NBA Summer League: Spurs 92, Hornets 86

Sunday, July 12, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Every NBA team would like to win as many games as possible in Las Vegas, but the bottom line during summer league is individual development. With that said, the Hornets had to be pleased with the debuts of 2009 draft picks Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton. The rookie duo combined for 41 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, highlighting New Orleans' opening game at NBA Summer League.

Contrary to various post-draft reports that viewed Thornton as lacking athleticism in comparison to most shooting guards, the Louisiana State product displayed his versatility while posting 22 points, six rebounds, two steals and a block. One of his most impressive plays was a stop-and-go, behind-the-back dribble move in transition that led to him getting fouled on a layup attempt.

During NBA.com's broadcast, Byron Scott pointed out that one of the reasons New Orleans was interested in Thornton was that he has more of an off-the-dribble offensive game than the Hornets' other shooting guards.

"Marcus gives us an element at two guard that we don't have," Scott said. "He's a guy who can break people down off the dribble, can create his own shot. He's a real good passer. Rasual Butler, who I love, and Morris Peterson, who I love, those (players) are mostly catch-and-shoot guys."

Meanwhile, Collison was complimented throughout the game by NBA.com's crew on his steady floor leadership. The UCLA alum looked like a guy who spent four years in elite college basketball, totaling 19 points, five boards and six assists.

"We thought he would be a perfect backup to CP," Scott said of Collison. "We need someone to back him up. (Paul) was averaging about 37 minutes a game, and I want to keep that down to about 32 minutes a game. Darren has played very well in summer league, as far as practice, and I think he's shown very well today."

On the negative side, not that it was entirely the rookies' fault, but New Orleans' defensive performance was porous. Allowing 92 points in a summer-league game - only 40 minutes long, as opposed to 48 minutes - signified a weak showing at that end. Spurs one-year veteran George Hill paced his club with 25 points.

At one point, NBA.com broadcaster Joel Meyers mentioned to Scott that Thornton and Collison had combined to score 33 points, to which Scott joked, "I think they might have given up 33 points (on defense). I'm going to have to talk to them about that after the game."

Hornets owner George Shinn also visited with NBA.com during the game. Shinn on Collison: "We think Collison's going to be a great addition and give Chris Paul some much-needed rest. Thornton has just been a great find for us."