Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Links, vol. 2

Hey guys, just thought I'd drop a few more links on you before we head into the Round 2 of the playoffs and I glue myself to forgetting that I have to feed and bath myself, let alone that I run a blog. For those of you that are concerned about Curry's strange absence after so recently learning that he was to be a contributor to this blog, you should know that he's come down with the Swahilian flu after eating a few rotten dates in his oatmeal the other day... I'm just kidding, Curry hates oatmeal. He got it from a monkey bite. Anyway, we wish him a speedy recovery. Perhaps I can convince him to post from his bedridden state. Enjoy.

1. Great post from ESPN the mag about how the Hornets are err... preparing?... for the next round against last year's champs. Am I worried? Nope, not one iota. I trust you Byron... but only because you have that silly trophy of a guy sitting on a bench.

2. Henry Abbott down at True Hoop is officially on the JuJu train. Check out this article simply titled JULIAN WRIGHT! Oh, and for those of you that are down on the nickname "JuJu", you ought to try the new one that's been floating around the sports anchors: Flight 32.

3. Great coverage from two different sources on the Jason Kidd foul from Game 4. The first entry is from our buddies down at Hornets 24/7, and the second entry is from Kelly Dwyer down at Ball Don't Lie. The latter pretty much sums up all of my emotions surrounding this travesty. I'd bitch to Mr. Stern that he didn't suspend Kidd, but I'm pretty sure it was a bigger punishment for the Mavs to keep him on the court in Game 5. Besides, has enough problems as it is. For instance, he has to worry about not being lit on fire by Suns fans (and perhaps even the 9 guys who go to Hawks games) for not suspending KG, Kendrick Perkins, and Marvin Williams. The NBA... where consistency in application of the rules happens... oh, unless your league stands to gain money from a potential Celtics/Lakers Finals. Right.

4. One more (mostly unrelated) link for you in honor of the Derby approaching (god, I love horse racing). ESPN the mag has a post where they interviewed professional athletes about what they'd nae a racing horse if they had one. Some of them are particularly inspired, though the piece does prove that Mark Madsen is an idiot, Ryan Church isn't very creative, and Samuel Dalembert spends way too much time thinking about this stuff. Of course, he did have time to kill during the two hours it took to carve that monstrosity of a haircut he trotted out the other night against the pistons. I'm all about the fro-hawks, but Sammy, baby, you need to get your life together. You can start by not taking Willie Green's advice/suggestions about anything... ever.

Peace, Dallas: Round 1 Recap

Greetings, loyal readers. It is my pleasure to inform you that Chris Paul's Hornets have already exceeded the McGrady line by winning a playoff series.

Let'em know, Rudy. Let'em know.

I'd say it was hard fought - if only to make all of the journalists at ESPN feel better - but I'd be lying. The Hornets quickly hit a groove and, despite a loss in Game 3, beat the Mavs rather handily. For your reading pleasure, I have put together a quick look back over the series.

Game 1: New Orleans 104 | Dallas 92
CP3 plays out of his mind, part 1. New Orleans gets off to a shaky start, but eventually Chris takes over and drops 35 points, 10 dimes, 3 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover on 65% shooting. Avery and company tried a myriad of traps and other ploys to contain Paul. Nothing worked. Add Pargo's relentless defense on Jason "Hornet Killer" Terry and all the Mavericks could do was watch. The game gets physical in the second half. Dirk flop (and I mean FLOP) off a Chandler (soft) foul, which starts igniting sparks on the court and in the crowd. Then Dirk throws an elbow into D.West's lip. West's response? He gets in Dirk's face, says "That's the last time you get to do that, ok?", and then pats his cheek as Dirk white and still as a marble statue. I'd insult him, but Simmons has already done a better job than I could ever manage (in his playoff awards article):

The C.T. Memorial "I Will Work You! WORK! YOU!" Award
To David West for his in-your-face manhandling of Dirk Nowitzki in Round 1, capped off by the same derisive cheek tap that Robert Conrad used to perfection after his concession speech to Gabe Kaplan in the first "Battle of the Network Stars." It's unclear if West was apologizing to Dirk or intimidating him, but we haven't seen a German back off like that since the German army fled from Russia in the winter of '44.

