After the surprising New Orleans Hornets elbowed their way into the conversation last season, it's like every NBA analyst starting taking lessons from Jan Brady of The Brady Bunch. Paul, Paul, Paul! That's pretty much all you ever hear about the Hornets -- praise for their jet-fueled point guard, Chris Paul.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Most people have the Wake Forest alum in their NBA Top 5. We'd place him Top 3 along with Kobe and LeBron, 'cause the point's mission-critical, and Paul's the best. Dude's so slick and clean, he makes our recent two-time MVP Steve Nash look like a character from The Matrix movies (you know, moving reeeeaaalll . . . sllllooooowwww . . .).
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However, while no one was looking ('cause they were playing many of their games in Oklahoma City in the wake of Hurricane Katrina), the Hornets quietly assembled a sick arsenal of talent. Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic. Julian Wright. Hilton Armstrong. Off-season pickup James Posey. Not least, forward David West (pictured), the superstar-in-training who everyone's not talking about because they're all talking about Chris Paul.
With this sort of firepower, how the hell are these overcaffeinated superachievers still hanging fire with old fogies like the Dallas Mavericks and perpetual choke-jobs like the Houston Rockets in the Southwest Division? The Hornets don't do anything slow, expect apparently getting out of the blocks, but their three consistent weaknesses -- turnovers, fouls in the defensive paint, and waaaaaay too many nightly minutes for Paul and West -- have at least kept them human so far in '08.
That's about to change (Paul and crew have been cranking up the retro boosters over the last few games), and those are unpleasant tidings for Your Phoenix Suns. The Crescent City cats waxed the Suns four times out of four last year, and they're up 1-0 in this season's series after that 108-95 shellacking they laid on Shaq, Steve, and company at US Airways Center on October 30.
The Suns venture into the Hornets Nest -- New Orleans Arena -- to try, try again at 6 p.m. tonight. See www.nba.com/suns. TV: NBA TV and Channel 45 (cable 9). Radio: KTAR-AM 620. -- Clay McNear