Coachís Corner: Larry Brown on Jazz-Hornets
By Larry Brown
ANALYSIS OF THE TWO TEAMS
1. Donít judge the Hornets by their first two games against Utah
The first two games between these two teams were played in Utah and Utah just dominated them. They won 99-71 and then in game two it was 110-88. I donít think that is indicative of how you would expect this series to go, and certainly New Orleans will play better at home.
2. Hornets Bounce Back vs. Suns
Before their impressive win over Phoenix on Wednesday, New Orleans was on a little downer, so this is a huge game for them. If you have a bad stretch of games in the West, you can go from first to out of the playoffs pretty quickly. I wouldnít get too concerned with those two games they lost to Houston and San Antonio following the All-Star break because those are good teams. But the Washington loss would trouble me a little bit because Washington is really undermanned right now. In the first half, the Hornets were the most overachieving team in the league and Paul was probably playing at an MVP level. Things have kind of slowed down a little bit, but I suspect with the additions of Bonzi Wells and Mike James, that will add a little to their team. I think a lot of people worried about their depth and those two guys certainly should help in that regard. Teams go through periods like this. They just need a couple of quality wins, and the victory over the Suns was a start.
3. Who will get hot from three-point range?
In the first two games, Utah shot unbelievably well from three-point range (61%). That is something that New Orleans will have to address and take away. In game one, New Orleans was 1-17 from three and New Orleans is historically a real good three-point shooting team. When you have Stojakovic and Mo Pete on your team, you can stretch a defense pretty well, and West can step outside also and shoot.
4. The point guard battle: Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams
Everybody talks about Chris Paul against Deron Williams since they were taken so early in the Draft. A lot of teams thought Paul was the better prospect, but that is always an intriguing matchup for me. They are both two of the best players in the league and now with the way the rules are, if you have point guards that can penetrate, you canít guard them because of the handchecking rules. You can mug guys inside, but out on the perimeter you canít guard anybody. Those two guys have a unique ability to not only score the ball themselves, but to make everybody on the court better. In the last game, Williams got 29 points and Paul only got 6, but Paul got in real serious foul trouble. I just love them both. I think Paul might be a little better defender. He may not be nearly as good an outside shooter, but he gets into the paint a little bit better than Williams. If you look at the way Utah plays, they like to run at home a lot more than they do on the road. In the halfcourt, they execute probably as well as anybody in the league. You have to give a lot of that credit to Williams, the way he manages their halfcourt offense. Paul is a little more of a threat in transition and that is the way New Orleans likes to play. They like to run all the time. They havenít been able to run effectively against Utah so far. But also, Tyson Chandler is they key to me. If he has a big game, New Orleans always has a chance to win.
5. The Kyle Korver Trade Impact
That was the first of the many moves in the West and since heís gotten there, their record has been outstanding. Matter of fact, he got 20 against the Hornets in his first game against them. When they made the trade, they felt they wanted another scorer and somebody that could stretch the defense. I donít think there are many shooters in the league better than Kyle. He is an underrated team player as well. He works hard on both ends of the court. Heís not a great defender, but he gives them great depth because he can play small forward or big guard. With him, Harpring and Millsap coming off the bench, they have a lot more depth. Harpring now isnít asked to play as many minutes which might have forced him to break down. And Kirilenko becomes more valuable when he is not asked to score and he can just play. Korver helps in that regard. Plus, any time you can add a guy like Kyle and you move him right into your top eight, it really helps, especially as the season grinds on. When you can count on a guy to come in and play 16 to 20 minutes a game, it makes it easier on everybody.
6. Are the Jazz being overlooked in the ultra competitive Western Conference?
There are so many compelling stories in the West and Utah is a team you donít hear much about. They added Korver, have a healthy Harpring, and they have a terrific starting five. Ronnie Brewer has developed into a real quality two guard. Boozer is a very underrated star in my mind. But I think we can say the same for a lot of teams. When New Orleans had the best record in the West no one was talking about them. The marquee teams, they seem to get most of the attention.
In the years since Michael retired, the West has been the league with the most depth, even with Detroit and Miami winning championships. But when you look at the trades that were made to get Jason Kidd and all of a sudden Gasol moves to a contender from a poor team in the West and then you get Shaq. Korver comes and he is a piece helping Utah. Itís remarkable. I think Denver lost three games in a row and theyíre in jeopardy of falling off the cliff. You talk about the Korver trade going under the radar, but I look at Stoudamire and Kurt Thomas going to San Antonio as a perfect pickup, and now it appears they will get Brent Barry back.
The West is probably stronger than any time I can remember. When Jason Kidd gets comfortable, and with Jamaal Magloire going there, they solve a problem with having depth in size. I think Shaq will acclimate himself to Phoenix. And look at the future. Seattle is an up and coming team with their cap space, young talent and draft picks. Portland is going to get Oden soon. So thereís two teams that should be fighting for the playoffs soon. Minnesota slowly is developing a lot of young talent even though their recordís not indicative of that. I donít see the West getting any weaker in the near future either.