Game 2: New Orleans 127 | Dallas 103
CP3 plays out of his mind, part 2. 32 points, 17 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 turnovers on 63% shooting. Seriously... that's just sick. The team itself sets 5 franchise playoff records: most points in a quarter (39), most points in a half (67), most points in a game (127), most 3 pointers made (10), and most assists in a game by one player (CP with 17). Don't worry, Muggsy. We won't forget you.

Game 3: Dallas 97 | New Orleans 87
The inevitable Game 3. Dallas fans were out for blood after it became painstakingly clear that the Bees were about to close down their season... which would make it 2 first round exits in 2 years. Peja, D.West and CP come out cold, shooting a combined 14/50 (28%) from the floor (although Paul did finish with 16/10). Despite Tyson's 11 boards, he only manages 4 points. Jannero "Malibu Forest Fire" Pargo is the only Hornet who figures out that whole putting the ball in the basket thing; he drops 30 points. It was all in vain, though, as the Hornets never came within a half dozen of the lead.

Game 4: New Orleans 97 | Dallas 84
The end of the line. Sure, we still had one more win to notch before moving on, but it was in this game that the Mavericks officially lost. The Bees went down early in the score, but the Hornet's bench showed up in the second quarter to pull a sick run that would give us the lead for the rest of the game.

The big moment, though, came with 7:16 to go in the fourth. On a fastbreak, Jannero ran the ball up the court only to be grabbed by the neck and then thrown down to the ground by Jason Kidd. Fortunately, Pargo is part feline and managed to get his hands down before crashing head first into the boards. Immediately JuJu showed up ready to pound Jason (and probably his family) six feet into the ground. He had to be restrained by multiple players... it was crazy. Meanwhile, what did Pargo do? He walked away coolly... smiling as he did. Why? Because he knew (as did all of the fans) that the series was over. Dallas had officially cracked. They were now running on the wrong kind of passion: frustration. It was a beautiful moment, really. Think about it, in that 10 second span, we witnessed a player showing the utmost class and not stooping to the level of an idiot defender, we witnessed the wrath and man-up-ingness of JuJu (who joins Al Horford on the list of rookies who don't take no crap from nobody... Al Thornton can come, too), and finally, we witnessed the grand irony of Dallas' "veteran leader" (for whom they mortgaged their future to acquire) get ejected for a stupid (and dangerous) foul. It was truly a beautiful moment.

Furthermore, the W allowed us to start recouping damages from our 0-14 run in Dallas over the past 9 seasons or so (since 1998... the year Chris was in 7th grade... no, seriously).

There's actually an even bigger irony concerning the Kidd trade. Devin Harris and Sagana Diop are going to laugh every day forever after 2010 when LeBron shows up for the Brooklyn Nets and leads them to 4 bazillion championships while the Mavericks crumble to pieces 1500 miles away. Ok, Diop might not even be there by 2010, but Harris will for sure... holy crap... the Hornets have to win it all this year or next... the LeBron era is coming.

Game 5: New Orleans 99 | Dallas 94
CP3 plays out of his mind, part 3. Avery cancels the Mavs practice the day before because Half Baked doesn't cancel his birthday bash the night before (in NOLA, no less). Earlier that day, Howard also admits to using pot in the offseason (and implicates the rest of the league). Kidd has to wake up and live with himself for another day. And then Byron Scott is honored before the game as this season's Coach of the Year. Dallas had not a prayer in the Holy Land. To make matters worse (for Dallas), a fan gets on the Jumbotron with a sign that reads "Stop the Flop" and from that moment forward, every time Dirk visits the stripe, the entire arena chants "Stops the Flop" at the top of their lungs. In the end, Paul finishes with a triple double, recording 24 points, 15 assists, and 11 rebounds 53% shooting (not to mention 2 steals and 0 turnovers). Elias, why don't you take it from here:

Chris Paul capped a historic playoff debut series with a triple double in the Hornets' 99-94 win, eliminating the Mavericks from the NBA's postseason tournament. Paul averaged 12.0 assists in the five-game series, the second-highest mark in NBA history by a player in his first postseason series. The record is 13.0, by Kevin Johnson in 1989. Over the last 20 years, the only other players to post a triple-double in their first playoff series were LeBron James (2006) and Steve Francis (2004).


