To say the New Orleans Hornets were devastated by injuries last season
might be an understatement. The team's top three scorers – Chris
Paul, David West, and Peja Stojakovic – missed a whopping 117 games
because of injury. In addition, Bobby Jackson and Marc Jackson missed
26 games each. Somehow despite this fact, the Hornets finished the
season at 39-43, only three games behind Golden State for the 8th playoff
spot in the West.
The question for New Orleans now is can the team stay healthy enough to
improve and make a playoff appearance? Stojakovic, who was acquired
before last season, played only 13 games in a Hornets uniform before suffering
a back injury. Although he is reportedly recovering well from surgery,
his health could be the most important factor to the success of Hornets' season.
New Orleans picked up swingman Morris Peterson in the offseason, a nice
addition who should supply some perimeter offense, but they lost forwards
Brandon Bass and Desmond Mason to free agency.
The Hornets will return to New Orleans full-time for the 2007-2008 season,
with all 41 home games to be played in New Orleans Arena. Since Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita destroyed most of the city in 2005, the team played most
of its home games over the past two seasons in Oklahoma City.
Coach Byron Scott will try to lead the team to its first playoff appearance
since the 2004 season, when they lost 4-3 to Miami in the first round.
One of the most exciting young point guards in the league is Chris Paul,
who was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2006 and averaged 17.3 PPG, 8.9
APG, and 1.8 SPG last season. A repetitive stress injury to his left
foot required surgery just before the end of the season, and stopped him
from being able to participate with the U.S. National Team. Paul,
who has reportedly regained his quickness in summer workouts, told the
New Orleans Times-Picayune
, "It's been a long summer with rehabilitation,
but I think getting back here has got me feeling more confident. I get to see these guys on a daily basis, and I'm going
to keep strengthening my foot. As far as playing, as soon as they told
me I could walk on it, I've been shooting.''
Mo Peterson, who signed a four-year deal in July, comes to training camp
as the team's starting shooting guard. A seven-year veteran
who has played his entire career with Toronto, the 6-7 Peterson gives the
Hornets a bigger defender at the off-guard position and a player who can
consistently knock down open jumpers.
Bobby Jackson and Jannero Pargo round out the Hornets' backcourt
One of the brighter spots last year was Tyson Chandler, a 7-1 center who
had a career season averaging 9.5 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 1.8 BPG. Chandler
has been working on his jump shot over the summer, as Scott has said he
will continue to involve Chandler more in the offense. Forward Peja
Stojakovic, once one of the deadliest sharpshooters in the NBA, could provide
huge offense if he can stay healthy enough to contribute. David
West is an explosive and talented forward who averaged 18.3 PPG and 8.2
RPG in 52 games last season.
However, the Hornets could be slightly undermanned behind their frontcourt
starters. "We're looking to add another frontline player because
I think we need more than four," GM Jeff Bower told the
. "Obviously, we're real encouraged with Tyson (Chandler),
and David West continues to evolve into a prime-time player, and the development
of Cedric Simmons (since traded to Cleveland)
and Hilton (Armstrong) is something we continue to watch.
We would like to add a fifth frontline player to be able to challenge and
-- Jeff Brody
Great lower bowl seats for $3,000 per pair – that's $1,800 off the individual ticket price! Also includes a meet and greet with Chris Paul and his autographed jersey!
Peja Stojakovic has said he is rehabilitating nicely this summer from surgery
for disc fragments in his back.
But with most of his rehab taking place in Greece, observers have not been
able to confirm his condition. While the uncertainty of his physical situation
makes some Hornets fans uneasy, GM Jeff Bower is confident Stojakovic will
be ready for the season. "We've
been monitoring his workouts," Bower told the Times-Picayune
met with his surgeon this summer. We're happy with where he is."
The Hornets certainly hope Peja shows signs of the player he was prior to injury.
If he can pick up where he left off, New Orleans could be headed for its first
playoff run in the last four years.
-- Jeff Brody
||Peja Stojakovic's career three-point field goal percentage is .399 (1195-2996).
Eighth Season, Fourth Season with New Orleans
Career Record: 244-290 (.457)
Playoff Record: Two times, 25-15 (.625)
When Coach Byron Scott began holding voluntary workouts prior to training
camp, at least seven current players showed up.
Scott, who is known for conducting rigorous training camp, expects heavy
competition for several backup spots on the roster.
"Winning is the only thing on our minds this season," Scott told the New Orleans Times-Picayune
. "Having seven guys already working out shows they're serious -- and they want to have a great season."
And with last year's injury situation, Scott and GM Jeff Bower hope the
early workouts will help get their players comfortable before camp. "It's
good for the atmosphere and for the culture of the team to have guys anxious
to go to work," Bower continued. "Given our situation this year,
it makes a lot of sense for guys to be here early and get settled into
their home environments as well."
-- Jeff Brody
KNOW YOUR HORNETS
Peja Stojakovic became a Greek citizen in 1993 because teams from his native Yugoslavia were not permitted to play in the European Cup.
I attribute some of their success to playing in Oklahoma City, where they had great fan attendance. Now that they're back in New Orleans fulltime, I don't see them stepping up like everybody else does.
West, Chandler and Paul are young and improving. They could all come out and have great seasons. They have the talent. If they're healthy they can be one of those teams fighting for one of the bottom playoff spots in the West.
It's going to come down to health and veteran leadership.
-- Western Conference Scout