HORNETS VS. RAPTORS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
January 17, 2011
The Hornets and Raptors hold their first head-to-head meeting of the 2010-11 regular season, in a special Martin Luther King Day matinee in New Orleans. The Martin Luther King game has become a Hornets tradition, with the team hosting a game on the holiday each of the four seasons since the teams full-time return to the Big Easy in 2007. New Orleans has gone 2-1 in the previous three MLK games, defeating Milwaukee and Indiana, but losing to San Antonio last season.
New Orleans and Toronto have each undergone significant roster changes since they last met during the 2009-10 season, partly due to a pair of trades the Hornets and Raptors completed with each other. On Aug. 11, New Orleans acquired Marco Belinelli from Toronto in exchange for Julian Wright. Belinelli emerged in preseason as the Hornets starting shooting guard and has benefited from filling a much larger role than he did with the Raptors. Belinelli logged a total of 1,120 minutes for Toronto last season, a number hed nearly already surpassed with New Orleans just halfway through 2010-11.
On Nov. 20, roughly three weeks into the current regular season, the Hornets and Raptors made a second trade. New Orleans obtained Jarrett Jack, David Andersen and Marcus Banks, in exchange for Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless. In his first two months with the Hornets, Jack has served as the backup point guard behind Chris Paul. Among New Orleans reserves, Jack averages the second-most minutes (behind Willie Green) and has often been on the floor in fourth-quarter crunch time. Andersen has been used sporadically since coming to the Hornets as a frontcourt reserve with shooting range. Banks is officially on the roster but mutually agreed with the Hornets not to report to NOLA after the Nov. 20 trade.
Center, Emeka Okafor vs. Andrea Bargnani
In an extreme contrast in styles, Okafor scores the vast majority of his points around the rim and is an outstanding rebounder. Bargnani, Torontos leading scorer, is more comfortable away from the basket, a 7-footer in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki. The big men do share one similarity, having entered the NBA with considerable hype. The 6-foot-10 Okafor was the second overall pick in the 2004 draft (behind only Orlandos Dwight Howard), while Bargnani was chosen No. 1 in 2006.
HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT
A closer look at the Toronto Raptors:
One of the Raptors numerous young prospects, talented shooting guard DeMar DeRozan is the teams second-leading scorer. An impressive athlete, as a rookie DeRozan appeared in the 2010 NBA slam dunk contest at All-Star weekend. The 21-year-old USC product excels at running the floor and finishing fast breaks with high-flying slams.
Combo guard Jerryd Bayless was briefly a member of the Hornets earlier this season. Bayless came to New Orleans in a trade just days before the regular season opener, but was dealt again on Nov. 20. Bayless was mentored by then-assistant coach Monty Williams while Bayless was a reserve for Portland. The University of Arizona product, who has battled an ankle sprain, has nonetheless produced a few big offensive games with the Raptors. On Dec. 11, Bayless tallied a career-high 31 points in a comeback victory at Detroit.
Known primarily as a catalyst off the bench for the Phoenix Suns, eight-year NBA veteran Leandro Barbosa is in his first season with the Raptors. Although Barbosa is one of Torontos most accomplished players, the Raptors still chose to bring him off the bench. The native of Brazil tallied 20 points or more four times over a seven-game stretch in December, all as a sub.
Point guard Jose Calderon annually ranks among the NBAs leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio. Through early January, the native of Spain was No. 1 in the league in that statistic, narrowly ahead of second-place Chris Paul of the Hornets. Calderon was a member of the 2008 Spanish mens team that lost to USA Basketball in the gold medal game of the Olympics.
Third-year pro Sonny Weems is one of several athletic Raptors wing players. He missed a recent stretch of action due to a back injury.
A Hornets lottery draft pick in 2007, small forward Julian Wright is trying to cement a consistent role in his first season with the Raptors. The high-flying Wrights playing time so far for Toronto has been difficult to predict. For example, the Kansas product played just one minute in a Dec. 27 loss to Memphis, but a day later, he logged 26 when Toronto posted an impressive road victory at Dallas. On Jan. 5, he played 31 minutes at Cleveland, but four days later he was down to just five minutes vs. Sacramento.
A teammate of Wrights for three seasons here in New Orleans, Peja Stojakovic played in six of the Hornets first 11 games this season prior to the Nov. 20 trade. After arriving in Canada, Stojakovic appeared in two games for the Raptors in late November, but had not been on the floor since then (through Jan. 11). The native of Serbia has been nursing a knee injury.
Linas Kleiza has been a productive scorer throughout his five-year NBA career. He spent his first four seasons as an underrated reserve for the Denver Nuggets.
Rookie power forward Ed Davis got a late start to his debut season in the league, but has shown flashes of potential. In his first game with the Raptors on Dec. 1, the left-handed North Carolina product posted 11 points and six rebounds.
Joey Dorsey is an intimidating, muscular presence in the paint who excels at rebounding. Dorsey was a key member of the 2008 University of Memphis team that lost in the NCAA title game to Kansas in overtime.
Reggie Evans was off to a tremendous start to 2010-11 before sustaining a foot injury that was expected to sideline him until at least February. Evans averaged 12.1 rebounds during the opening month of the regular season.
After playing the role of Chris Boshs sidekick for the first four years of his NBA career, Andrea Bargnani became the Raptors unquestioned go-to guy on offense when Bosh left Toronto in free agency (Bosh joined LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami to form the Heats star-studded new trio). Bargnani was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2006 NBA Draft and helped spark the Raptors to playoff berths in his first two seasons, but the franchise has not returned to the postseason since. The 7-footer is one of three current NBA players from Italy. New Orleans guard Marco Belinelli and New York forward Danilo Gallinari are the others.
A native of Los Angeles, athletic backup Amir Johnson attended the same high school (Westchester High) as the Hornets Trevor Ariza, though Johnson is roughly two years younger. While Ariza spent one college season at nearby UCLA, Johnson went straight to the NBA from high school. After playing sparingly for Detroit early in his NBA career, Johnson has become a valued rebounder and shot-blocker in Toronto.
Seven-foot-one rookie Solomon Alabi was Torontos second-round pick in the 2010 draft. Alabi spent part of this season working on his game in the D-League.
Players the Raptors want shooting free throws in a close game
If the Raptors need a three-pointer, three of their best options are
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