By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com
Question: How it is possible for an NBA player to go from a backup on a last-place team, to the No. 1 scoring option for a playoff-qualifying club all in a span of just four weeks? That riddle neatly sums up the unlikely string of events that took place between Feb. 22 and March 24 for Carl Landry.
After being given a greatly reduced role with the Sacramento Kings during the first half of 2010-11, Landry was dealt to the New Orleans Hornets a day before the February trade deadline, in exchange for Marcus Thornton. At the time of the trade, the Hornets viewed Landry as a critical pickup, because the 6-foot-9 power forward would be able to provide much-needed frontcourt depth behind big men Emeka Okafor and David West.
On March 24 in Salt Lake City, however, West sustained a season-ending knee injury. Just like that, Landry was needed in New Orleans starting five. Fortunately for the Hornets, the fourth-year NBA veteran has plenty of experience filling in for injured teammates. During Landrys rookie year of 2007-08, for instance, he helped the Houston Rockets reel off 22 consecutive victories, despite the absence of All-Star center Yao Ming for a large chunk of the streak. In 2008-09, Landry sparked the shorthanded Rockets to a first-round playoff victory over the Portland Trail Blazers (who had an assistant coach named Monty Williams).
It didnt take long for Landry to show that he could handle the increased responsibility of starting in place of West. On March 25 at Phoenix, a day after Wests torn ACL injury, the 27-year-old scored 19 points in a key road win. He tallied at least 18 points in each of his first five starts and led all Hornets players in scoring average over the final 10 games of the regular season.
I wanted to tell David after the Phoenix game that he has some big shoes to fill, the amiable Landry said. Hes a good player. Its not easy being the player that he is. Hes a two-time All-Star and he does it year in and year out. Ive just got to go out there and bring whatever I can to the table.
Carls a guy that we had our eye for a while, because we thought he brought a number of things to a team such as toughness and the ability to score the ball, Williams said of he and general manager Dell Demps desire to acquire the former Purdue University standout. Hes a high-character guy whos been in playoff wars before. He was a guy who was excited about coming to us, and I thought that was something we value around here. We want people who want to be here.
While Williams has repeatedly praised Landry for his production since being elevated to a starting role, perhaps the greatest endorsement came from the man Landry replaced in the starting five.
Hes been a contributor for the last few years, a solid NBA guy, West assessed. Carl is a starter in this league. Hes doing a great job.
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