This is the second in a series of Gameday Q&A’s I’ll be having with other NBA and team bloggers once a week. For tonight’s game, I talked to Jim Eichenhofer from Hornets.com. Also be sure and checkout Spurscast 140, which is a Hornets preview with HornetsHype.com.
1. As you know, tonight’s game will be a rematch of last year’s Western Conference semifinals and it will be in New Orleans Arena, where the Spurs were able to win the 7th game that sent them on to the Western Conference Finals. What is the mood like among the players and team. Is this seen as a sort of revenge game or is it seen as just another game on the schedule?
I think the mood among the team right now is optimism about the way they’ve played recently, after starting the season 5-5. Everyone is also interested to see what impact Dec. 10 trade acquisition Antonio Daniels will make on the Hornets’ bench and the team overall. He has the potential to be the best backup Chris Paul has had in his four NBA seasons, so Daniels could be a huge addition. In terms of the Spurs, there hasn’t been a lot of talk about this game in particular, but the Hornets just played the Celtics on national TV Friday, so the media had been focused much more on that game. Since this game against the Spurs is the second game of a back-to-back for the Hornets, it probably hasn’t received as much hype as it may have under other circumstances.
At the same time though, the Spurs have become a big rival, especially in the eyes of Hornets fans, so it’s safe to say people here are looking forward to this game. I don’t think the players would use the word “revenge,” because realistically that could only happen in a playoff rematch.
2. Every time these teams play each other, there are always some great matchups. The point guard matchup pits arguably two of the top five point guards, Tony Parker and Chris Paul, against each other. Watching Tony and Chris go at it in the playoffs was very entertaining, but I don’t think either one stopped or limited the other. What will Paul have to do to assure he gets the best of Parker tonight.
You’re right: It seems like both guys put up some very good numbers when they face each other. Neither team has been effective in preventing the opponent’s point guard from having a big impact at the offensive. For Paul and the Hornets’ defense to be successful against Parker, they need to keep Parker from penetrating into the lane, where he is arguably the best finisher in the league among point guards. I noticed Parker has only attempted 12 three-pointers so far in his 14 games, so forcing him to take jumpers is the logical strategy.
3. We talked about Parker and Paul, but there’s also Duncan and West. Both all-stars and two of the better power forwards at their position. Which of the two matchups will be the key matchup?
If Parker and Paul continue to basically cancel each other out, the Duncan-West matchup is potentially more pivotal. West’s best game as a pro was Game 5 of the Spurs series last year, when he piled up 38 points despite a couple nagging injuries. Whenever West has huge offensive games like that, New Orleans is a very difficult to beat, especially here in the Big Easy.
4. We’ve seen some movement out of New Orleans recently and in the offseason. The Hornets acquired Antonio Daniels to backup Chris Paul and they signed James Posey and Devin Brown. Do you think those pieces, which make up an even stronger second unit, will give the Hornets what it takes to match up better against other Western Conference rivals like the Lakers, Nuggets, Spurs and Rockets.
The Hornets knew they needed to make additions and improvements to their depth in order to have a better chance to advance further in the West postseason. New Orleans’ starting five has been outstanding, but teams like the Lakers and Rockets held big advantages over the Hornets last season off their benches. By adding Posey and Daniels, New Orleans GM Jeff Bower has closed the gap in terms of bench experience and talent between his team and other West contenders.
5. I made a prediction before the season started that the Hornets would finish first in the west and likely make it to the finals. From what I read, I wasn’t alone in that prediction, but the Hornets were a little slow out of the gates. What do you think was the reason for the slow start?
Hornets coach Byron Scott believed the team may have been slightly overconfident, half-jokingly saying that he was going to ban his players from reading some of newspapers or magazines that had been praising them profusely (I guess Scott would’ve banned them from reading Project Spurs too, given your NBA Finals prediction…).
“We haven’t done anything yet,” was one of Scott’s common refrains early in the regular season, reminding everyone that New Orleans’ resume is not extensive enough to assume that it can just walk out onto the floor and win games.
A more tangible reason for the slow start was poor shooting. Several Hornets, most prominently Peja Stojakovic, simply did not shoot well over the first few weeks of the season. Many of those same players have been much more accurate lately, resulting in greatly improved results for the team.
6. What’s the status on Tyson Chandler? Will he play tonight. If not, there’s a guy in San Antonio that goes by the name of Bonner that may be glad to dodge that bullet?
Unfortunately for Bonner, Chandler returned to the lineup Tuesday at Memphis. The Hornets’ 7-foot-1 center missed the first two games of the road trip in Boston and Toronto, but was back in action against the Grizzlies. That should be an interesting matchup because Bonner is a great three-point shooter, but Chandler obviously doesn’t want to stray too far from the paint, where he rebounds and blocks shots.
Thanks to Jim for participating. If you’d like to participate in a future Gameday Q&A or if you have questions you’d like included, email me at michael at projectspurs dot com.