Want to give a quick shout out to my Dallas buddies Ryon Buchman and Ted Hall for being classy about the series (especially given the overall poor officiating... it was disgusting at times). You guys are troopers and you have my utmost respect. It takes a lot to be a Dallas sports fan. Believe me, I know: I spend the other half of the year cheering/crying for the Aints.


Are we ready for the Spurs? Sure, why not? The experts will pick against us again... but I think that's good fuel for the fire. San Antonio may have more experience, but our crew is out to prove that they're for real. And when those boys get in sync on something like that... well, there's nothing I know of that can stop them. It's time to fan up New Orleans: San Antonio's coming to town.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Links, vol. 1

To our beloved readers,

We at Hometown Hornets sincerely apologize for not providing coverage of the first two playoff games in what is turning out to be an extremely fun series against Dallas. We realize that by adding another writer to the staff (of one) it should hypothetically be easier to churn out fascinating posts covering games, off the court activities, and whatever other crazy stuff we find. This is apparently not true, as the Hornets' recent successes has prompted us to more often be twelve sheets to the wind instead of waxing philosophic on the mental toughness and brilliant performances of CP3 in his NBA playoff debut.

As rabid fans of basketball, we understand your insatiable need for copious amounts of unnecessary, biased, and ego-centric writing. Since we have failed you in providing this service as of late, we offer you these here links and the possibly flimsy promise of doing better in the coming weeks.

Take these and love us again:

1. Hollinger has done an excellent job as the ESPN writer assigned to our series. His coverage of Game 1 and Game 2 of the Dallas series has been phenomenal, especially since it strokes every Hornets fan's ego six ways from Sunday.

2. Scoop Jackson has started drinking the Cresent City koolaid as well. His recent article is somewhat heavy-handed in its conceit, but how can I say no to something so beautiful. Scoop uses a great quote by Mark Jones concerning CP:

Don't be fooled by the angelic face; there's a killer inside.

3. Great article by Ian O'Connor of MSNBC commenting on the irony of Byron Scott effectively "bum rushing" Jason Kidd out of the playoffs four years after their famous run-in. The last paragraph floored me:

He [Byron]has the Hornets playing defense and making life miserable for one of the great playmakers of all time. If Kidd offers to shake his hand at the close of this series, Byron Scott should do what Kidd used to do best: Pass.

4. ESPN the Mag published the results of some of their recent research and compiled a pretty cool Franchise Rankings for all of professional sports. Hornets koolaid anyone?

5. And finally, if you happen to be focused enough to see beyond the playoffs (or perhaps your team isn't participating in such events) and you're looking forward to May 20 and June 26, here's a Mock Draft Listing. Again, this kind of prediction and analysis is about as reliable as my insights on curling, but it's still fun to yell at your computer screen when various writers make dumb (albeit fake) picks.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Changing Our Lineup

While it's league policy for NBA teams to go with smaller rotations in the postseason, we are actually expanding our roster here at Hometown Hornets. In addition to H. Lee Domingue, the one and only Curry W. Smith (that would be me) will now contribute to the blog. I plan to bring much in the way of enthusiasm for the Hornets and little in the way of unbiased analysis. Before entertaining you with stories of basketball glory, I'll go ahead and introduce myself...

Like Lee, I am a Louisiana native. We've actually known each other since we were about 4 years old. You might say that we're best friends. I might say that I'm offended by that label. Either way, we have season tickets right next to one another in Section 325. This is the first season that I've had full season tickets (unless you count the 3- and 6-game packs from the post-Katrina seasons of 2005-06 and 2006-07, respectively). I originally became a fan of the team back in the days of Dell Curry. This has a lot to do with the fact that his last name is my first name. But I was really just a casual observer of the league. When the team relocated to New Orleans in 2002, I was ecstatic. Thus began my journey as a die-hard fan of the New Orleans Hornets.

