Preview & Chat: The New Orleans Hornets

Darius Soriano —  December 5, 2012

Records: Lakers 8-10 (12th in the West), Hornets 5-11 (14th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.0 (5th in the NBA), Hornets 102.1 (12th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.6 (8th in the NBA), Hornets 106.9 (Last in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Chris Duhon, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Antawn Jamison, Dwight Howard
Hornets: Greivis Vasquez, Roger Mason, Al-Forouq Aminu, Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopez
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Nash (out), Steve Blake (out); Hornets: Eric Gordon (out), Anthony Davis (out)

The Lakers Coming in: We’ve all been hard on the Lakers to this point. An 8-10 record will inspire those tough critiques. After all, watching this team can be exhausting as the only thing late in games that are missed more than free throws are defensive rotations. Even though we’ve seen some good, the bad has outweighed it. You don’t get to the record the Lakers have unless that’s true.

That said, we’d also be best served taking the wide view with this team. When the season started 5 weeks ago we talked patience for team that was only just coming together after a haphazard training camp that saw it’s top 9 players take the floor together for exactly zero minutes. We talked about how this group would need time to gel, find it’s stride in a new offense, and learn how to play together. No one really thought things would click right away, and that was under close to ideal circumstances.

Fast forward to today and we’ve not seen anything close to ideal circumstances. Steve Nash hasn’t played since the first half of the 2nd game of the season. His back up, Steve Blake, hasn’t played since the 7th game and will miss at least 6 weeks more after surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle. Pau Gasol has battled knee tendonitis for most of the season and hasn’t looked himself physically, even saying that there’s multiple plays a game he can’t make and plays he can’t finish due to his limitations. Add all of this to the coaching change after 5 games and we have a season that’s not been stable at all.

Of course the losing is difficult. And seeing the same mistakes play musical chairs in every loss is frustrating. But it’s still almost impossible to fully judge this team until they’re healthy enough to take the floor together and have had the time to acclimate to D’Antoni’s system (and he has time to adjust to this specific batch of players). Until then, we’ll continue to see up and down play, but that only tells the story of the current incarnation of this (incomplete) team. This isn’t to say that Nash or a healthy Pau are cure alls. But basketball is such an interconnected game that changing one or two variables can have a substantial impact on the overall team play. At this point, we simply haven’t seen enough of the “Lakers” to really tell what this team is.

The Hornets Coming in: The Hornets are 2-2 in their last 4 games but before that stretch had lost 7 in a row. They’re currently without their best two players as #1 overall pick Anthony Davis is sidelined with a “stress reaction” in his ankle after suffering multiple sprains in a single week and Eric Gordon sits out with soreness in his surgically repaired right knee. Both are out indefinitely and, with them sitting, the Hornets chances of racking up wins are also on the shelf. This doesn’t mean they’re incapable, but they’re surely shorthanded and at some point even playing really hard doesn’t make up for missing some of your best players.

But, as mentioned, this team does play hard for Monty Williams. He plays to the strengths of the players he has available to him and that means lots of pick and rolls with Greivis Vasquez initiating and spot up jumpers for Ryan Anderson. Also playing well is former Clipper Al-Farouq Aminu. In his 3rd year, he’s starting to find his stride and a summer of international basketball seemed to really helped his development.

The other news surrounding the Hornets is the report that they will be changing their name to the Pelicans next season. I’ve no hard opinion about this either way — I think there are worse team names in the NBA, though can see why fans wouldn’t be that excited about it — but do find the name interesting. At least there is a history to the name that may resonate with locals and if they are good with it, who cares what I think?

Hornets Blogs: Hornets 24/7 is a great place to get all your news and notes on this team. Also check out At The Hive for excellent analysis.

Keys to game: I almost feel like leaving this section blank. The Lakers are so up and down lately that predicting what they will do is a fools errand. Your best bet is to probably think of what you think will happen and then go with opposite.

