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News » Hornets backed their talk, now appear better 2009-08-29

Hornets backed their talk, now appear better 2009-08-29

Hornets backed their talk, now appear better  2009-08-29
The Hornets did exactly what they said they'd do.

Add the re-signing of backup forward/center Sean Marks to all the other moves the franchise made this summer -- moves that came in a pleasantly unexpected flurry -- and the sum total is that New Orleans looks like a better NBA team today than it was when it ended the season.

The roster, which, barring the unforeseen, comprises the 14 players who will make up the regular-season lineup, is better than the one that was whacked by Denver in the playoffs in a 4-1 series so lopsided, the Hornets were forced to soul search, re-evaluate and add some newer, better pieces and some older, improved ones.

"Yes," General Manager Jeff Bower said, without hesitation, when asked if the Hornets are better. "I feel real good about that. I think we've added some depth and quickness to our backcourt, I think we've added two players to our front line (center Emeka Okafor and power forward Ike Diogu) that give us a different element from a physical standpoint and from a point-scoring standpoint.

"I think our returning players are coming back with a mentality that's hungry and want to accomplish a lot and have taken the steps this summer to allow them to do that. And that's a big thing for us. The progress that we've made over the summer with our roster, as far as changes, is one thing. But I think the improvement in our current players is something that we're going to see a big impact from, as well."

How much better, specifically, we won't know until sometime during the season. But the thought of the Hornets opening the season with the current list soothes a lot more than if nothing had been done and the team simply had hoped the players it had would get healthy and improve.

Getting back Marks was a nice final touch to the portrait. Not because if the Hornets had lost him and his 3.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, they wouldn't have been able to make the playoffs. But because he surfaced last season as a reliable backup center, and if New Orleans learned nothing from last season, it was that reliable backups aren't to be taken for granted.

Re-signing Marks, drafting Darren Collison, trading for Marcus Thornton and Okafor, and signing Diogu in free agency potentially plugged all the holes the Hornets needed to plug.

Potentially, because it still is wise to be prudent and to dial back just a little, because we can't be absolutely certain how the parts fit until they're given time to play together and develop a rhythm.

Only Marks is a returnee from last season. Only he is a proven commodity for the Hornets . Collison and Thornton are rookies, and Okafor and Diogu are vets who haven't yet had the pleasure of playing with a player as good as Chris Paul. Or with teams as good as the Hornets .

But Collison hardly could be worse as Paul's backup at point guard than what the Hornets suited up last season, when Antonio Daniels proved to be a huge disappointment. And while trading Rasual Butler to the Clippers took away New Orleans' most improved player from last season, Thornton will get a good chance to dazzle at shooting guard even though Julian Wright figures to have first dibs and Morris Peterson can't be counted out.

Statistically, Okafor has been a more productive center than the player he replaces, Tyson Chandler; if the Hornets can isolate him on opposing big men defensively and not have to give help, as they routinely were able to do with Chandler, then that swap will be a huge steal.

"In any business, you can't make a deal if the interests of both parties aren't aligned," Bower said. "That's how (the trade with Charlotte) all played out."

And Diogu might only need a chance to play to show he can be a productive NBA player. He'll get that chance with the Hornets . They all will, because New Orleans is going to need them.

Adding them gives the impression that the Hornets managed to do exactly what they said they would do -- upgrade and remain relevant and, hopefully, contend in the Western Conference.

. . . . . . .

John DeShazier can be reached at or 504.826.3410.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: August 29, 2009


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