Clippers Vs. Hornets - Game Preview - A Must Win In Chris Paul Homecoming

2011/2012 NBA Regular Season

New Orleans Arena
March 22nd, 2012, 5:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Jarrett Jack
Nick Young
SG Marco Belinelli
Caron Butler
SF Trevor Ariza
Blake Griffin
PF Gustavo Ayon
DeAndre Jordan
C Chris Kaman

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. New Orleans won the season series last year 2-1, but of course that was when they had Chris Paul.

The Big Picture:

As painful as the first two losses of this trip have been, they were not unexpected. Playing on the road against good teams (the best team in the West in the case of the Thunder) -- those are games you very often lose. The way the team lost is another matter, but a loss is a loss. Amazingly, seemingly against all logic, the Clippers still find themselves essentially tied for fourth place in the conference. Or are they tied for sixth place? The Clippers have been very fortunate so far that few if any of the teams behind them in the standings have been playing significantly better than they have -- but that could change at any moment. If the first two games were likely losses from the beginning, the same is not true for tonight's game. New Orleans has the worst record in the Western Conference, the second worst record in the NBA, and the worst home record in the NBA. Working against the Clippers (over and above the simple fact that they kind of suck lately) is the reality that they may be physically exhausted. This game is the third of a back-to-back-to-back AND the ninth in a mere 12 days. The 9 in 12 days thing is far more unusual than the B2B2B. Every NBA team will have at least one B2B2B this season -- only a handful have a stretch of 9 in 12. Hopefully a sense of urgency over the importance of this game will overcome the fatigue factor. Finally, there's the New Orleans homecoming for Chris Paul. Paul played the first six seasons of his career for the Hornets before asking to be traded prior to this season. He was greatly loved by the people of New Orleans during his time there, and one assumes he'll be warmly welcomed upon his return. But at the same time, he did not leave under the best of circumstances, so you never know how people will react.

The Antagonist:

It has been a very difficult season for the Hornets. It's strange how bad times can seem to build on themselves. Losing Paul just before the season began was bad enough. They also lost another All-Star, David West, to free agency in the off season. With the two best players from the last six seasons already gone, the Hornets then lost several more key players to injury. Eric Gordon, the former Clippers who was the key acquisition in giving up Paul, played just two games before undergoing knee surgery (he could finally be back for April). Emaka Okafor (19 games missed), Carl Landry (22) and Jason Smith (23) have all missed significant time this season as well. Okafor is still out, Smith is back -- Landry has returned to practice and could play against the Clippers tonight. The pieces they do have don't always make a lot of sense -- former Clipper Chris Kaman is their leading per minute scorer, but because he's a veteran in the final year of a contract, the Hornets don't feel he fits into their future and spent most of the season trying to trade him, going so far as to put him on leave for for a couple of weeks while they worked the phones. With the trade deadline gone and Okafor out, Kaman is now their starting center and go to guy. Of course, this isn't all bad for the Hornets right now -- they have Minnesota's lottery pick from the Paul trade and their own of course, and every game they lose is increasing their odds at at least one very high draft pick in a loaded draft. They weren't going to be good this season -- but they weren't really supposed to be this bad either. Given all of their misfortune, they've actually been surprisingly competitive in many of their games.