In any event, if there is factor that will likely be huge tonight it is the pace at which this game is played. The Hornets play at the slowest pace in the league (in comparison to the Lakers 2nd fastest) and average about 8 possessions fewer per game than the Lakers. This, of course, makes sense. A slower game means fewer possessions which translates to a better opportunity for the team with less talent to pull out the win.

Tonight, then, the Lakers mustn’t get bogged down playing at the tempo the Hornets want to establish, instead imposing their will onto them. The Lakers must push the ball and look to establish early offense, especially through Dwight Howard via rim runs against Robin Lopez. If the Lakers can establish Dwight early in possessions, it will go a long way in helping them control the paint which will only open up their perimeter options later in the game.

Besides going inside via Howard, I’d also like to see the Lakers attack the rim off the dribble more than they have been lately. In recent games Kobe (especially Kobe) and Ron have settled for too many jumpers and not looked to really attack the paint, even when match ups dictated they could. Tonight, I’d like to see less long jumpers (especially those early in the clock) and more drives to the rim. This will either lead to good shots or force the Hornets’ bigs to help, opening up offensive rebounding chances and trips to the foul line.

Defensively the Lakers must mostly concern themselves with defending the three point line. The Hornets are 5th in the league in three point field goal percentage and use that weapon to help prop up their offense. In Vasquez, Mason, and Anderson they start three players who will spread the floor and the Lakers must be aware of them at all times as they float around the arc. Furthermore, the Lakers must also understand how the resulting spaced floor will lead to open lanes for ball penetration and cuts off the ball for shots in the paint. If the Lakers don’t balance sticking with shooters and showing the right amount of help, they will give up points to this team.

The Lakers continue to get each team’s best shot each night, but this is a game they need to win. The Hornets will give it their all and the Lakers, coming off a back to back, may be a bit more tired than normal. Still, the Hornets are six games under .500 and that’s not on accident. If the Lakers show a commitment to getting the ball inside on offense and bring some defensive intensity, they should leave New Orleans a winner. Here’s to it happening.

Where you can watch: 5pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen live at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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64 responses to Preview & Chat: The New Orleans Hornets

  1. For Warren.

    Couldn’t hurt at this point, right?

  2. I really, really hope they let Grevis/Mason guard Kobe instead of Aminu/ Darius Miller

  3. @Darius – thanks for the twitter response – my point regarding Pau’s knees vs Browns insistence that he play his way into shape was that the tendinitis issue didn’t come to light until the last week or so. Even Kobe/Dantoni publicly questioned his conditioning a bit – had they or Brown known that Pau was suffering from tendinitis that badly they wouldve sat him earlier. I’m not killing Pau for his knees (I’ve been saying he’s looked worn down and nEeds a rest since the preseason due to overwork from olympics etc…) – I’m just saying you can’t blame Brown if Pau doesn’t speak up earlier – especially since its been 3-4 weeks since Brown was gone.

    I still think Pau works here- prob is the only guard who has the swag to look off Kobe and distribute fairly is slowly recovering. Lakers need another legit post threat 4th q since Howard’s issues at the line destroys the Lakers offense between the 6-2min period. Multiple tweets from Bucher stating that Nash also wanted a chance to play w Gasol so Lakers at least want to give both those guys a chance.

  4. Jerke,
    Thing is, Pau started wearing those bands on his knees (to help with the pain) against the Warriors. That was the 6th game of the season. I can only assume his knees were actually bothering him before that point. So, whether or not Kobe or D’Antoni were talking about his knees is irrelevant to me. I’ve also rarely seen Pau (or any Laker, really, and this relates to Kobe) talk about what’s ailing him physically unless he’s asked point blank about it or if the team holds him out of games because of it.

    And, I’m not blaming Brown for anything. Nowhere did I say “this is Brown’s fault.” No, I said his quotes about having Pau work through fatigue early in camp by playing him more rather than resting him looks even more foolish in hindsight. And, it does. In fact, it looked foolish then too and we discussed it here as well.

  5. Hindsight is 20/20 Darius – I’m not saying you’re killing Brown, just said in his defence – he thought the issue was conditioning/fatigue (not knees) and sometimes the only way to deal with that is to push a player thru it or rest a player. Brown chose to push players during his preseason/early games – which is pretty much par for the course for all teams training camps/early season. All I’m saying is that if Pau was really labouring that much either because of overwork or his knees, then at some point the onus is on him to speak up about it. You’re right, Pau doesn’t complain nor am I saying he’s a whiner etc… But if he had said 3-4 weeks ago that he was having knee issues I suspect there would be a lot more understanding and patience from all parties regarding his play – including this board lol.

  6. Kobe Alert: Since the last alert, KB moved by Pippen for 32nd on the games list; He played in his 43 thousandth minute; he took his 23 thousandth shot (edited for baiting), and he moved by Bob Lanier for 71st on the defensive rebounding list. He needs just 7 free throw attempts to get 9k for his career; he is within striking distance of a few guys to move up from his current position of 16th on the three pointer list; and of course he only needs 13 points (ironic it is Wilt’s number) to get 30k for his career.

  7. Kobe usually goes for it directly and to the max on these milestone nights. Perhaps he will dispatch with the festivities in the first quarter. In any case after careful consideration and review of advanced statistics, I have concluded that: Kobe Rules

  8. @robert. Agreed lol.

  9. Looking for the Lakers to:
    – commit less turnovers;
    – secure defensive rebounds;
    – give more burn to the bench to keep starters fresh.

  10. “he took his 23 thousandth shot”

    Yes, and he’s recently passed Kareem for missed FGA in a career. When he passed Kareem, Kareem had 5,000 more FGA. Next up is Malone. When Kobe passes Malone, Malone will have 2,500 more FGA. Then Elvin Hayes, Mr. Overrated, so no other comment on him. Then Havlicek for the crown/record. Barring you know what, Kobe will take the crown/record from Havlicek some time next season. At which time, a raging debate will commence, over the more inefficient of the two, with Celts fans arguing that Kobe will own the crown/record for most missed FGA, while Lakers fans will argue that when Kobe passes Havlicek, Kobe will have more made FG, so arguably Havlicek was the more inefficient.

    On that note, Robert, please keep us advised re the run-up and the overtake. Thanks.

  11. The old baseball New Orleans Pelicans were once a Cards farm team. At one point, I think the 50s, they had great unis with pelicans on a baseball bat, in homage to the Cards classic outfits.

    Darius is spot on on the patience thing. I would add that Dwight is also far from 100% yet. I expect Pau to come back and be a very big part of this ball moving offense. Nash is the worry. When will he be back and how long until he is at full strength?

    In the meantime watching Kobe run an offense alternates between amazing and truly awful. It’s like having World B. Free at PG.

  12. If they’re going to single up on Dwight, shouldn’t he be getting the ball for that running hook until they decide to double him?

  13. This is one pathos rebounding and defensive team. Those are both effort things. Is it Mike? Is it Kobe? Is it age? Is it simply bad talent.

  14. How many centers are out playing Dwight this year?

  15. Shot distribution looks good on paper, but they are all isos it seems, not good. Have to play together, you are a team.

  16. Rebounding problem is glaring because Pau isn’t there. Now Dwight is the only one left ready for the offensive boards. To the Gasol haters — this is just one little glimpse into all the ways he makes this team better.

    Terrible first quarter. BUT pretty amusing to see Kobe bully Austin Rivers. He’s like the 5th grader taking the kindergartener’s lunch in the schoolyard.

  17. Morris is just worthless. Defense is a joke. And for the guy on this site that says Anderson is not near as good as Pau! LOL

  18. Kobe with the slam dunk, he is 3 away from 30,000 points

  19. I can’t ever in 40 years of Laker BB seeing a worse defensive team then this. And Nash will cure that?

  20. @Ko But you are missing the obvious – Kobe shoots too much, blah,blah,blah.

