Paul's status uncertain; Peja returns to starting five

Friday, December 4, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

A decision on whether Chris Paul will play tonight vs. Minnesota (tip-off 7 p.m., New Orleans Arena) will be made later today. Jeff Bower said the point guard will be evaluated after the team’s shootaround, which is taking place right now in the arena.

“We’re going to go through shootaround, see how that goes, then make final determinations based on that, probably later this morning,” Bower said about 45 minutes ago. “(The decision will be) based on how he feels. Nothing’s really changed since we talked after practice yesterday.

“We’ll see how he moves during shootaround. We’re positive about everything, but we’ll have one final discussion later to see (if Paul will play).”

Meanwhile, after a two-game absence to attend to a family matter, Peja Stojakovic will be back in action vs. the Timberwolves. James Posey has been the starting small forward over the two games, but Stojakovic will return to the starting five tonight.

Paul activated for tonight's game

Hornets point guard Chris Paul has been activated for tonight's game vs. Minnesota and will start. Paul has missed the previous eight games due to injury. With Darren Collison taking over the starting role, New Orleans (7-11) has gone 4-4.

“He will be in the starting lineup,” Jeff Bower said less than 90 minutes before the 7 p.m. tip-off. “There are really no restrictions that will be placed on him. He will be testing it and see how it feels. From a medical standpoint, he’s been cleared for full participation, or we wouldn’t be going down this road.”

Bower added that he’s unsure how many minutes Paul will play vs. the Wolves. That will be monitored as the game progresses.

“(We’re not holding him) exactly to a certain number,” Bower said. “Letting him ease back into things would be the goal. Common sense will dictate how long and how much he’ll be able to play.” postgame: Hornets 98, Timberwolves 89

With his ankle protected by a cumbersome boot in the days following his Nov. 13 injury, there wasn’t a whole lot Chris Paul could do to prepare for his eventual return to the court, other than shooting. So when he started tonight’s game by missing shot after shot, the two-time All-Star’s couldn’t believe it.

“All this time I’ve been out, all I’ve had time to do was shoot,” Paul said. “For me to miss those four or five shots at the beginning of the game was frustrating.”

Paul more than made up for the early inaccuracy in other areas, threatening a quadruple-double early in the fourth quarter. He finished with 16 points, six rebounds, 15 assists and eight steals.

Paul, who had missed the previous eight games, said that one significant factor in his decision to come back tonight was that the Hornets don’t play again until Tuesday vs. Sacramento.

“That definitely helped,” he said. “Because I knew at some point I was going to have to come back and test (the ankle). Tonight gave me a good barometer. If it didn’t work out, I had four more days to strengthen it (before the Sacramento game).”

Other news from tonight:

• Devin Brown bounced back from a forgettable West Coast road trip to lead the Hornets in scoring for the first time since his 25-point game at the Clippers on Nov. 9. Brown finished 7-for-10 from the field, including 3-for-5 on three-pointers. He had gone a combined 2-for-15 in the losses to the Kings and Lakers.

“The last couple games, it seemed like the shots I was taking weren’t rhythm threes,” Brown said. “Tonight CP and David West were playing that two-man game, and when I was on the (weakside), the ball got swung to me. I needed to get out of that slump. The previous games it seemed like I was rushing my shots.”

• West and Emeka Okafor had one of their best combined games of the season, with the bigs combining for 34 points and 19 rebounds.

• Although virtually every NBA team plays noticeably better at home than on the road, the Hornets’ discrepancy has been staggering so far. New Orleans is a solid 7-2 here, but only 1-9 on the road.

“I don’t know why that is. The only thing we can do is try to get better during the next road game, which I think is at Minnesota (on Wednesday),” Brown said. “But with CP back, the leader of the team, that’s definitely going to help.”