I was there for a handful of games during the inaugural season in New Orleans; the first Hornets game I attended was against the Milwaukee Bucks in March of my senior year of high school. After picking Tulane as my college of choice, I was there for a few more Hornets games in 2003-04, encouraging my friends and classmates to come to games and support the team (with varying degrees of success). I was even there for the excruciating 18-win season, this time begging friends to go to games (with less success). And, of course, I was there for the days of the temporary evacuation to that other state. Thankfully, I've been there for the past 82 (83 including this weekend's playoff opener) games. And I couldn't imagine a better story for the team's homecoming season. Chris Paul had an MVP year. Hell, he had a Hall of Fame year. The city successfully hosted the NBA All-Star Game. Over the course of the season, New Orleans warmed up to, embraced, and then fell in love with this team.

It's been a fun ride. And I'm not ready for it to be over. See you in the playoffs. Probably be back later tonight with a playoff "preview" (I'll pretend I didn't see the amazing come-from-behind win that was Game 1 of this series).

Peace, Love, and CP3.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Final Standings: the chart

New Orleans 56-26
[final league standings]

Yeah, Yeah, I know. We dropped our last game of the season to none other than the team that we will be hosting for the first round of the playoffs. I was too busy basking in our Southwest Division title to notice, but if I had, here are the points I might have made:

1. Our starters played roughly 30 minutes, which is nowhere near their normal totals.

2. We owned Dirk. He put up one of his worst performances of the season with 12 points, 5 boards, and 25% shooting.

3. In the process of shutting down the big German, we left Jason Kidd wide open. Ordinarily, this would not even remotely be an issue. Why? He's averaging 11 points on 39% shooting for the year (never mind him going for 1.5 for 4 behind the arc every night). That game (27 points, 5 treys, 10 dimes, 10 rebounds on 64% shooting) was a fluke for him. He still has some gas in the tank, but those numbers are not indicative of his nightly performances.

4. We had nothing to lose int hat game. They had everything. Had they lost, they'd risk playing the Lakers in round 1. Had we won, we might have played Denver in the first round. Denver... Dallas... Denver... Dallas... yeah, that's what I thought.

5. For those who watched the game, that dumb stat they showed concerning the Hornet's 0-11 record in the Dallas arena is misleading. First, that stat only extends to 2000, and for 4 of those seasons we were in the Eastern Conference. This means that, despite making the playoffs in those 4 years, we only played 1 game a season in Dallas. Second, the current team is only 0-2 in that arena... and that's what matters. Not how Baron and company fared.


Anywho. While I continue to attend Hornets' pre-playoff celebrations all over the city, I will leave you with a pretty cool encapsulation of the season that the crew down at ESPN the mag posted on their blog (if you click on it, it will enlarge to a legible level). They also put up a post that explores an alternative way for the media to cover the playoffs. Enjoy.

Hooray design geeks!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

There Can Only Be One

The league has put out four of these for the playoffs. According to the Times Pic the team that created these are the very same ones who brought us Little Miss Sunshine It's a pretty creative campaign, and the commercials a really cool, if not a tad unsettling (I mean, Kobe and Shaq blink at the same time, for crying out loud). You can find the other ones at by searching "there can only be one".

But, of course, I can't just put a link in for the CP3 one. I 've got to show some love. So, without further ado, enjoy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

FANtastic FANale

New Orleans 92 | Los Angeles Clippers 114
[league standings]

Let the people know. With the easy victory over the Clips, the Hornets have clinched their first ever Southwest Division Championship. Scratch that; first Division Championship in their 20 year existence. It was a pretty momentous occasion. What's more is that it was especially needed after a close losses to the Lakers and Kings on the road. The "W" put the Bees in the top slot in the Southwest and sealed their fate as at least the number 2 seed in the Western Conference. Not too shabby, eh?

The past four games have seen CP3 shooting at 33% a clip and putting up statistical performances that would really only make Tyronn Lue jealous. Ok, that's not true, he's averaging a very Jason Kidd-esque double-double over that stretch. Unfortunately, despite an otherwise brilliant season, these past few performances on his part may have ultimately have moved the MVP trophy out of Paul's reach. I (obviously) still think that he should win it if only because he didn't piss and moan (and bad mouth his fellow players) for the first fifteen games... but hey, what are gonna do?

