The injury-plagued Hornets visit the Bradley Center looking to make it two surprising wins in a row when they face the Bucks, who will be looking to snap a four-game home losing streak.
On the Clippers Trade. Rohan from At the Hive is one of my favorite NBA bloggers, and earlier this week he offered a thoughtful look at the Chris Paul trade and what it's meant for the Hornets to date. Full disclosure: I've never been able to talk myself into the concept of tanking--or at least I've never been capable of rooting against my own team--but I definitely understand the rationale behind wanting your team to be bad in order to have a chance at being much better. Essentially it's the fundamental dilemma of teams that don't have real stars or the market size to attract them via free agency. New Orleans opted for the tear-down approach in taking the Clippers' deal over the Lakers/Rockets offer in December, but it's a strategy that the Bucks have sought to avoid in the past few years as they seek to re-establish some credibility in the Wisconsin sports scene. I definitely understand why the Bucks don't want to blow things up, but Rohan summarize the frustrations that come with that strategy pretty damn well--look no further than the 2010 Bucks.
There's an enervating sense of emptiness that inevitably accompanies "competitive" but not competitive basketball; this is a sport that takes cinderellas, grinds them down into a powder, and smokes their remains, sneering in the knowledge that if Game 1 didn't do the trick, Games 2 through 7, and the next series, and the next series after that most certainly will.
Now 1.5 games behind the Jeremy Lin-inspired Knicks for the final playoff spot, the Bogut-less Bucks would seem to face an uphill battle if they want a chance at facing the Bulls (gulp) in the first round. Considering the talent level that the Knicks (8th) and Celtics (7th) bring to the bottom of the Eastern playoff bracket, how long can the Bucks mount a credible challenge? Much could still go right for the Bucks this season, but with Bogut quite possibly out for the season their degree of difficulty has clearly been elevated. And if--for instance--they're five games out when the trade deadline arrives on March 15, what do they do? There are good arguments for cashing in on some short-term assets to nab extra picks and cap flexibility going forward, but my guess is that things would have to really fall apart ahead of the March 15 trade deadline before they took that approach.
Gordon hurting. The centerpiece of the Paul trade was supposed to be Eric Gordon, but the former Indiana standout has played just two games since arriving from Los Angeles and is now out an additional six weeks after undergoing surgery on his ailing right knee. Gordon and the Hornets couldn't agree to a new contract before the deadline for rookie contract extensions earlier this season, so the Hornets may not see much of him before he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. That's obviously not good news for a player New Orleans had hoped would be a building block for the future, though it's also not as if the Hornets were hoping to make a playoff run. This season is all about next season, which means looking ahead to the lottery and figuring out how to get value for expiring veterans like Chris Kaman.
Kaman. Speaking of the former Clipper standout, he had his best game of the season in the Hornets' surprising win over the Jazz earlier this week, scoring a season-high 27 and adding 13 boards as New Orleans won for just the second time in 19 games. Kaman started in place of Emeka Okafor (sore knee), while Carl Landry (out a month with an MCL sprain) and starting point guard Jarrett Jack (sore knee) also watched from the sidelines. In short, if you're a Hornet then you probably have a bad knee.
Brandon. We probably don't need to point this out, but Jennings' numbers over the past five have been rather ugly: 11.4 ppg, 5.0 apg and 30.2% shooting from the field and 20.7% from three. Tonight he gets a chance to put things right against Greivis Vasquez, who over his last five games is also averaging 11.4 ppg but a more respectable 7.8 apg and 38.0%/30.2% from the field.