During the first two seasons of Chris Pauls NBA career, 2005-06 and 2006-07, the Hornets spent the final few weeks of the regular season needing helpful outcomes in various other games to have a chance to reach the playoffs. In both years, New Orleans ultimately came up short in its quest to qualify for the postseason, finishing with 38-44 and 39-43 records.
By comparison, the Hornets (42-32) are in a considerably better position this time, knowing all they need to do is win five of their final eight games to lock up a trip to the 2011 playoffs, regardless of what happens around the Western Conference. We control our own destiny, Paul said after Tuesday's practice. Ive been in a situation before where youre looking at the standings and hoping that teams lose every night. (When thats the case), the only way you can move up is when teams lose. But were in a great situation where we control our own destiny. There are teams that are looking at us (to lose). As long as we go out and continue to win, well be fine.
Thats even more the case considering that all three Western Conference teams immediately behind the Hornets in the standings will visit New Orleans over the next 10 days, during a five-game homestand. New Orleans hosts sixth-place Portland on Wednesday, eighth-place Memphis on Friday, ninth-place Houston next Wednesday, followed by 10th-place Phoenix next Friday.
Our weekly glance at what other websites are saying about the Hornets in power polls:
NBA.com (12th, up 2 spots): In the wake of David West's knee injury on Thursday, the Hornets' victory in Utah was their most miraculous of the season. And their win the next night in Phoenix was arguably their most important. Their defense wasn't very good on the trip, but in his first two starts, Carl Landry totaled 43 points and 16 boards.
SportingNews.com (12th, down 2 spots): Losing PF David West is difficult for the Hornets, but at least they play their next five games at home.
ESPN.com (13th, same as previous week): The problem for the Hornets, even if they hang on to a playoff spot, is that they're going to see San Antonio without noted Spurs killer D-West
or stay matched up with the Lakers. Which would probably be worse.
SI.com (14th, same as previous week): Emeka Okafor is shooting a career-best 57.9 percent but is also averaging only 7.3 shots the sixth straight year since his rookie season that his field-goal attempts have declined. That modest offensive role hasn't changed much in the two games since leading scorer West's season-ending knee injury. Instead, coach Monty Williams has preferred to continue running set plays for his starting power forward (West's replacement, Carl Landry) and keep Okafor focused on maintaining the Hornets' top-five ranking in fewest points allowed in the paint. Okafor, who has accepted his role as defensive leader with gusto, and Williams will keep trying to grind the Hornets into the playoffs.