Tonight, Chris came out guns blazing and put up his 54th double-double (good for second in the league behind Superman and tied with Al Jefferson). He finished with 22 points, 12 dimes, 4 rebounds, 1 block (no, seriously), and 2 steals. D.West also showed up to play notching 32 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block. The rest of the squad split the stats pretty even with the only notable oddity being Peja's anemic 2-11 behind the arc. It's un-Peja-like, but to be honest, I'd rather him suck it up against the Clips and show up against the Mavs than the other way around.

One quick observation on the Clippers: Al Thorton is a beast. Holy crap. That guy was all over the floor draining treys, slashing into the lane, making sweet fakes. I swear, every time I looked up, he was finishing up an and-1. Unbelievable. Never mind the fact that he got called for traveling something like three times (all of which would have been dunks if he'd pulled them off). When this guy figures out how to run and dribble, we [read the NBA] are in trouble.

So that was it. After a close first half, the Hornets pulled away and sealed the deal by the end of the third quarter leaving us, the fans, to bask in what an incredible season we've shared with this crew. It was an amazing feeling. 56 wins (and counting). I feel like Irene Cara all over again.

After the game, I had the pleasure of being one of twenty fans to go on the court and participate in a raffle for autographed, game-worn memorabilia. It was one of several give aways the organization did as part of the FANtastic FANale.

I was lucky enough came away with a pair of Reebok Pumps (apparently, they still make them) signed by none other than Mike James. I think they took my picture, too. I was too excited to even notice. I should shook his hand, told him "Congrats and good luck", and that was that.

My feetz is too smallz!

Now then, all of this celebration might be well-deserved, but now is no time to get too caught up in self-congratulation. The true test awaits us, and we still have a lot to prove to this league. Hey, who's excited? Well, me. I am. But hopefully if you're reading this blog, you are too. Expect detailed coverage of the post-season as I have secured my tickets through the Finals (god-willing). Oh yeah, it's game time, baby.


Quick aside. I emailed my main man Chris Broussard today (who, despite that last name, was raised in Ohio). He put out his picks for All-NBA teams and his Coach of the Year votes. The main reason I emailed him was to thank him for showing some love to D.West (even if it was on the third team). However, I quickly transitioned from gratitude to inquiry as I noticed he had penciled in Doc Rivers as his second choice for COY. This pick continues to baffle me, especially since he is one of dozens of writers who feel this way. Doc Rivers' only contributions to the team this year have been coining the team slogan ubuntu (Bantu for something close to "unity"... read more) and relinquishing his duties to coach defense to someone who is a thousand percent more competent at such things than he is (read Tom Thibodeau... who is also remarkably not from Louisiana). So, to recap, all you need to do to get second in the COY voting is have a passive interest in African dialects and have the ability to pass responsibilities to others when you realize that you yourself are incapable handling them. Oh, and you have to have 3 All-Stars land in your lap. Amazing.

Why isn't Mo Cheeks getting more love, you ask? Because apparently getting a crap team that Billy King all but punted into oblivion to the post season (and as a seven seed no less) is a little short of the requirements. I mean, the guy coached a nucleus of Andre Miller, Samuel Dalembert, Andre Iguodala, Reggie Evans, Willie Green, Rodney Carney, and Thaddeus Young to the playoffs. Extrapolate that. That group does not even remotely scream playoffs. Plus, Doc Rivers probably doesn't even know who half of those guys are.

Or what about Jerry Sloan. Under his tenure, he's brought the Jazz into into winning season after winning season... and he's had to put up with thinner air, not to mention Kirilenko's 5 year-old mindset about teamwork and that whole "trying" thing. He has made that group a contender with way less than ever landed on Doc Rivers' plate.

Sorry, rant over. Our very Byron Scott should run away with the award, so it really doesn't matter. I guess I'm just sick of the East Coast media bias and the snubbing of small market teams. But as my buddy Mike says, "Get over it". Thanks, Mike. Thanks.


