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What About the Hornets?

Writing in today's OCR, Art Thompson III said:

Nine days into the trip, the Clippers have lost their way. They have lost three consecutive games, dropped under .500 (24-25) and are fortunate their chief rivals for a playoff spot - Minnesota, Denver and Golden State - have not capitalized.

Well, don't look now but the Hornets have capitalized.  They now have the same record as the Warriors (23-27) just a half game behind the T-Wolves.  And unlike the Clippers, T-Wolves and Warriors, who have no particular reason for optimism, the Hornets should be significantly better after the All Star break.

The Clippers have continued to complain here and there about injuries during this mediocre season.  The Hornets know about injuries.  The Clippers have lost 27 player-games to injury among their top 8, and exactly zero to their most important player, Elton Brand.  The Hornets have lost 107, including 17 games without team leader Chris Paul, 30 games without last season's leading scorer David West, and a whopping 37 games without free agent signee Peja Stojakovic.  

West and Paul have been on the court together for only 13 games this season, and the Hornets are 8-5 in those games.  They are both healthy now, and the Hornets are on a roll.  They may not get Stojakovic back this season, but they'll be OK even if they don't.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets still haven't had time to integrate Carmelo Anthony and a healthy Allen Iverson, but when they do, you can expect that they will win a lot more games.

In short, the Clippers may be able to back their way into a better record than Minnesota and Golden State, who are just as mediocre as the Clippers have been.  But 41-41 is not going to do it - I guarantee you that the Nuggets and the Hornets will finish better than .500 this season if they stay healthy.