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HORNETS VS. NETS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
December 22, 2010

A New Jersey Nets team struggling mightily on the road this season visits the Big Easy, to take on a New Orleans Hornets squad that has been very successful on its home floor. The Hornets are hopeful that both of those early-season trends continue Wednesday, in the first of two matchups during the 2010-11 regular season between the clubs. The Hornets and Nets will close their annual two-game interconference series on Feb. 9 at the Prudential Center in the Garden State.

New Jersey was just 2-13 in road games entering a Tuesday trip to Memphis, while New Orleans is 11-3 here in the Crescent City.

New Jersey made ignominious NBA history last season by dropping its first 18 games of the season and threatened the worst regular-season record of all time, but wound up at 12-70. The Nets opened the current season at an encouraging 2-0 with victories over Detroit and Sacramento, but they quickly went into a five-game tailspin and have been below .500 ever since.

Meanwhile, the Hornets raced to a 7-0 start in the Hive this season. NOLA has only lost once at home this season to an Eastern Conference opponent (New York), while defeating Milwaukee, Miami, Cleveland, Charlotte and Detroit.

Under new head coach Avery Johnson, a New Orleans native, New Jersey is attempting to build around point guard Devin Harris, center Brook Lopez and promising power forward Derrick Favors, a 2010 lottery pick. Johnson is the former head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. The Southern University product guided the Mavs to their only NBA Finals appearance in franchise history, a six-game defeat to the Miami Heat in 2006.



INTRIGUING MATCH-UP


Point guard, Chris Paul vs. Devin Harris
Strangely enough, neither player performed well offensively during last seasons 1-1 split between the Hornets and Nets. Paul averaged just 7.5 points in the two games (though he did average 12.0 assists) on 30 percent shooting, while Harris averaged 5.5 points on 27 percent shooting. For New Jersey to pull off what would be its most impressive road victory so far of 2010-11, Harris likely will need to have a big game. Despite his modest stats, Paul tallied a late go-ahead, three-point play in last seasons 103-99 home win vs. the Nets.



HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT
A closer look at the New Jersey Nets:


Sasha Vujacic


Brook Lopez

GUARDS
On a team with only three players who returned from last seasons forgettable 12-70 squad, point guard Devin Harris is New Jerseys longest-tenured member. Harris has been with the Nets since midway through the 2007-08 season, when they dealt previous franchise stalwart Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks. The seventh-year pro from the University of Wisconsin is lightning-quick on dribble penetration, often able to get to the rim at will. Harris was known early in his career as a defensive stopper and enjoyed several successful games head-to-head against Chris Paul while with the Mavericks. Since joining the Nets, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has been needed for much larger offensive contributions. In 2008-09, he averaged over 20 points for the first time in his career.

Known among NBA fans largely for his role as a reserve for the two-time NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, Slovenia native Sasha Vujacic was acquired by the Nets in a trade earlier this month. Vujacics role with the Lakers had diminished to the point where hed only logged double-figure minutes in a game once all season. Vujacic is engaged to be married to tennis star Maria Sharapova.

Another recent Los Angeles Laker-turned-Net, point guard Jordan Farmar is in his first season with New Jersey. Farmar is averaging career-highs in multiple categories while getting the most significant opportunity of his five-year pro career to contribute.

Swingman Stephen Grahams role has fluctuated greatly in his first season with the Nets. Grahams twin brother Joey plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Third point guard Ben Uzoh is a little-known rookie from Tulsa. Uzoh impressed the Nets by performing extremely well at the 2010 summer league after going undrafted in June.

One of the NBAs premier shooters, Anthony Morrow started 24 of New Jerseys first 25 games this season at the two-guard spot. Unfortunately for the Georgia Tech product, he sustained a right hamstring injury on Dec. 14 vs. Philadelphia. Morrow was expected to be sidelined for two to three weeks with the injury.

FORWARDS
During the long-awaited 2010 NBA offseason, New Jersey had a significant amount of salary-cap room and money to spend, hoping to land a marquee free agent such as LeBron James. Instead, the Nets ended up acquiring several more affordable players. Their most noteworthy pickup was small forward Travis Outlaw, formerly of Portland and the Los Angeles Clippers. Outlaw developed a reputation as an energetic reserve and clutch shooter while with the Trail Blazers, prior to spending the latter portion of 2009-10 with the Clips. In his debut season with the Nets, the Mississippi natives shooting numbers have dropped in comparison to the rest of his career. Outlaw came directly to the NBA from high school in 2003, after a standout career at Starkville High.

The No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Georgia Tech product Derrick Favors is the youngest player in the league, at just 19 (his birthday is in July). Although hes still a teenager, Favors is a sturdy 6-foot-10, 246 pounds. The Atlanta native is still learning the nuances of the game, but many NBA scouts believe he has the potential to become a star someday soon. Hes already an effective rebounder, using his frame and athleticism to attack the glass.

Starting power forward Kris Humphries is off to the best start of his seven-year NBA career. Over his first six seasons, Humphries played for four different teams and started a combined total of eight games, but hes been counted on by the Nets to provide interior scoring and hustle. The University of Minnesota product is also averaging career-bests in boards and blocks.

A perennial double-double threat as a member of his previous NBA teams, Golden State and Indiana, Troy Murphy is experiencing a drastic decrease in playing time in his first season with the Nets. The left-handed Notre Dame product is a native of the Garden State.

Quinton Ross is known primarily for his individual defensive skills, averaging 4.2 points in his seven-year pro career.

A 2010 first-round pick from the University of Texas, Damion James was beginning to earn more playing time prior to breaking a bone in his foot on Dec. 9. He underwent foot surgery last week. His return date is uncertain.

CENTERS
One of the NBAs most talented young centers, the 22-year-old Brook Lopez continues to make steady progress in his third pro season. A Stanford product, Lopez starred in college for a Cardinal team that also featured his twin brother, Robin Lopez (now a member of the Phoenix Suns). The Lopez twins were on the same high school team as Hornets rookie Quincy Pondexter in Fresno, Calif. Lopez is a throwback player in that he often relies on back-to-the-basket, low-post moves, but he can also step out and make mid-range jumpers.

Free-agent pickup Johan Petro is a 7-footer with a bit more shooting range that most frontcourt players. In his sixth season, the native of Paris, France has started in about one-third of his pro games, with four different teams.

Players the Nets want shooting free throws in a close game
Name Career FT percentage (through Dec. 20)
Brook Lopez 81.0
One of NBAs most accurate centers at the foul line.
Devin Harris 80.3
Averaging about six attempts per game this season.
Troy Murphy 78.5
The injured Morrow (88.0) is best Net on free throws.
If the Nets need a three-pointer, three of their best options are
Name Career 3-PT% (through Dec. 20)
Troy Murphy 39.1
The 6-11 vet brings unique combo of rebounding, shooting touch.
Travis Outlaw 36.2
On pace to make over 100 three-pointers this season.
Jordan Farmar 35.7
Nearly half of his total shots this season are from three-point range.




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