    Of course you are right this team is AWFUL defensively. No effort from top to bottom.

  21. Defense is effort. We have non of that.

  22. 30,000!

  23. KOBE 30,000 career points, Congrats.

  24. Wow, I have never seen Kobe drive for this many attempted dunks in one game in ages.

    Dude has had enough.

    Now if he would just bring that enthusiasm down to the other end of the Court.

  25. Question?

    Forget the finals.

    Will this team without any trades make the playoffs?

  26. 30,000 is a load of points. Hard work pays off.

    Game is there for the taking if Lakers can’t win this one I don’t know.

  27. @ko
    Answer- Nash
    I’m just eager to hear the next excuse or excuses everyone makes after nash is back and nothing changes.

  28. Wasn’t there supposed to be some ball presentation thing or something? I’m watching the NBA feed, so former Lakers’ announcer Joel M., and he was anticipating some such thing, i.e., take it away Mr. Public Address Man, then the refs were conferring, something about not wanting to interrupt Kobe’s FT, etc. Oh, and for how strange the broadcast is, not only Joel M, but he and his color man had Stern as a guest during the 1st half (talking over the game). The convo was basically fluff, except for the part concerning the hack-a-dwight. Apparently, was something proposed to the relevant committee, but the committee said, nay. Oh, Stern also said something about back to backs, or was asked why so many back to backs or something like that, and Stern’s response was that they could less back to back if the players took less money. Went on to explain they need games on tv every might for tv revenue. And I must have missed this part, but he also said something about how he’s willing to be the NBA’s international ambassador, or words to that effect (how he gets lost in China; big place, lots of people, so more room and people to get lost in). And I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly re Europe in the NBA, since Joel said something about 5 Euro teams, and I think Stern said, would be, but they don’t have the infrastructure (I find it hard to believe that there aren’t find arenas in worthy cities able to host a team). Anyway, if I miss any ceremony thing owing to halftime and the NBA game break…

  29. Manny

    They can always blame it on Brown.

  30. Man it is sooo nice to be a Lakers fan. This franchise is so great, so storied- that we as fans can trash a top 5 (All Time) player like Kobe because he isn’t as good as we want him to be or he doesn’t play the game like we want him to. Oh well. ‘Grats Kobe from this Laker fan, at least!

  31. Ken

    This team is now Kobe and the 7 dwarfs. Only guy who brings it every game.

  32. Congratulations to the Mamba on entering the top five in the history of the league on scoring points.

    I like the ball movement.

    Wow, amazing how Howard plays on defense when he gets to score on offense. This is not rocket science.

    The team over all looks much more active.

  33. Kobe 30k. Proud to be a fan.

    (quiet round here….)

  34. If the Lakers ever have a chance to get Ryan Anderson, they should trade anyone on the team not named Kobe or Dwight. Not only is this guy a knock down shooter, he has heart. Dude is competing hard.

  35. Love how Dwight is challenging and altering damn near everything within his vicinity.

  36. Meeks + Dribbling = Disaster

  37. Vasquez goes right every time.

  38. Yes Joe I said that 2 weeks ago. Lakers are trying hard to get him. He is 3 times the player Pau is for MDs offense.

  39. Anderson is single handedly keeping them in this game.

    There is no way the Hornets (or Pelicans or whatever) take Pau for anyone. They didn’t want him before when Paul was leaving no matter what, why would they trade a blue chipper with a dead eye shot for him now?

  40. Smart move by Dantoni there.. After the hornets went to hack a dwight and dwight sunk the first 2, on the very next dead ball Mike D took howard out for Hill. Let him build confidence without hurting the team.

  41. Morris needed that badly, good job staying in front of his guy and contesting on one end; good job spotting up and hitting the 3 on the other. Not quite ready to take him off the milk carton yet though.

