The Hornets dropped a second straight narrow game in Las Vegas, this time falling to the Heat. Marcus Thornton led New Orleans with 14 points, while Craig Brackins added 12 and Aubrey Coleman had 11. New Orleans head coach Monty Williams faulted the teams late-game execution for the defeat, as the summer Hornets couldnt close out a fourth-quarter lead for the second time in three days.
Part of the problem: Starting point guard Darren Collison didnt play, due to a bruised right knee he sustained in Fridays game vs. Golden State. We played hard, but the execution down the stretch wasnt great, Williams said. Without Darren, we didnt have a head, as far as having a point guard
There are things we can take care of (and improve); we just havent done them yet.
Other postgame talk:
Despite being the teams second-leading scorer with a dozen points, it was primarily a rough second game for Brackins. The Iowa State rookie went 3-for-9 from the field and did not grab a rebound over his 25 minutes of action. I thought Craig was inconsistent tonight, Williams said. Playing that many minutes without a rebound is not something that we will put up with. You have to have a physical presence down there, and rebounding for the most part is just about will. I thought he didnt establish himself physically in the paint tonight.
"I was a little disappointed in myself today," Brackine said. "I'm still trying to get into the flow of the offense. I've just got to step it up, work hard in practice, keep my head up and move on to the next game."
The Hornets other first-round pick, Quincy Pondexter finished with nine points (3-for-12 shooting), two boards and three assists, while picking up seven fouls and four turnovers. Quincy didnt put up huge numbers, but I felt like he played like he belonged (on the court), Williams said. He didnt look like he was startled by the moment, and that was a good sign.
I was given clearance earlier today at the teams shootaround in Las Vegas to discuss a New Orleans free-agent signing that will be announced in a press release Monday. Five-year NBA veteran Luther Head, a combo guard, has agreed to terms with the Hornets and will become the 12th player under contract for the 2010-11 season.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder has appeared in 312 career games, most notably with the Houston Rockets during his first three seasons in the league. The 27-year-old has started a total of 68 games in the NBA, including 10 with the Indiana Pacers last season. He averaged 7.6 points and 1.5 assists with Indiana in 2009-10, highlighted by a 30-point game vs. Memphis on Dec. 30.
Luthers got experience at this level and has been effective, New Orleans general manager Jeff Bower said. Hes coming in to help our team, and thats the mentality he plays with. We like the fact that hes a good, on-the-ball defender. Hes played for coaches in the past that have stressed defense and thats really where hes excelled. Were excited to have him.
In his second and third NBA seasons, the former University of Illinois standout was a key rotation contributor for Rockets clubs that qualified for the playoffs in 2007 and 2008. During the 2006-07 season, he averaged a career-best 10.9 points, often scoring points in bunches off the bench.
We like Luthers energy, Bower said. We like his ability to score the ball in the backcourt. Hes able to play both positions, and gives us some depth at the point guard as well. Hes a guy that has a quick-strike mentality. He can provide us with a little bit of a lift at times.
Though Head has played both backcourt positions frequently in the NBA, hes logged a bit more time at shooting guard. Hes a career 38.8 percent shooter from three-point range in his career. By comparison, here are the career percentages in that category for the Hornets other common perimeter shooters: Peja Stojakovic 40.0, Marcus Thornton 37.4, Chris Paul 35.3, James Posey 35.1.
Hes probably more natural off the ball, because of the scoring mentality that he plays with, Bower said. Thats probably where his biggest comfort zone is.