As part of the buildup to Wednesdays much-anticipated Lakers-Hornets game in NOLA, I spent a few minutes Monday afternoon being interviewed by my Lakers.com colleague, Mike Trudell. One of several questions Mike asked me about the Hornets was, Should the Hornets already be considered an elite team?
Well, on one hand, from a bottom-line standpoint, New Orleans has only won one playoff series with this current group of players. Based on that fact, youd have to say that maybe its too early to call the Hornets elite. Yet if the answer to this question is based on what national pundits have written about the Hornets, it seems like New Orleans definitely has been vaulted into the upper echelon of the NBA. For example, in most of the preseason power polls, the Hornets were listed as No. 3, behind only the pair of 2008 NBA Finals participants.
Mike believes that its still a bit premature to put New Orleans into the top tier of teams. I can see his argument. At the same time, though, I think if you look at this weeks survey of power rankings, the fact that the Hornets lost two of their last three games and still remain in or near the top five is another sign of the respect theyre getting. If people didnt believe the club was a legitimate title contender, the Hornets almost certainly would have dropped much further.
Our weekly look at where New Orleans is ranked by national websites, out of the 30 NBA teams:
SI.com (4th, down 3 spots from 1st the previous week): Chris Paul racked up 21 points and 10 assists in Saturdays win over the Heat to break Oscar Robertsons NBA record with six straight 20-10 games to open a season. More important, he got his team back on track after lackluster defeats to the Hawks and Bobcats.
Hornets.com says: As Paul himself said in the locker room Saturday after New Orleans halted its two-game skid, There is no reason why we should be going on two-game losing streaks. Not that were not supposed to lose games, but were better than what weve been showing lately.
Dime Magazine (5th, down 3 spots): With six straight games of at least 20 points and 10 assists, Chris Paul broke Oscar Robertsons record, and theres really no reason to think he cant slap up a 20-10 every night this season.
Hornets.com says: Dime is joking, right? Paul is obviously an incredible player were running out of ways to praise him but notching a 20-10 for all 82 games? To accomplish that, Paul would have to register 51 more 20-10 games than he did last season (he had 31 of them in 2007-08).
NBA.com (6th, down 4 spots): After winning their first 10 games (including preseason) of 2008-09, the Hornets drop two straight to Atlanta and Charlotte? Even the Heat gave them somewhat of a challenge Saturday night. Next up is the Lakers on Wednesday in New Orleans in the game to watch for the week (and probably the month). If you dont have League Pass yet, nows the time to get it.
Hornets.com says: At first it seems a little surprising that Wednesdays big early-season showdown is not one of ESPNs national TV games. But I would presume that the fact that the Lakers are always allotted the maximum number of national TV appearances means that some of their other marquee games have to be left off the docket. ESPN actually originally had Utah at Washington in its 7 p.m. Central time slot, but recently changed it to Portland at Miami. That would lead you to believe that the network was not given the option of airing Lakers-Hornets especially now that Portlands Greg Oden is sidelined, making the Blazers a bit less attractive team to show ratings-wise.
ESPN.com (6th, down 4 spots): Peja and Chandler werent out of the lineup long
and these days a home loss to Atlanta doesnt look nearly as bad as it sounds. Yet you get the sense that Coach Scott isnt thrilled with what hes seen so far.
Hornets.com says: Scott, who is always blunt in his assessments of his team, was actually much more content with the Hornets effort after the Charlotte defeat, in comparison to the Atlanta loss. Scott chalked up losing to the Bobcats to poor shooting (42.1 percent on field goals). He was very dissatisfied by what he perceived as a lack of intensity early from the starters en route to the L vs. the unbeaten Hawks.