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HORNETS VS. NUGGETS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
October 28, 2010

The Hornets and Nuggets hold their first head-to-head meeting of the season, the second game overall for both teams. Denver began its 2010-11 slate on Wednesday, with a home game against their Northwest Division rivals, the Utah Jazz.

Denver has held the upper hand in this matchup in the recent past, going 3-1 against New Orleans during the 2009-10 regular season. Prior to that, the Nuggets eliminated the Hornets four games to one in the first round of the 2009 playoffs. These teams will face off twice more in the 2010-11 regular season, including Jan. 9 in Denver and back in New Orleans on March 14.

Denver possesses one of the NBAs most athletic and talented rosters, but entered 2010-11 a bit shorthanded due to injuries to key performers such as Kenyon Martin and former New Orleans big man Chris Birdman Andersen. Prior to last season, the Nuggets were widely considered the most significant threat to the Los Angeles Lakers preeminence at the top of the Western Conference, but suffered through substantial adversity. At the tail end of 2009-10, the Nuggets were hampered by the extended absence of head coach George Karl, who was receiving treatment for cancer. Karl, one of the all-time winningest coaches in NBA history, was temporarily replaced on the sideline during the 2010 playoffs by assistant coach Adrian Dantley, but has returned to the bench to lead the Nuggets.



INTRIGUING MATCH-UP


Small forward, Trevor Ariza vs. Carmelo Anthony
Anthony, the NBAs third-leading scorer at 28.2 points per game last season, has produced several huge offensive games against the Hornets in recent seasons. During a 2009 playoff series vs. New Orleans, Anthony averaged 24.0 points in a five-game triumph for the Nuggets. As one of the NBAs premier wing defenders, the athletic, 6-foot-8, long-armed Ariza has often been given the task of trying to contain Anthony. In that same 2009 postseason, Ariza spearheaded the Lakers defense in holding Anthony to 41 percent field-goal shooting over six games in the Western Conference finals. In the three Denver home games of the series, Anthony shot 4-for-13, 3-for-16 and 6-for-17.



HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT - Denver
A closer look at the Denver Nuggets:


Chauncey Billups


Nene

GUARDS
The trade acquisition of point guard Chauncey Billups early in the 2008-09 season helped transform the Nuggets into a Western Conference force. Prior to Billups arrival, the Nuggets couldnt advance past the first round of the playoffs, but in 09 they reached the West finals, including dominating the Hornets 4-1 in Round 1. In 2004, the consummate floor leader was named MVP of the NBA Finals, leading Detroit a surprising upset over the star-studded Lakers.

A first-round pick in 2009, North Carolina product Ty Lawson surpassed nearly all outside expectations as a rookie. For example, Lawson was projected as an erratic shooter, but made an outstanding 41 percent of his three-pointers in 2009-10.

An underrated contributor, Arron Afflalo is valuable to the Nuggets at both ends of the floor. The steady fourth-year two-guard shot a scorching 43.4 percent from three-point range in 2009-10. At 6-5, 215 pounds, he also frequently is given difficult assignments defensively.

As a member of the Hornets in 2004-05, J.R. Smith was one of the NBAs premier rookies. Able to get hot quickly from the perimeter at a moments notice, the New Jersey native has averaged at least 11.1 points per game during each of his seven pro seasons.

Veteran point guard Anthony Carter has been a solid reserve throughout his lengthy career, often cited for his sturdy one-on-one defensive play.

FORWARDS
All-Star wing Carmelo Anthony became a household basketball name in 2003, when as a college freshman he led Syracuse to an NCAA title right across the street in the Superdome. He was the third overall pick in the 03 draft, selected two slots after LeBron James and right before Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Anthony possesses a versatile offensive game, particularly dangerous launching jumpers from 15 to 20 feet.

A hustling, scrappy player, Renaldo Balkman missed much of last season with a back injury but could be a larger contributor in 2010-11, partly due to the current injury absences of several Nuggets. Denvers most significant offseason addition, Al Harrington is a talented offensive player with three-point range. Harrington has had several high-scoring games against the Hornets in recent seasons, including 28 points in a Knicks victory in NOLA last December.

Former Atlanta lottery pick Shelden Williams was a college standout at Duke. The burly 6-9, 250-pounder is married to WNBA superstar Candace Parker, making Williams the brother-in-law of Cleveland guard Anthony Parker.

Power forward Kenyon Martin, one of the leagues most intimidating individual defenders, is expected to miss the early portion of the regular season recovering from knee surgery.

CENTERS
A native of Brazil who began his career known as Nene Hilario, he officially dropped his surname in 2003 and now goes by simply Nene (a la Brazilian one-name soccer stars such as Ronaldo and Pele). One of the NBAs best big men in terms of his ability to run the floor, Nene is an outstanding finisher around the rim and frequent dunker.

Another former Hornets player, Chris Andersen, is known around the league as Birdman, a fitting nickname based on his high-flying style of play. One of the first D-League players to achieve success in the NBA, the superb athlete is adept at putback and alley-oop dunks. At press time, Andersen was recovering from offseason knee surgery.

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