Hornets begin season ranked No. 3 in three polls

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

* Southwest Division preview

Over the three seasons I’ve covered the Hornets since 2005-06, there have been plenty of instances where fans could reasonably complain that their favorite team wasn’t receiving enough TV exposure or respect from the national media. Prior to last season, for example, the Hornets were selected to play on national TV just twice.

The days of being underestimated and overlooked are now clearly a thing of the past. Among the four NBA power polls surveyed this week as Opening Night approaches, three listed New Orleans third out of the 30 NBA teams. In each of those cases, the two clubs ranked ahead of the Hornets were the 2008 NBA Finals participants, Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers (Sports Illustrated lists New Orleans fourth, behind the Celtics, Lakers and Spurs).

Each Tuesday from now through the end of the 2008-09 regular season, we’ll be examining what national websites are saying about the Hornets. You can provide your feedback on the power polls or Hornets.com’s opinions by writing in the comments section.

NBA.com (3rd): “James Posey should be a valuable addition for New Orleans, making their defense that much stronger, especially if they run into Kobe and the Lakers in the postseason. But the Hornets’ bench is still thin, so it will be interesting to see if their stars can make it through a second straight run into the playoffs unscathed.”
Hornets.com says: Speaking of the Hornets’ bench, it was interesting to hear the second unit Byron Scott projects to use at Golden State, featuring Mike James, Devin Brown, Rasual Butler, James Posey and either Hilton Armstrong or Melvin Ely. You have to think this group will try to utilize a Phoenix Suns-style of play (well, at least the Mike D’Antoni’s-led version of the Suns) and try to out-quick and out-gun opponents. The group is obviously undersized, with the 6-8 Posey playing the 4, but Scott said he may use double-teams when Posey is matched up against a much bigger power forward. On offense, everyone except the center position will be capable of drilling three-pointers. James (38 percent career) and Butler (37 percent) have both been above-average three-point shooters, while Posey (35 percent, 106 makes last season) and Brown (34 percent) also must be guarded beyond the arc.

ESPN.com (3rd): “Too soon to say Posey’s arrival is already paying off? The Hornets have already won something – they were preseason champs at 7-0 – and are third favorites to win it all according to the league’s survey of GMs.”
Hornets.com says: The Hornets received 11.5 percent of the vote in that survey, trailing the Lakers (46.2) and Boston (19.2).
In terms of the Hornets’ perfect preseason, this is what Posey said after Sunday’s practice: “So many people are making a big deal out of the fact that we went 7-0 in the preseason. The fact of the matter is, it’s really not a big deal. At the end of the day, the only thing that is going to matter, and the fans are going to remember, is what we do during the regular season, and what we do in the playoffs. We have room to improve on everything, there’s no such thing as a perfect game. Different teams approach the preseason in different ways, and we definitely did not come in saying, ‘Alright, let’s go perfect in preseason.’ Our goal was to improve and work on things. We definitely did that, but we still have plenty of room to improve.”

SportingNews.com (3rd): “Deron Williams vs. Chris Paul? Huh? Williams is an excellent point guard, but Paul is – well, everyone outside Utah agrees he’s much better.”
Hornets.com says: This topic won’t be going away any time soon, particularly with ESPN: The Magazine’s NBA preview issue featuring Williams and Paul together on its cover. There’s a video on ESPN.com’s site right now that was filmed during Paul’s Sept. 23 photo shoot, in which Paul jokes that the magazine should’ve made his picture bigger than Williams’ on the cover, because CP3 believes he’s better-looking among the two. Williams wryly responded by saying that he doesn’t judge the looks of other men.

SI.com (4th): “With Posey joining MVP runner-up Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson, the Hornets should be able to build on last season’s surprising success. Posey’s ability to defend the likes of Bryant, Ginobili and Tracy McGrady in the playoffs might even give New Orleans an edge. But will they find it tougher this season now that they face loftier expectations?”
Hornets.com says: Byron Scott addressed this benefit of adding Posey, saying “He’s going to help us so much at that end of the floor, to have a tough-minded, physical guy like him. He can defend against some of these (shooting guards) and (small forwards) in the Western Conference that have given us trouble.” During the 2007-08 regular season, McGrady (30.0 points per game vs. Hornets) and Bryant (28.0) both thrived facing New Orleans and shot 50 percent from the field. Ginobili averaged a Spurs-leading 21.3 points during the 2008 Western Conference semifinals against the Hornets.