It's management101: Identify your weaknesses and address them. Last season the Hornetsfinished 25th in the league in scoring, averaging a paltry 92.8 points. Enterfree-agent forward Peja Stojakovic, a career 18.4-points-per-game scorer whowas signed to a five-year, $64 million contract.
Defensively NewOrleans wasn't much better, ranking in the bottom third in opponents' fieldgoal percentage (45.9%). Which is why the Hornets didn't blink at assuming theremaining five years and $54 million on the contract of center Tyson Chandler,who anchored a Bulls D that led the NBA in the aforementioned category.
Chandler'sdevelopment stalled last season, when he averaged a career-low 5.3 points (and1.8 in the postseason). "I saw a guy who was a defensive presence,"says Hornets coach Byron Scott, "but I thought offensively he was muchbetter than what he was showing." After being ignored in Chicago's attack,Chandler will frequently find himself on the receiving end of passes from pointguard Chris Paul in an offense that emphasizes speed: The Hornets occasionallypractice with a 20-second shot clock instead of a 24. "Last year I didn'tget a lot of touches, so I wasn't comfortable with the ball," saysChandler. "Here I'm getting so many that sometimes I'm not even ready forthem."
Ready or notoffensively, the 7'1" Chandler, 24, must remain the defensive force he wasin Chicago. (He has a career average of 1.40 blocks per game.) "I'm goingto challenge a lot of shots--a lot of shots," he says. "I'm talking toguys on the floor so they know I've got their back."
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 38--44(10th in West)
Points scored:92.8 (25th in NBA)
Points allowed:95.6 (12th)
(third seasonwith the Hornets)
G BOBBY JACKSON*
G RASUAL BUTLER
F CEDRIC SIMMONS (R)*
F LINTON JOHNSON
HILTON ARMSTRONG F-C(R)*
(R) ROOKIE (COLLEGE STATISTICS)
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Hornets
Their moves havemade them more athletic, younger, hungrier and better. They overpaid for PejaStojakovic, but how else were they going to get him to play in Oklahoma City orNew Orleans? They needed a jolt, an identity. He can shoot, and he alreadyknows the Princeton offense.... Chris Paul can get in the paint and do whateverhe wants, especially in pick-and-roll situations, but instead he takes whathe's given. I see him as a leader who will solidify his team, like SteveNash.... Desmond Mason isn't the prototypical two guard--not with that uglyhitch in his jumper. But he scores in transition and attacks the basket, andwith all of the attention going to Paul and Stojakovic, there will be morelanes to the basket open for him.... Some people have a nose for the ball, andthat's how I would describe David West. He seems to know exactly where therebound is going to go off the rim, and he gives the effort to go get it. He'sa good perimeter shooter and a tough kid who wants the ball in importantsituations, which is a rare thing.
The Hornets madethe most dramatic improvement in the NBA last season, raising their win totalby 20, from 18 in 2004--05 to 38. The Jazz ranked second, with a 15-victoryincrease.
DAVID E. KLUTHO