Daily Confidential

The New Orleans Hornets have been dealing with injuries for most of the season, and now one has claimed their best player - Chris Paul - for at least one game.

The Hornets try to make do without their star point guard Wednesday when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers.

Hornets coach Byron Scott said Paul is definitely out for this game, likely out for Friday's contest with Denver and could miss as many as four games after turning his right ankle in Tuesday's 102-94 loss to Seattle. The point guard suffered the injury late in the first quarter when his foot landed on the foot of Seattle's Johan Petro during a Hornets' fast break.

X-rays on the ankle came back negative, but Paul's progress will be monitored.

``Right now we've got to re-evaluate the next couple days and see if the swelling goes down,'' Scott said. ``For sure, he's out (Wednesday at Portland). And he'll probably be out the Denver game (Friday in Oklahoma City), as well.''

The second-year guard from Wake Forest is averaging team highs of 18.4 points and 9.0 assists after finishing 2005-06 with 16.1 points and 7.8 assists per game en route to the NBA's rookie of the year award.

Without Paul - who missed only one game due to a torn ligament in his thumb and three to bruised ribs in his rookie season - New Orleans (11-16) lost for the 13th time in 16 games since starting the season 8-3.

``There's never a best-case scenario with C.P. being out,'' Scott said. ``Him missing a (single) game is going to hurt us, obviously.''

Paul will join three other top Hornets on the sideline, as Peja Stojakovic (back surgery) and David West (right elbow surgery) are out of action indefinitely, and top reserve Bobby Jackson (cracked left rib) might not return before the new year.

The four players account for more two-thirds of New Orleans' league-low 90.5 points per game and combined for 65 points in a 92-91 loss to Portland at Rose Garden Arena on Nov. 10.

With Paul sidelined, Scott plans on starting Jannero Pargo and Devin Brown, a free agent who has played just three games with the Hornets, for this game. Pargo's lone NBA start came March 31, 2004, when he played with the Chicago Bulls, and Brown has 16 starts, 14 of which came with the Utah Jazz last season.

Pargo is averaging 16.2 points his last five games, and Brown scored 16 points in Tuesday's defeat.

The Trail Blazers (12-16) are hoping to exploit the Hornets' lack of depth and avoid a third consecutive defeat after a 110-87 loss at Phoenix on Tuesday. Portland scored only 14 first-quarter points and fell behind by as many as 21 points in the first half in having its three-game road winning streak halted.

``They played Phoenix basketball and that's pushing the ball off the missed shots from the outside and they run it up your back and that's what they did,'' said Blazers forward Zach Randolph, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds for his 16th double-double.

The loss was Portland's second since winning a season-high five consecutive games from Dec. 10-20. The Blazers haven't dropped three in a row since a season-high five-game slide from Nov. 25-Dec. 3.

Randolph, who scored 31 points in Portland's win over New Orleans this season, is having a breakout season with a career-high 24.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

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