So, tune into ESPN tomorrow night for our final outing of the regular season (against Dallas). After that, feel free to crack a brew (preferably Abita), bask in a glorious season, shout "CP34MVP!" to at least one stranger on the street, and check back before the postseason starts for my obligatory post containing all of my Top 10s from the regular season.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The "Ouch" Game

Utah 77 | New Orleans 66
[league standings]

The Anti-Statement Game. The "CP-who?" Game. The "Don't we usually score that much in one half?" Game. Call it what you want, but last night's home loss to the Jazz was a completely brutal experience for the team, coaches, and fans alike. Utah's defense came swift and hard, holding our hometown hero to a lousy 4 points and 7 assists (and 2 of those points came on a trash bucket at the end of the game) and the team to a season-low 66 points. In a word: awful. In another word: ephemeral. The Hornets are in a near dead-heat to score home-court advantage for the entirety of the Western Conference playoffs. Despite the loss, the ugly playing, the bewildered fans filing out of the arena, the Hornets cannot afford to dwell on this. Reflect on the mistakes, make improvements, and blow Minnesota out of the water tonight as an appetizer to the showdown that awaits in the Staples Center on Friday. That should be the new game plan.

That having been said, I do have a few thoughts on last night's perfor... errr... implosion.

1. I should have seen this coming. We were in the midst of an 11 game home win streak. We were getting a comfortable lead in the standings (by beating a few easy teams). I had floor seats right behind the Jazz bench (a perk from Mr. Shinn for renewing my season tickets). Curry made CP smile before the game with his sign: Chef Paul: Best Dishes in the NBA. We were both sporting our CP34MVP shirts. There were just too many good things in one place, and the universe saw fit to provide balance. We were doomed from the get go. Good thing this wasn't nationally televised or anything.

2. Utah is unbelievably physical on both ends of the court. Their defense was brutal and they continued to push until the Hornets couldn't take it anymore. They just flat out wanted it more. And I hate using that kind of baloney/intangible/malarkey to account for a team's ability to outplay another one. But the truth is, they pushed harder, boxed out better (we were out-rebounded 47 to 36), and forced an unbelievable amount of bad shots (Hornets % from the field: 36.5%). Though we were "off" shooting-wise, they certainly weren't "on" at 43%. They just played harder. Basketball cliche number 5, or something like that.

3. The refs were terrible. It was on both ends for sure, but man they were awful. Seriously, I actually made the Utah bench laugh by screaming so much. They missed tons of hard fouls that were easy to see and then settled for calling soft crap late in the game as though they realized they hadn't hit their quota. In the first quarter the fans started booing during Jazz possessions in protest (think Boston and San Antonio), but none of the fouls (or lack thereof) were outrageous enough to sustain the booing. Instead, fans sat bewildered at the train wreck in front of them.

4. D.Will totally outplayed Paul. Sure, he was pitiful from the field (4 points on 2 for 11 shooting), but he created 16 shots (to Paul's 9) and played such good defense that Paul couldn't get into the lane for his signature soft-hands-pull-up shot. And Paul's poor contribution ended up being the big difference.

The one bright spot? We were so close to the court that during the shoot around we might as well have been involved in the game of HORSE going on between CP3, Bonzi Wells, and Jannero Pargo. In fact, Pargo came off the court and sank a shot from (sort of) behind the goal about 2 feet away from me. Seriously. I could have blocked the shot. So cool.

After it was all over, we listlessly filed out of the arena in a stunned silence. It wasn't like the silence from the buzzer-beater loss to Washington. There was a distinct pain in this silence. Maybe even a little fear. A loss is one thing. A dismantling is another. Ok, 11 points does not a dismantling make. It wasn't the loss itself... it was how we lost...

But hey, you didn't come here for gloom and doom. Let's not forget that since my last post the Hornets not only clinched a playoff spot in what is easily the toughest conference in the history of the sport, but they also tied a franchise record for wins in the season. So what if we drop one to Utah? So what if they own the series on us? Utah is one of only three teams (and the only one in the West) that we have a losing record against. Detroit. Washington. Utah. 3.

There's no loss of love here. When I married this team in the holy sacrament of fandom, I swore to stay by its side in good times and bad. And right now? This is the equivalent of an extended honeymoon (6+ months worth) with the sudden realization that my spouse sometimes gets a bad case of gas after eating dairy. Gas? Dairy? Who even cares?

Admit it... even with the occasional flatulence, my wife's hotter than yours.

Friday, April 4, 2008

"The Big Easy"

I've railed on Mr. Adande in the past, but today he has regained a bit of my favor by posting an article commending both Chris Paul and Byron Scott's performances this year. This may not sound like much since many writers have jumped on board the Hornets' bandwagon, but it is a huge step for J.A. considering his article about relocating the team from earlier this season (seasoned readers will remember my response as well).

