Out of race, Hornets point to other motivating factors

Sunday, March 28, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

As the Hornets head into their first extended stretch of “non-meaningful” games since the 2004-05 season – back before anyone on the current roster was here other than David West – the tangible motivating factors are dwindling.

New Orleans (34-40) can’t finish with a winning record unless it runs the table with an 8-0 sweep. The Hornets can only realistically play the spoiler role in three of the eight remaining games, because for all intents and purposes, the Lakers, Charlotte and Utah are the only opponents still in contention (Memphis and Houston are nearing elimination, while Washington, New Jersey and Minnesota are already out).

As New Orleans plays out the final 17 days of the schedule, Jeff Bower will use this period to continue evaluating individuals and the areas where the Hornets must improve during the 2010 offseason.

“I think we’ve learned a lot about our players throughout this entire time,” Bower said of the team’s injury-riddled 2009-10 season. “This (post-elimination period) just gives us another scenario to evaluate them in. The most important thing is we learn things that can be used to make us a better team in the future.

“Every game is an opportunity to compete and show improvement across the board. That’s what we’re looking for. Our players, regardless of the standings, are competitive men and professionals who will compete to get a win every night. That’s their makeup and who they are.”

“We’ve just got to come in and work and know that none of these teams are going to feel sorry for us,” David West said following Saturday’s loss. “Just like when (Chris Paul) went down, we had to fight because we were undermanned. We want to finish out the season on a positive note.”

Other news:
• At a community event Sunday afternoon to dedicate one of the four New Orleans youth basketball courts he helped refurbish, forward Peja Stojakovic said he’s still hopeful to return prior to the April 14 conclusion of the regular season. However, he still has not been cleared to practice or even run yet, based on the risk of re-injury.
“Right now I’m doing some lifting and biking, but nothing major or even some of the basic core exercises I need to do,” Stojakovic said. “Hopefully it heals. But I love basketball. It doesn’t matter where we are in the standings or how many games are left; I’d just like to play, make a comeback and maybe play a couple games.”
“He’s shown some improvement, but not to the point where his return is near,” Bower told reporters Saturday. “We’re going to continue to monitor it, but he hasn’t progressed to where his return is real close.”
Asked whether the Hornets would consider “shutting down” Stojakovic for the season, Bower said, “only if it reaches that point. Right now we still are hopeful that he’ll show improvement and be able to make a return. That’s what our hopes are right now, but we’ll have to wait and see.”