  42. Nice quarter by the Lakeshow! I love the way Kobe passed for that last shot attempt by Darius Morris. Oh yeah, Ryan Anderson looks really good. :(

  43. Meekshow!

  44. Darius Morris Splash

  45. I’ll just be glad when Lakers get rolling til then hover around .500 and everybody stay healthy.

  46. Well what do you know, Kobe with only 14 fga right now.

  47. How the heck is Jordan Hill not a bigger player in our rotations. He needs to play.

  48. Lakers D in the second half has been pretty good, NO has not had a lot of easy looks like they did in the first half.

    Pick and roll D is still a work in progress (to be kind).

  49. He cut his hair and grew a stash so officer Mike is playing him now.

  50. Manny,

    Those 14 FGA are skewed. He has 9 free throw attempts. On any night, it could have gone to a no call. Kobe played within the flow of the game today.

  51. Lakers have the best frontcourt in basketball and the weakest backcourt. Hard to play Howard, Jamison (who I admit was totally wrong about. He can still play), Pau and Hill. They all deserve minutes. Quite a quandry D’Anotni’s in.

  52. JHill looking amazing last couple games. If anyone can figure out when the last time was that we looked 6 million times better in the second half than in the first, you let me know.

  53. Congrats to Ron Artest on reaching 12,000 points.

  54. Monty just got out coached by the Magic n Rockets coach. He should of went to the hack a Howard early in the 4th.

  55. Well they won on the road. Knowing this team they should have no problem with OKC. Kidding.

    Good things are Mike figured out Duhon is the 2nd best PG next to Nash and he might even have given up the ghost on Hill and realize they need to give him 20 minutes a game.

    Sure love that Anderson.

  56. Hack A Dwight strat

    Thwarted!

  57. Counterspelled!

    Do you guys think that Howard would feel bad now that we are taking him out of crucial 4th Q moments?

  58. Lovin’ that Kobe has his 30,000 (+) points.

    Jordan well within reach.

  59. Good win, nothing more needs to be said.

    Day off tomorrow before the game against OKC on Friday, that game would be a test with Nash & Pau. Let alone without either!

    Let’s see how we do, can’t wait for that game.

  60. Great night kobe gets to 30k points and lakers win. Dwight finally made his free throws.

  61. Lakers played well in the 2nd half.

    If they play like they did in the first half against OKC, they will be so far behind a greta 2nd half won’t save us.

    A win in OKC would be a huge confidence boost for these guys. Going to be very tough though.

    One good thing, if Kobe has to guard Westbrook it will hopefully keep him honest on that end of the floor, all this gambling is causing rotation nightmares for the Lakers.

    Other than that I thought Kobe played a near perfect game tonight. Picked his shots, an efficient 29 points, doled out some assists, only played 32 mins.

    Dwight, Dwight, Dwight. 5 Blocks. 7 for 11 from the field…..but 4 of 8 from the free throw line on no pressure FTs. Sadly that 50% will raise his season average a little from the pathetic 46% it was at. Seriously this guy needs to consider shooting them Rick Barry style or something, he never appears to do the same thing twice at the line (other than miss).

  62. @Joe Atlanta: Given the Steves continuing to miss games and Morris still playing inconsistently (Duhon’s been about as good as Duhon can be, which is average), the weak-ish backcourt play from everyone not named Kobe is sort of a low point for the team. It’s not really close to accurate–or fair, as Kobe’s playing about as well as he ever has–but it is sort of a legit indictment of the PGs that are available and backup SGs.

  63. I’m glad someone has finally stood up to Kobe about his matador defense. It’s been quite a few years, but we haven’t had another true alpha since Shaq and so Odom/Gasol/Bynum/etc. have had no choice but to let the issue slip.

    Dwight’s gotta be careful though; Kobe’s desire for another championship dictates that he’ll let a few things go (this one time) but Howard can’t be going overboard criticizing Kobe as there’s still the matter of his ego…