Additionally, as if he is trying to woo me, J.A. has also posted a new episode in his continuing web video series, J.A. Adande's Lounge, that glorifies what has become a New Orleans staple over the past five and a half months: the CP3 to Chandler alley-oop. Take a peak:

Awwww. J.A., you know just what to say to take my breathe away.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Five for the Road

With tonight's 106 to 77 win over Miami, the Hornet's not only closed out 5-1 road trip, but it also gave New Orleans 52 wins: good for the second highest in franchise history. By the way, the loss that spoiled a perfect road trip came at the hands of a vengeful Boston team. That whole "statement game" thing had a few repercussions. Who knew.

The Heat game wasn't all that interesting. The Hornets were head-to-head with a bunch of scrubs and never relinquished the lead. Tyson finished a perfect 10 for 10 from the field and pulled down 10 boards. David, Chris, and Bonzi added good (but not spectacular) performances. Actually, it was JuJu who stole the show at the end with 2 fantastic alley-oops. He finished with 11 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals. Best part of the game? Toward the end of the fourth quarter, Chris (sitting on the bench) threw his shoes over his head and into the lap of a lucky Miami fan sitting in the third or fourth row. Had to be the highlight of that guy's season. After that, we got the funniest (and perhaps most informed) comment of the evening from our TV announcers as Gil started complimenting Chris' no-look passing skills.

Side note: if you want to experience a conniption first hand, give this a try. Next time anyone talks to my brother, Andrew, mention how informed and talented the Hornets' TV commentators are. Be sure to mention what a big contributor Melvin Ely has been to the team's successes this year. Oh, and bring a dicta phone if you have one.

Speaking of passing skills, a big congrats to Chris Paul who, tonight, became the third fastest player to reach 2000 assists. He ranks behind Kevin Johnson and the Big O. That's pretty good company to say the least (although I would have sworn Stockton would have pulled it off before Johnson).


It also comes in purple! Who loves the Honeybees... you do!

Great news! The same Cafe Press store that brought you the CP34MVP shirt now features a I Heart Honeybees shirt... and in 2 different colors! Get on board now so you don't look silly in front of all of your friends. And I know because I have friends. I swear.


Let's have a little MVP discussion. Everyone else who writes anything about basketball is chiming in, so I figure, why not? Hell, even the McPaper has chimed in with an article that breaks down the competition with a strange formula that ranks the top contenders. I would tear into it more, but it named Chris Paul as the MVP, so... yeah.

Actually, the main point of this discussion is a reaction to an
article on ESPN's True Hoop about how KG is getting snubbed in all the MVP talks. For those of you who don't know, Garnett is averaging just shy of a 20-10 season with one a quarter blocks and one and a half steals to boot. By comparison, CP3 is averaging 21-11.5 with just shy of 3 steals.

The article's main focus is the defensive prowess of Garnett, something that is difficult to capture with the poor set of defensive stats analysts are forced to work with. In fact, this is one my biggest complaints about the game of basketball, since it hinders one's ability to discuss the overall impact of a player or team. After all, defense is half the game. And so, we the fans of basketball are left with rebounds, blocks, and steals as incomplete--albeit poor-- indicators of an overall defensive performance.

Part of the reason for this deficiency is that, unlike baseball, it can be hard to isolate quantifiable actions by specific players at specific moments. Defense is a fluid act that is orchestrated by multiple players. When a team rotates well in a zone defense and forces a poor outside shot, who gets the credit? Better yet, what if someone doesn't rotate and a jump shooter is left to knock down an open three? Does someone on the defense accrue a stat for that misstep? The league doesn't seem to have an answer for these questions, so it sticks with things it can "count". But even here the league overlooks some stats (jump balls) and miscalculates others (I , for one, have always thought that steals should be calculated like sacks so that the stat can be split if one player causes the steal and another gains possession of the ball). So, there you go. It's an imperfect system, so we do the best we can with what we got.

