The New Orleans Hornets and Phoenix Suns expected recent trades to bolster their chances at a championship run.
It hasn't yet gone according to plan for the Hornets, and the Suns are still figuring things out.
The Hornets will try to sweep the four-game season series from the Suns on Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena.
The Hornets (37-18) acquired guards Bonzi Wells and Mike James from Houston for Bobby Jackson and rookie Adam Haluska before the NBA trade deadline on Thursday. The deal, made to strengthen New Orleans' bench, came after it beat Dallas 104-93 on Wednesday to extend its winning streak to five games and claim the top spot in the Western Conference.
Since then, New Orleans has dropped a season high-tying three games in a row, including Tuesday's 95-92 loss to Washington on DeShawn Stevenson's buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Wells, who may not play on Wednesday due to a sore Achilles' tendon, had five points, while James added seven and New Orleans fell to fifth in the West.
Still, Hornets coach Byron Scott isn't ready to blame the trade for his team's current slide.
"Everybody understands it's going to take a little while for those two guys to adjust, but it doesn't change the way we play," Scott said. "The main thing is coming out with much more effort and intensity. ... I haven't seen it the last three games to be honest with you. I've seen us kind of going through the motions."
The Suns (39-18) are also struggling after making a blockbuster deal to get Shaquille O'Neal from Miami for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks on Feb. 6, hours before a 132-130 double-overtime loss to New Orleans.
They have alternated wins and losses in four games with O'Neal, but are coming off a 127-113 victory at Memphis on Tuesday. O'Neal didn't play in the fourth quarter, but had his best game in a Suns uniform with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
"I wasn't going to put Shaq out there to go against 3-point shooters," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Against big guys, Shaq will be able to keep us (away) from double-teaming down, but at the same time we need to run."
Steve Nash, who is averaging 17.6 points and a league-leading 11.5 assists, appears to have rebounded from a pair of subpar performances. The All-Star guard had 25 points and 13 assists against the Grizzles after totaling 29 and 11, respectively, over the previous two games.
Nash, though, is aware that it could take even longer to assimilate O'Neal into the team.
"We've still got a lot of things to work out and finding that cohesion," Nash said. "It's possible that it could take us the rest of the season."
Nash will try to help Phoenix to consecutive wins for the first time since the deal. He scored 32 points and handed out 12 assists in the last meeting with the Hornets, and is averaging 22.3 points and 10.0 assists in three season matchups - all losses after winning 11 of the previous 12 contests.
New Orleans will look to Chris Paul to help complete the season series-sweep after he posted 22 points and eight assists Monday. The Hornets' leading scorer with 20.7 points per game, Paul is trying to look at the bright side of New Orleans' recent slump.
"We lost three games in a row and we're still 37-18," said Paul, who is second in the league with 10.7 assists per game. "It's still been a great year and I think that's why guys around here can't get too down."
Paul had 42 points and nine assists earlier this month against Phoenix, giving him averages of 30.3 points and 9.7 assists in the three meetings.
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