Paul will start vs. Mavericks; Thornton also starting

Monday, March 22, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

The Hornets just announced that Chris Paul will return to action tonight vs. Dallas. He has missed the previous 25 games due to a knee injury sustained against Chicago on Jan. 29.

Marcus Thornton will also be back in the starting lineup tonight, taking over at shooting guard. As a result, Morris Peterson will be shifted to the starting small forward slot and Julian Wright will go back to a reserve role. Darren Collison will come off the bench.

Paul will be game-time decision vs. Mavericks

Update at 12:01 p.m. Monday: Chris Paul is now being officially listed as a game-time decision. He will warm up during pregame and make a determination on playing at that time.

Chris Paul’s return to the court from knee surgery could take place as soon as Monday’s 7 p.m. home game against the Dallas Mavericks. Hornets general manager/head coach Jeff Bower told the New Orleans media about 30 minutes ago that Paul’s status for the Dallas game will be evaluated following the team’s shootaround. If he is deemed ready to play, he will be in uniform against the Mavericks.

“We don’t know yet (whether Paul will play),” Bower said. “He’s going to go through shootaround and we’ll see how he feels.”

Asked if he could provide a percentage chance on the three-time All-Star playing tonight, Bower responded, “I don’t have a number.

“So far everything has gone well. We haven’t had any setbacks. He’s made real good progress.”

In other news:
• The league office has rescinded the flagrant foul-type 2 that was assessed on David West during Saturday’s loss at Utah. West was ejected in the first quarter as a result of his foul on Kyle Korver, but the NBA deemed that it should have been called a flagrant foul-type 1, which is less severe.
“West won’t pay the fine for the flagrant 2,” Bower said. “But they can’t change the fact that he was disqualified from the game.
“His presence makes a big difference for us, obviously.” postgame: Hornets 115, Mavericks 99

On a night when Chris Paul returned after missing nearly two months due to injury, one of the biggest stories of the game was the performance by the other new addition to the starting backcourt. Marcus Thornton racked up 28 points in his first start since February, sparking New Orleans (34-38) to an outstanding performance and victory over division-leading Dallas.

In his seventh start of his rookie season, the LSU product took over at shooting guard for Morris Peterson, who was shifted to first-unit small forward. Thornton sparked a comeback from an early 16-point deficit that eventually turned into a 21-point lead.

“It was great having CP out there, even though he didn’t play a lot,” Thornton said of Paul, who was limited to 21 minutes. “Just having him as a floor leader was great. We fed off of that.”

Prior to the game, Jeff Bower outlined a plan in which Paul would play no more than roughly 20 minutes. After logging eight minutes in the first quarter and aware of his playing-time limitation, Paul joked that he felt like a teenager who was on a restricted calling plan for his cell phone.

“I tried to ask to play more, but (the Hornets’ trainers) were like ‘No. No way.’ ” Paul said. “It was like I had a cell phone and I was saving those minutes. At halftime, I kept telling the guys I only had 12 minutes left. All I had left were my day-time minutes.”

The three-time All-Star finished with 11 points (3-for-5 on treys), three assists and a steal, but he usually plays around 39 minutes. Paul reported that his knee felt fine after his eight-minute first-quarter stint, although his pride took a beating when the Mavericks opted to leave him unguarded on the perimeter in order to double-team David West.

“I know D West has been playing unbelievable, but the shots I was missing, I was wide open,” Paul said. “I felt like in the second half, if I got the opportunity again, I had to make those shots, because I was embarrassed that they were just leaving me.”

Asked whether he there was a chance he might not return this season, Paul responded: ““I kept telling you all (the media) that I didn’t know. I was going to play when I felt like I could. We haven’t had an opportunity to practice, so the only way I was going to be able to tell (the strength of his knee) was to play.”

Paul said it was helpful for him to play off the ball in the fourth quarter, with Darren Collison taking care of the primary ballhandling responsibilities. Paul took advantage by drilling three-pointers during New Orleans’ 33-point fourth quarter.

“With all this time out, the only thing I’ve had the opportunity to do is shoot,” Paul said. “I told DC before the game, ‘This is still your team. If you see me open, try to kick it to me for a shot.’

“It’s always easier to play off the ball at times. You have to mix it up… to get the ball out of my hands and attack from different angles is a plus. I had fun doing it. I wasn’t worried about scoring or anything like that. I just wanted to play. If I felt like if I was going to have to worry about whether I was going to (physically) be able to do this or that, I wouldn’t have played.”

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