Daily Confidential

It's been just three days since the New Orleans Hornets played a home game, but it's been much longer since they played a game in New Orleans.

The Hornets take on the league's best road team Thursday when they face the San Antonio Spurs at the New Orleans Arena, their first time playing at the venue in more than a month.

After being displaced by Hurricane Katrina last season, the Hornets are playing 35 home games in Oklahoma City in 2006-07, and the other six in New Orleans. They will also face the Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans on Saturday.

The Hornets (10-10) hope to return to their true home full-time next season, despite receiving excellent support from Oklahoma City and the fans there.

``The people (in Oklahoma City) have been not just gracious, they've been wonderful,'' owner George Shinn said. ``But it's just a situation that got down to what is the right thing to do, and the right thing is to go back.

``I know there are questions (and) I'm tired of trying to respond or to try to say this or that. ... Our plan is to go back and to give every effort we can make to make this thing work. That's just the bottom line.''

Thursday will be the team's first game back in New Orleans since the Nov. 5 home opener, a 96-90 win over the Houston Rockets. The Hornets hope the return can reinvigorate them after their surprising start to the season has fizzled.

New Orleans opened the season 8-3, but had lost seven of eight before defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 95-89 at Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The Hornets shot a season-high 54.8 percent from the field, led by Chris Paul's 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting.

``I have been saying it all along that he is one of the best point guards in this league,'' coach Byron Scott said of Paul. ``He is the main reason that we are .500 right now with all of the guys that we have been missing. ... I am putting a lot of pressure on him and a lot of own-ness on him because of how great he is.''

Only eight Hornets players took the court Tuesday, as David West (right forearm strain), Peja Stojakovic (back spasms) and Bobby Jackson (cracked rib) all sat out due to injuries.

The Spurs (17-6) own the league's best road record at 9-3, and have also won five of their last six road meetings with the Hornets.

San Antonio has also won six of its last seven overall after defeating Minnesota 95-82 at home Wednesday. The Spurs trailed 56-48 entering the locker room, but picked up their defensive intensity in the second half, when they limited the Timberwolves to 26 points.

``I just asked the guys if it wasn't that much of a problem or an inconvenience if they picked up the pressure and played a little more aggressively,'' coach Gregg Popovich said. ''

Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 24 points while Tony Parker had 23.

Duncan is averaging 21.6 points and 12.5 rebounds in 20 career games versus the Hornets.

Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited