-15 minutes to give Okafor some rest really kill us? No. Monty will figure out when to take players out so they can be ready to come back in as other starters come out. There will never be a time when we have 5 reserves in the game at one time, unless its a blow out. Just my opinion.

      • I agree that those things themselves won’t kill us, but all of them combined may decide a lot of games for us. If Mbenga doesn’t give us the 4 points Okafor would have in those 10-12 minutes, that puts us down by four. If Willie Green wastes 3-4 possessions that CP3 wouldn’t have during those 10 minutes, that’s a few points right there. If Peja doesn’t defend a guy like Ariza could have, that could be an extra 4-6 points right there as well. You add that together, and it could be a 12 point swing just in those short minutes. I hope the drop off won’t be like that, but it’s something we still need to be prepared to see.

      • Dont get me wrong, there will def be a drop off but if Coach can get the right blend, I feel it wont be as terrible as most think. Obviously if we have injuries then we are screwed, but outside of that I feel we can be ok.

    • Haha! I saw that too. I think people are overreacting to OKC. Time will tell though. I also feel POR is not as good as advertised.

  10. I’m sorry NOH fans. there is NO WAY U will be able to trade Peja. With his diminishing returns and his bloated contract. he will drag the Hornet down for a few more years

    • I think what he means is that since he was mistaken about Peja’s contract, he has no reason to think we won’t be a competitive team.

      Thanks, jts. Keep it coming. We love encouragement and positive people. You just went out of you way to put it all out there and be nice.


  11. Don’t forget that other teams don’t have 10-15 `starters’ either. The fact that we have bench guys with deficiencies makes us normal, not exceptional.

    This is a game of economics abstractly, of managing scare resources. We have more varied line-up than we had before. Once Monty figures out our guys, he’ll have to figure out how to manage the match-ups and the hot hands. He’ll have to sharpen his skills at recognizing needs and deploying resources, but he’ll get there.

    It’s a growing process for us all.

  12. One more thing. David Stern just did a preseason conference call and while I listened to most of it (had to keep getting up doing things) I wasn’t able to listen to all of it but it doesn’t appear that any of our beat writers called in to ask anything about the Hornets. Particularly ownership situation. Did they even know there was a conference call going on? LOL.

  13. Eichenhofer tweeted

    “Just back from Believe in Blue luncheon. All 15 players there, as well as entire basketball ops. Hugh Weber said 25 of 28 b-ball ops is new”
    14 minutes ago via web

    Whose doing is this? To do all this new hiring? Chouest or Shinn?

    • Dell Demps. He has full control of all staff for team operations. I think the 3 are Hugh Weber, the assistant trainer, and an equipment guy. That is not the sales staff, marketing, etc. But basketball operations.

      • I think you are right. Weber is clearly there. David “Big Shot” Jovanovic is still there. The assistant trainer was mentioned with his superior left / was shown the door.

        It seems like a sale, or LeBron is learning from Chris about how to keep notes on who’s messing with him. Mean little sucker . . . almost as mean as Downtown Devin Brown made him out to be.

      • I am sure that was part of his agreement with ownership, as of that time Both Shinn and Chouest, and Weber when he was hired. If you remember however it was Chouest that was flying to meet with coaching and GM candidates during the hiring process, so I am guessing Shinn has taken a back seat to Chouest until the Oil Spill became Chouest’s main focus.

        It is common practice for the GM to have full control over the staff that deals with the Coaching staff and players. Otherwise what are you Generally Managing?

  14. The thing I’m wondering is if we’re going to be stuck with Shinn, (until we hear otherwise) it’s kind of difficult to believe he’d want all these changes made. He’s been having a few of the same people around since the team was born. The changes we are seeing just don’t spell Shinn. Unless he awoke one morning and his religion spoke to him and told him to do things better. Hahaha.

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