So, back to the article. I've scoured sports websites galore and this is the first piece of writing to offer compelling evidence as to KG's effect on his opponents... which, in turn, makes a pretty good case for him to named MVP. According to Celtic's owner Wyc Grousbeck:

Players that KG is guarding are shooting 13.1% below the league average at their position. So he's guarding power forwards, and they're shooting 52% league-wide, or whatever it is. Guys that he's guarding are shooting 39% all year. That's just KG, one on one, against his man, when he's on the court.

LeBron's guys are shooting 2% below the league average for their position. Kobe's are 3% below. Chris Paul's are 4% below. And KG is keeping people 13% below. In other words, he's snuffing them out.

Good points, but not complete ones. Despite that rant a paragraphs ago, the race for MVP goes beyond a player's defensive abilities (remember: defense = half a player's performance). Now then, I think LeBron as a candidate is kind of a moot point. I'm not sure that I could never get behind any MVP candidate on a team with a record as poor as Cleveland's. Ok, so 42-33 isn't all that terrible--and LeBron is definitely the reason they've won all 42--but compared to the rest of the league? They'd be the ten seed in the West. 10. Not so good.

That leaves 3 guys. Before I move forward, I feel as though I should share my understanding of the criteria for the award. The MVP should go to the player who is having the most outstanding year. We've determined that this is not LeBron. Is it Kobe? No. You don't whine and complain for half a season to get traded and then get an MVP for it, I don't care what your statistics are. His moaning was a huge distraction to the team and a sizeable portion of the league. Furthermore, talks of him as a candidate didn't even really start until later in the season when they became relevant by adding Gasol and subtracting no one. Granted, he's part of the MVP talks every year, but his push came much later... after everyone conveniently forgot about all of the ruckus he caused in the previous months. And for those of you that think he should get it because the league owes it him after passing him over in the past four years, well then you need to get a clue. This isn't the Oscars... with apologies to Sean Penn.

That leaves us with Paul and Garnett as the best choices. Both are having outstanding statistical years and have helped lead teams that were irrelevant less than a year ago to the top of their respective conferences. So who gets my vote? Don't be silly. I would obviously vote for CP. But why? Am I just an irrationally biased fan in love with my hometown hornet (hey, that's the name of the blog!). No. I have my reasons. And no, it's not because his numbers are down (which they are). If anyone throws that argument at you, you should slap their mother and steal their kit kat bar because KG's playing 6 less minutes per game this season than he did last year, which puts his per minute averages at roughly the same spot.

My reason? I am just not convinced that KG has had a more of an overall impact on his team as Chris Paul has. The article doesn't agree, as it is quite insistent that KG is the sole reason Boston has become so hot. Really? Am I really expected to believe that adding Ray Allen to the squad doesn't count for anything? Or that Pierce's return from an injury riddled season (he only played 47 games) played no part in it? Give me a break. The only added piece for the Hornets is a healthy Peja. Never mind the fact that the Hornets played the first half of the season in front of an empty arena leading to virtually no home court advantages. On top of all of that, if Chris finishes on his present pace, he'll be the first player to lead the league in assists and steals in the same season since Stockton did it in the early 90s. Add that to increased percentages across the board and an over 20 point scoring average and... well, what else do you need? The KG line about opponent's shooting percentage is pretty impressive--and I certainly wouldn't be upset if he did win--but averaging almost 3 steals a game shows some pretty aggressive defensive skills. Plus the article shows that Paul does cause a drop in shooting percentage. Even if it's a fraction of KG's, it still shows him to be above average in this stat. And when we flip to offense, every coach in the league is complaining about not having an answer for Paul (except maybe Nellie). At the end of the day I think you'd be hard pressed to rank Garnett's overall contribution higher than Paul's.


One final thought before I leave for the tarmac to welcome home the Hornets. I found a funny article from the National Post describing Paul's prowess at the point.

The main comparison is to Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, widely considered the greatest little man ever. But Isiah was a shooter first. Paul is what would happen if Isiah and John Stockton had a kid.

True, perhaps... but what would CP look like if that occurred?... hmmmm... gross.

Oh, and a special shout to my friend, Kevin. His beloved Milwaukee Bucks came back to win tonight on the road in Washington (the night of Agent 0's return no less). Thus, the Bucks have remarkably kept their playoff hopes alive despite a 26-48 record. Amazing.