Hornets now among elite, third in ESPN.com poll

Tuesday, January 8, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

An attention-grabbing three-game sweep of their recent West Coast trip has elevated the Hornets to elite status in several of the media power rankings we surveyed this week. Time for our Tuesday look at where the Hornets stand among the 30 NBA teams in the polls:

ESPN.com (3rd, up 3 spots from 6th the previous week): “Chris Paul must be seething after failing to win First Trimester MVP honors in the West. How else to explain the venom he played with over the weekend in a big back-to-back road sweep of Golden State and Phoenix?”
Hornets.com says: To explain, Marc Stein of ESPN.com writes an annual awards column one-third of the way through each NBA season (hence the word Trimester). His Eastern Conference Trimester MVP was Kevin Garnett, which probably received no arguments from anyone.

On the other hand, Stein’s West MVP was Golden State’s Stephen Jackson. Stein picked Jackson based on the fact that the Warriors were a dreadful 1-6 during Jackson’s seven-game suspension, but 18-8 with him on the floor. Stein did acknowledge CP3, though, by writing this: “You can't ignore the fact that New Orleans’ Chris Paul is threatening to become the first player in history to average 20 points, 10 assists and three steals for a full season for the surprising Hornets.”

SI.com (4th, up 1 spot): “The Chris Paul All-Star Showcase continues. They won at Phoenix on Saturday (without West, sore hip) to give them three straight victories and eight in their last nine games. Paul had 28 points and 10 assists as they improved their road record to 14-5, best in the West.”
Hornets.com says: If you look at the stats, Paul is actually one of the few Hornets whose numbers are better at home than on the road this season. He is averaging 1.4 more points in home games than away contests. The other starters, David West (2.7 more ppg in road games), Tyson Chandler (1.7), Peja Stojakovic (0.2) and Morris Peterson (0.2) each have better offensive stats in road games. As a result, New

Orleans has the West’s best road record and is third in the NBA. Boston (13-2) and Orlando (15-5) are the only clubs that have fared better in that category.

NBA.com (5th, up 2 spots): “Road wins over Golden State and Phoenix (without David West) on back-to-back nights is about as impressive as it gets. And they have them within one game of the No. 1 seed in the West.”
Hornets.com says: There’s no doubt that the victories over the Warriors and Suns are the Hornets’ most notable during the current six-game road winning streak. With so many home games and matchups against opponents with sub-.500 records in the coming weeks, can the Hornets move into the No. 1 position in the West standings this month? That would be an incredible accomplishment.

In case you were wondering, San Antonio’s schedule is pretty light over the rest of this month, prior to a nine-game road trip from Jan. 28-Feb. 13. Dallas’ January slate is a mix of quality and struggling teams, while Phoenix only meets four opponents with current winning records out of 13 games. Did you think we’d be having this discussion when the season tipped off on Halloween?

Dime Magazine (8th, up 1 spot): “Resumed their winning ways by running off three straight road W’s against the Clippers, Warriors and Suns. It’s too early to say Chris Paul has supplanted Steve Nash as the game’s best PG, but the day is coming sooner than you think.”
Hornets.com says: There are many things you could look at to demonstrate the kind of season Paul is having right now, but how about the fact that New Orleans is 2-0 against Phoenix so far? How about the fact that in those head-to-head matchups, the 22-year-old Paul is outscoring the 33-year-old Nash (24.5 ppg to 17.5) and has more assists (10.0 apg to 9.0)? Phoenix’s two-time league MVP had one of his poorest games of the season Dec. 15 in New Orleans. Three weeks later in Arizona, Paul outplayed his veteran counterpart in the fourth quarter, piling up 14 points in the final period to power the Hornets to their best win of 2007-08.