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HORNETS VS. KNICKS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
December 3, 2010

Two of the NBAs most improved teams meet for the first time in 2010-11, with the Hornets attempting to bring an end to their recent head-to-head struggles against the Knicks. New York has won four consecutive games against New Orleans over the past two NBA seasons, including prevailing by 17 in the Big Easy last December. The Knicks averaged 115.0 points in their pair of victories last season.

New York finished 29-53 last season, the ninth consecutive campaign in which the Knicks have registered a losing record. Early in 2010-11, the Knicks had shown considerable signs of progress, going 10-9 entering Fridays game. Meanwhile, New Orleans went 37-45 last season, but was 12-5 mid-week and had already defeated several top Western Conference clubs such as San Antonio and Dallas.

The Knicks have not qualified for the NBA playoffs since 2004, a streak they hoped might be coming to an end soon when they signed big-name free agent Amare Stoudemire away from Phoenix this summer. Stoudemire gives the Knicks their best interior scorer since Patrick Ewing roamed the paint in NYC. After landing Stoudemire in free agency, New York shored up its point-guard position with the acquisition of Raymond Felton, a considerable upgrade over previous Knicks floor leaders.

Now in their third season under the regime of head coach Mike DAntoni, New York plays an up-tempo style that frequently leads to fast-break opportunities for both teams.



INTRIGUING MATCH-UP


Center, Emeka Okafor vs. Amar'e Stoudemire
Stoudemire is the focal point of New Yorks offensive attack, meaning Okafor and the rest of the New Orleans defense will devote considerable attention to trying to slow down the athletic big man. Stoudemire runs the floor extremely well for a frontcourt player, making it imperative that the Hornets get back on defense and prevent the All-Star from thriving on fast-break layups and dunks. Although he can score close to the basket in the halfcourt offense, Stoudemire also possesses perimeter shooting ability that can draw defenders outside the paint. The Hornets have struggled mightily to defend the Knicks frontcourt players in the recent past, but fortunately two of those past problem players David Lee and Al Harrington departed New York via free agency this summer.



HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT
A closer look at the New York Knicks:


Raymond Felton


Danilo Gallinari

GUARDS
A former teammate of Emeka Okafor in Charlotte, point guard Raymond Felton is off to an excellent start in his debut season with New York. Felton, who was selected fifth overall in the 2005 NBA Draft one slot behind Chris Paul helped lead the Bobcats to their first-ever playoff appearance in 2010. He signed with the Knicks as a free agent in July, with the team hoping Felton could ignite Mike DAntonis famed up-tempo style of play.

Shooting guard Landry Fields has been one of the NBAs biggest surprise success stories early in the regular season. Several basketball analysts second-guessed the Knicks decision to select Fields in the second round of the 2010 draft, but the Stanford product has already emerged as a key contributor in his rookie year. An excellent leaper at 6-foot-7, Fields has demonstrated impressive rebounding ability for his position in the pros, highlighted by a 21-point, 17-rebound performance at Denver on Nov. 16.

Backup combo guard Toney Douglas began this season on a tear, including racking up 30 points at Chicago in an excellent road victory Nov. 4. Since then, hes cooled off a bit, but was one of six New York players averaging double-digit scoring through Novembers games.

Roger Mason Jr. is probably best-known among Hornets fans for the two seasons he played with the San Antonio Spurs, in 2008-09 and 2009-10. He started 71 times for the Spurs in 08-09 and authored several dramatic, clutch baskets that season, but has seen a drastic role reduction with the Knicks. Mason appeared in only one of New Yorks first 18 games this season.

FORWARDS
Along with New Orleans guard Marco Belinelli and Toronto forward/center Andrea Bargnani, third-year forward Danilo Gallinari is one of three contemporary Italian players in the NBA. An often lethal shooter, Gallinari slumped from beyond the arc early in the regular season but has gotten back to the form he displayed during his breakout season of 2009-10. Gallinari drained four three-pointers in five different games during the month of November, topped by a 31-point performance against the Clippers on Nov. 20.

Wilson Chandler is one of the leagues more underrated players, somewhat of a rarity considering he plays for the NBA franchise located in the biggest media market in North America. Chandler has alternated between starting and coming off the bench this season, but in either role, hes provided scoring punch and toughness. Like several of his Knicks teammates, the DePaul product is a threat from three-point range.

Former high school basketball phenom Bill Walker has been trying to carve out a niche in the NBA over his two-plus seasons as a pro. A second-round pick in 2008, the Kansas State product has shown flashes of potential and occasionally delivers highlight-reel dunks.

Often cited as a player with significant potential to break out and become a valuable contributor in the NBA, LSU product Anthony Randolph has been sparingly utilized early in 2010-11, his first with the Knicks. Randolph spent his first two pro seasons with Golden State, but injuries factored into the southpaws inability to consistently make an impact. The Warriors traded him in July, part of the deal that enabled them to obtain David Lee.

CENTERS
The free-agent signing of Amare Stoudemire gave the Knicks their first star-caliber player in recent memory. Stoudemire, who was also coached by DAntoni when the two men were with the Phoenix Suns, is capable of a 30-point game on any given night, something he accomplished in the month of November against Golden State, the Clippers and Detroit.

Ronny Turiaf is the lone member of the current Knicks roster who has been to the NBA Finals, reaching that round in 2008 while with the Los Angeles Lakers. Turiaf signed with Golden State in 2008-09 and was dealt by the Warriors to the Knicks in July. The Gonzaga product is an active, hustling, blue-collar banger around the basket who has frequently been a fan favorite.

A rookie and native of Russia, the 7-foot-1 Timofey Mozgov began the regular season as the Knicks starter at the 5 spot, but has been given fewer minutes recently.

Players the Knicks want shooting free throws in a close game
Name Career FT percentage (through Nov. 29)
Danilo Gallinari 85.3
During one four-game November stretch, went 43-for-44.
Toney Douglas 84.1
More likely to launch from outside than drive to the basket.
Raymond Felton 78.9
Getting to the line frequently compared to his Bobcats tenure.
If the Knicks need a three-pointer, three of their best options are
Name Career 3-pt percentage (through Nov. 29)
Danilo Gallinari 38.6
Third-year pro from Italy is a stationary, catch-and-shoot guy.
Toney Douglas 37.1
Canned five trifectas each in November wins vs. Bulls, Bobcats.
Raymond Felton 33.1
Attempts nearly five three-pointers per game.




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