NBA preseason: Hornets 88, Thunder 79

Saturday, October 10, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

If you didn’t know better, while watching the final two minutes today, you might’ve thought it was a regular season game. With Chris Paul (23 points, 8 assists) producing key points during crunch time and James Posey diving on the floor for a crucial loose ball, New Orleans posted its first preseason win in three tries.

A few things to note from today:

• Marcus Thornton looked sharp in his debut in front of his local fans, scoring six points on two treys in 12 minutes. “I feel like I’ve done well in the minutes I’ve played,” said the LSU product, who had 19 points in 28 minutes Thursday vs. the Bobcats. His shots today came from spotting up and taking perimeter jumpers, but he’s also trying to mix up his offensive game by penetrating when the opportunity is there. “Those holes close pretty fast at this level, so you have to do something very quickly,” he said of slashing in the NBA.

Byron Scott expressed optimism about Thornton’s versatile offensive game, saying that Thornton “has shown something at that (shooting guard) spot that we haven’t had in the last few years. A guy who can not only knock down shots, but can create for himself off the dribble. He still has a lot to learn on both ends of the floor, but he has a skill that has been missing. That’s going to bode well for him in the future.”

• Thornton’s fellow 2009 draftee, Darren Collison, again showed his ability on defense to hound ballhandlers, picking up Oklahoma City’s Kevin Ollie about 40 feet from the basket on a few possessions. Collison has been told by Hornets teammates that his ball pressure will be valuable if it forces opponents to expend precious seconds off the shot clock. That’s a big difference between the NBA and college, where a 35-second shot clock is used. Collison added, “I don’t play a lot of minutes, so there’s no reason why I can’t (aggressively pressure point guards) whenever I’m on the floor.”

Offensively, I’ve noticed in summer league and preseason that many of the 6-foot, 160-pounder’s missed shots have come when he tries to take the ball all the way to the rim for layups. Like it was for CP3 when he entered the NBA, Collison calls the adjustment to trying to finish at the basket against taller players “a work in progress.”

Collison: “In college, guys aren’t as big. In the NBA, if you’re my size, you have to create shots by using a floater or a fadeaway. But you should always continue to attack the basket; it shouldn’t take away your aggression. You just have to do it in different ways.” When Paul debuted in the league in 2005-06, he often ended up on the floor on drives to the basket, one reason why it became wise to add mid-range jumpers and floaters to his arsenal. “When you get tired of getting knocked to the ground or getting your shot blocked,” Collison said, “you start to understand that, ‘OK, now I have to pull up for that 15-footer or shoot a floater.’ I think a lot of it is getting experience.”

• Julian Wright had a second straight subpar game, now 2-for-17 from the field since Thursday. “When you’re not making shots, you’ve got to do the other things (besides scoring),” Scott said of Wright’s contributions. “If he just goes out there thinking about defending, rebounding and filling the lane (on fast breaks), I think his shot will come back.” Scott said that he plans to use Wright as a starter all preseason “then see how it looks after that. I want him to get comfortable in that (starting) role. It’s a challenge to be a starter every night. It’s a lot of responsibility.”

• If you attended the game, you may have noticed that when Hornets guard Bobby Brown entered in the first quarter, the PA system played a clip from the 1980s song “My Prerogative” by musician Bobby Brown (no relation). Brown looked over to the scorer’s table and smiled when he first heard it. After the game, the Cal State-Fullerton product laughed about the audio clip, saying that he’d asked the team’s game operations staff to not use something from the other Bobby Brown’s music career, but they did so anyway.

• Sean Marks and Morris Peterson were healthy but did not play, as the Hornets continue rotating playing time throughout the roster.