in september 2003, emboldened by the company of 200 friends and family members at a going-away party in his native Toronto, Jamaal (Big Cat) Magloire grabbed the nearest microphone and pledged he'd become an All-Star. Few of the revelers expected he would keep that promise; in his first three seasons as the Hornets' center he'd averaged 7.8 points. But Magloire was not only named to the Eastern Conference team last February, he also ended up its leading scorer, with 19 points. His game got even stronger as the year wore on, his scoring and rebounding averages ballooning with his confidence. "I don't want to be known as just an NBA basketball player," says Magloire, 26, "I want to be known as a great NBA basketball player."
This season he faces much stiffer competition in the Western Conference's new Southwest Division, the home of such big men as Tim Duncan, Yao Ming and Pau Gasol. The 6'11" Magloire put in long hours at the gym, steeling himself for battles in the paint and conditioning himself for the more up-tempo Princeton offense, which suits his strengths as a rebounder and transition scorer. "Once he starts to understand this system and where he's going to get his touches," says new coach Byron Scott, "he's going to flourish."
With his star continuing to rise and his financial future secure--Magloire signed a three-year, $20.3 million extension hours before last season--the Big Cat expects to get off to a quick start. Attendance at his send-off this summer in Toronto was more than double that of last year's, and family and friends were breathless in anticipation of another bold prediction. They left disappointed. "We didn't have a mike this year," Magloire says, "so I didn't have a chance to open my mouth." --A.L.
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Hornets
They're moving into the league's toughest division, five of their regulars are 33 or older, Jamal Mashburn will miss the season with a knee injury and may never play again, and Baron Davis wants out. After several years of contending in the East, the Hornets are about to take a huge plunge.... Watch Davis's attitude very closely. During the first half of last year Tim Floyd was running some neat inbounds plays after timeouts, but over the second half Davis ignored the coach and did whatever he wanted. Coming down the stretch, they'd need a quick two points, and he'd launch a three, resulting in a long rebound and fast break at the other end. Davis should be the best point guard on the floor every night, but he doesn't get up to play against the lesser guys.... Darrell Armstrong is a positive force on any team, but at 36, how long can he keep it going? David Wesley can't play pressure defense anymore, which means that if he isn't hitting jump shots, it isn't worth having him out there.... Playing alongside P.J. Brown has obviously had a positive effect on Jamaal Magloire, but he doesn't have good hands, he lacks a refined back-to-the-basket game, and his shot selection isn't the best.... Brown can make up for the quickness and agility he's lost with smarts and anticipation, but it's only going to get tougher for him in the West, where so many of the top power forwards are.... David West is a bright player who is going to make big strides. He can't shoot it past 17 feet, but he can put it on the floor and make a play.... This will be a difficult season for Byron Scott. If it's true that Eddie Jordan did the real coaching in New Jersey, then Scott's shortcomings will become obvious in this job.
Baron Davis ranked sixth in scoring, fourth in assists and first in steals last season, becoming the first player ever to crack the top six in all three categories.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
with 2003--04 statistics
Record: 41--41 (5th in East)
Points scored: 91.8 (17th in NBA)
Points allowed: 91.8 (11th)
Coach: Byron Scott
(first season with the Hornets)
RODNEY ROGERS [NEW ACQUISITION]
NEW ACQUISITION (R) Rookie (statistics for final high school season) *PVR Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 86)