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HORNETS VS. KINGS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
December 15, 2010

Two Western Conference clubs who played the lowest-scoring game of the entire 2010-11 NBA regular season schedule (through Dec. 8) meet for a second time in a span of four weeks. In the first matchup of the season between the Hornets and Kings, in Sacramento on Nov. 21, New Orleans emerged with a hard-fought 75-71 victory. The Hornets managed just 14 points in the first quarter and 16 in the fourth, but still managed to hold off the Kings, despite connecting on only 32 percent of their field-goal attempts.

Following Wednesdays game, there are two more meetings scheduled between the clubs. The Hornets will travel to Sacramento for a Jan. 29 game. On March 12, the squads will wrap up the four-game head-to-head series in the Big Easy.

One of the youngest teams in the NBA, Sacramento began 2010-11 in encouraging fashion with a 3-1 record out of the gate, defeating Minnesota, Cleveland and Toronto. However, since that early stretch, the Kings won just two of their next 16 games, dropping to 5-15. The trip to New Orleans was scheduled as the second game of a back-to-back stretch for the Kings.

Early this decade, the Kings were one of the perennial powers in the NBA, but after several key players aged or were traded, they launched a rebuilding effort that is still in its initial stages. Sacramentos hopes for future success are based on the impressive potential of 2009-10 Rookie of the Year guard Tyreke Evans, as well as other recent first-round picks including DeMarcus Cousins (2010), Omri Casspi (2009) and Jason Thompson (2008).



INTRIGUING MATCH-UP


Shooting guard, Marco Belinelli vs. Tyreke Evans
One of the pivotal aspects of New Orleans 75-71 victory over Sacramento was the Hornets ability to contain Kings leading scorer Tyreke Evans. Evans finished the Nov. 21 game with just nine points on 4-for-12 shooting. By comparison, during three games vs. the Kings last season, the athletic Evans averaged 20.3 points and shot 51 percent from the field. Although Belinelli plays the same position as Evans, the defensive assignment will much more frequently go to Trevor Ariza. Through Sacramentos first 20 games, Evans nine-point output vs. New Orleans was one of only four times hes been held to single-digit scoring.



HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT
A closer look at the Sacramento Kings:


Jason Thompson


DeMarcus Cousins

GUARDS
Explosive scorer Tyreke Evans is one of the latest names among whats becoming a long line of John Calipari-coached phenom guards. After University of Memphis point guard Derrick Rose captured the NBAs Rookie of the Year trophy in 2008-09, fellow Memphis product Evans won the same award last season (John Wall, coached by Calipari at Kentucky, is a leading candidate for the 11 ROY honor). Evans turned in a dazzling rookie season for Sacramento in 2009-10, averaging a team-best 20.1 points per game. However, perhaps as a result of opposing teams devoting additional attention to Evans in his second NBA season, several of his statistics have declined. Hes averaging about 17 points this season, with his field-goal percentage dipping precipitously. Still, hes capable of taking over games at any moment, using his athleticism and 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame to relentlessly drive to the basket for layups. Most opponents try to force him to launch perimeter shots, where hes been much less effective.

Slovenian point guard Beno Udrih is one of the most accurate shooters at his position in the NBA. The left-hander and former San Antonio Spurs reserve connected on a career-high 49.3 percent of his shots in 2009-10. Udrih provides Evans with an effective option to kick the ball out to when Evans is swarmed by defenders.

Swingman Francisco Garcia, a native of the Dominican Republic, has been somewhat of a Hornet killer in past years. During the 2008-09 season, for instance, Garcia averaged 17.3 points over three games vs. New Orleans, shooting 54 percent from the field. By comparison, Garcias career scoring average in 300-plus NBA games is 9.0. The University of Louisville product missed each of last seasons three contests against New Orleans due to injury.

Luther Heads hallmark is his three-point shooting during his second NBA season with the Houston Rockets, for example, Head launched 401 treys in 80 games played. Head has been a part-time starter this season at point guard, but more often during his pro career has served as an offensive spark off the bench.

Third point guard Eugene Jeter bounced around basketballs minor leagues prior to the 5-foot-11 sparkplug making his official NBA debut this season.

FORWARDS
Power forward Jason Thompson was a late-blooming basketball prospect and a relatively unknown name in the sport prior to being selected as a lottery pick by Sacramento in 2008. Thompson starred in college at tiny Rider (N.J.) University, after he was lightly recruited out of high school. Thompson experienced a growth spurt in which he sprouted to his current 6-foot-11, resulting in his becoming an outstanding collegiate player who retained the ball skills and quick feet of a guard.

Many Hornets fans were relieved last season when they heard the news that the Southwest Division rival Houston Rockets had traded Carl Landry to Sacramento. The 6-foot-9 Landry proved to be a frequent thorn in the sides of the Hornets during his Rockets tenure, often dominating New Orleans frontcourt reserves. The Purdue product is an effective inside scorer who consistently brings energy and hustle to the floor.

Small forward Donte Greene is yet another example of the Kings plan to build around young players who may need a bit more seasoning before reaching their potential. The 22-year-old a first-round pick in 2008 out of Syracuse brings an interesting mix of size (6-foot-11), athleticism (he provides occasional highlight dunks and defensive plays) and skill (he fires roughly three treys a game).

Omri Casspi is the first-ever native of Israel to play in the NBA. Casspi chose to wear uniform No. 18, a spiritual number in Judaism. The 6-foot-9, 225-pounder is a fearless defender and aggressive offensive player, particularly dangerous from three-point range.

CENTERS
DeMarcus Cousins was a key cog for last seasons ultra-talented Kentucky Wildcats club, which produced a handful of 2010 NBA first-round draft picks (Cousins, John Wall, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton). Many draft analysts believed Cousins may have had the second-most upside of any player selected in last summers draft, behind only Wall, but that it also might take the 20-year-old some time to mature into a force. Early this season, the 6-foot-11, 270-pounder has shown flashes of future greatness, combined with some rough performances. He was 3-for-11 with seven points in the Nov. 21 game vs. NOLA.

A native of Haiti, Samuel Dalembert was the NBAs most prominent player-spokesman during the horrific earthquake tragedy that struck his homeland in January. This summer, the 6-foot-11 shot-blocker and rebounder was a recipient of the Basketball Hall of Fames Human Spirit award. Among various contributions, Dalembert donated $125,000 to Haitian relief efforts.

Darnell Jackson is a rugged backup big man, an above-average rebounder who can also step out and make mid-range jump shots.

Players the Kings want shooting free throws in a close game
Name Career FT percentage (through Dec. 10)
Beno Udrih 82.5
Best option on Kings team ranked 27th in FT percentage.
Francisco Garcia 80.6
Tends to stay on perimeter, limiting FT opportunities.
Carl Landry 77.4
A rarity: a rugged big man whos above average at foul line.
If the Kings need a three-pointer, three of their best options are
Name Career 3-PT% (through Dec. 10)
Luther Head 38.6
Shot career-high 44.1 percent with Houston in 2006-07.
Omri Casspi 37.2
First-ever Israeli in NBA fires roughly four treys per game.
Francisco Garcia 37.0
Is 6-for-13 on treys in his last four games vs. New Orleans.




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