The Subplots

  • Tonight's Special Guest Recapper: Yours truly. All these other guys keep recapping losses. If you want to do something right, you have to do it yourself.
  • The Questionable Blogger. Today's edition is a chat with Rohan from the Hornets blog At the Hive.
  • Key Hornets Metrics
    Pace: 88.6 (30th of 30 NBA Teams)
    Off Rtg: 99.6 (29th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 105.3 (18th of 30)
    The slowest team in the league versus the third slowest team in the league. Fun.
  • Key Clippers Metrics
    Pace: 89.1 (28th of 30)
    Off Rtg: 107.6 (5th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 106.3 (23rd of 30)
    In two games on this trip, the Clippers defensive rating has gone from 105.5, to 105.8, to 106.3. That's a breathtaking increase in just two games when you're 46 games into the season. Basically, the defense in Indy and OKC was especially terrible -- which we already knew, because we suffered through it.
  • Samuel L. Jackson. Samuel L. Jackson, in the Crescent City filming the latest Quentin Tarantino flick, will announce the starting lineups tonight. Here's hoping he breaks out some Jules classics for us: "Oh, you were finished! Well, allow me to retort. What does Jarrett Jack look like?" "Check out the big brain on Chris Paul!" That sort of thing.
  • Landry. Carl Landry has been an absolute Clipper killer in the past. It would be so Clipper-y if he were to return to action tonight and have a big game.
  • The trade. The Clippers got Chris Paul -- not to mention a second round pick that they've since turned into Nick Young. The Hornets got Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota's unprotected draft pick. I think it's fair to say that LA won the trade -- at least so far. If Chris Paul is on the Lakers in 2013 and the draft pick is Rookie of the Year, we can re-assess.
  • Gordon. Gordon has missed essentially the entire season. He hit the game winner in the Hornets opening game this season to get them all excited, and has played one game since. The injury was at first believed to be a bone bruise, but turned out to require arthroscopic surgery to remove some cartilage debris. He could return to practice next week. Gordon will be a restricted free agent this summer, and the Hornets would really, really like to see him play some before they have to decide about matching a big offer sheet from another team.
  • Kaman. Kaman was never really in the Hornets plans, but he's played pretty well for them lately with all their other bigs injured. Since the All-Star break, Kaman is averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds. He's shooting just 45% during that time (which is an improvement over his 43% for the season) but, when I've watched the Hornets, I see that he's asked to generate a lot of offense from isolations, which ends up leading to a lot of tough shots. It will be very interesting to see where Kaman ends up and how much he signs for this summer. Obviously he didn't generate much in the way of trade offers for the Hornets, or he wouldn't still be there.
  • Aminu. Aminu is one of only two Hornets to have played in every game this season -- so there's that. As a Clipper, Aminu's athleticism and length were tantalizing, but he never seemed particularly comfortable on the floor. Worse still: he couldn't shoot, shooting under 40% for the season (and that was after starting off red hot). Well, he's been even worse shooting the ball this season. He's got the perfect body for an NBA small forward, but it's looking more and more like he just doesn't have the game to go with it.
  • The pick. This one must really be killing the Hornets. The Timberwolves won 22, 24, 15 and 17 games during the last four NBA seasons. Their unprotected 2012 first round pick, in one of the most loaded drafts in years, was considered incredibly valuable, assuming the Wolves cooperated with a third straight bottom two finish. They didn't cooperate. The Timberwolves have had a resurgence under new coach Rick Adelman and with the help of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, and are now 23-25, heading for a pick in the 10-14 range. It's a lottery pick -- but it's not the prize they thought they were getting when they gave up Paul. Rubio is out for the season now and Minnesota may fade some, but it still won't be the pick they thought they were getting.
  • Griffin and Paul. The Clippers really need Griffin and Paul to step up tonight. Griffin had arguably his worst game of the season last night in Oklahoma City, scoring a career low 7 points on 3-11 shooting. Paul was just 3-12. 20 points on 6-23 shooting is a disaster for the Clipper stars, and they need to bounce back tonight.
  • Vinny on thin ice? We haven't heard it from anyone else, but Bill Simmons of Grantland tweeted last night "Heard today that Vinny Del Negro is on super-thin, could-go-any-day ice. A blowout loss in OKC tonight won't exactly help." If a coach is on thin ice AND on the hot seat, does the heat emanating from the seat melt the ice? If this rumor has any truth to it (and that's a big if) a loss to the Hornets would be the kind of thing that might precipitate a move.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:


    n. A female friend that a male talks to on the interNET. (specifically on online games).

    Every time i catch you on the computer you are talking to that hornet.

  • Get the Hornets perspective at the Hive.
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