New Orleans Hornets (30-20, 12-11 road) vs. OKC Thunder (13-40, 10-18 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
Offensive Rating: Thunder: 103.3 (28th), New Orleans: 108.9 (10th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder: 109.4 (21st), New Orleans: 106.4 (11th)
Pace: Thunder: 93.7 (7th), New Orleans: 87.5 (28th)
I love when these type of trades happen. By total coincidence, on the day OKC acquires Tyson Chandler from the New Orleans Hornets, OKC plays the New Orleans Hornets. Do you think the NBA could make this dramatic, like by having the Thunder and Hornets visually make the deal? Like Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox are in their Thunder warmups and Chandler is in his Hornets warmups and then they rip them off and have their new uniform underneath and then they walk over to their new benches. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Am I the only one thinking about this?
But before we get to the game, I’ve got to make my thoughts official on the Tyson Chandler deal: I love this trade. I absolutely love everything about it. Sure Chandler’s numbers are a bit down this year but he hasn’t been completely healthy and frankly, I don’t think he’s been completely happy this year. But he’s a game changer for OKC. Right now, Nick Collison is starting at center and is playing horribly out of position. He’s a solid four, but for instance against the Lakers, Pau Gasol absolutely abused him. Nenad Krstic is a jump shooter and a decent post player but he’s not an enforcer in the paint. OKC needs a guy like Chandler. When he’s at his best, he’s a 12-12 type of guy and even at his “worst” he’s an 8-8 type of guy that can block shots – which is better than anything OKC’s got right now.
Great trade for OKC and another notch on Sam Presti’s “You got punk’d” belt (or “You got “Presti’d?”). Somehow he gives up a 33-year-old big man (Smith), another that hasn’t been playing real minutes in a month (Wilcox) and the 50th pick from last year’s draft (Devon Hardin). He keeps OKC’s five first round picks over the next two years and gets a 26-year-old 7-foot-1 big man that fills a huge need. I realize New Orleans was really trading for expiring contracts, but Presti made it happen and so far it looks nice.
I love a starting five of Westbrook, Weaver, Durant, Green and Chandler with Collison, Krstic and Watson off the bench. While it may not seem like it, this actually really helped OKC’s depth. Now you’ve got a quality big man like Nick Collison coming off the bench. Obviously, there’s a lot more to be done, but this is a great start. Welcome back (sort of) to Oklahoma, Tyson.
“This really sucks, but I’m not sure Jeff Bower had much choice. With the economy the way it is, we were suddenly looking at a significant luxury tax penalty next season unless we could shed salary in a hurry. Tyson Chandler was our best trade chip due to his sizeable contract and the high demand for such a big man. So the Hornets have achieved their goal of shedding salary. Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox come off the books this summer. Of course, the real downside of this is that we definitely took a step back as a team.
The Hornets’ interior D was undeniably weak with Tyson out injured, and neither Smith nor Wilcox will be able to defend the paint quite like TC could. Offensively, that pair might combine to give us a few more points than Tyson, but my guess is that they won’t be running the pick and roll with Chris Paul anywhere near as well as Tyson could. What little faith I did have that the Hornets could compete for a championship this season? It’s dead and gone.”
But boy, there’s a lot going on for tonight’s game. You’ve got this big-time trade, you’ve got the new mascot (here’s a really vague silhouette of it) and you’ve got the Hornets returning again. Let’s just hope someone doesn’t drown at halftime from all this excitement.
I really like the Thunder to come out and play extremely well tonight. Kevin Durant will likely be riding high after starring in Phoenix and the rest of the team will be re-energized from the break. Add in the fact that the Ford Center will be ELECTRIC tonight with all that’s going on and I really like OKC to play well. This is probably the most excited I’ve been for a Thunder game since opening night – uh oh, is that a bad sign?
One thing that hurts initially is losing Joe Smith because now there’s really not a quality big off the bench for tonight. Obviously Chandler won’t be in uniform for a couple of nights, so that leaves the pecking order at Nenad Krstic and… and… I guess Robert Swift and Mo Sene. We may see some really some lineups with Jeff Green at center and Durant at the four or something.
I’m really intrigued to watch Russell Westbrook get major minutes against Chris Paul. CP3 had 29 points and 16 assists the last time these two teams met with Westbrook seeing the most minutes on Paul. But Westbrook has come a long way not only as a defender but as a point guard. And as we all know, that’s the key to stopping NOLA. Hold down Chris Paul as best you can. And Westbrook should be able to stay with him fairly well, but Paul is so smart that he finds ways to get his points and assists.
Should be a great game and our last chance to welcome back CP3, but hopefully we send him home with a different feeling this time. We love you CP, but we don’t love you that much. The Thunder has been excellent at home lately and hopefully they are excited as we are for this game. And maybe the Hornets are a touch flat upon receiving the bad news that Chris Wilcox will be joining their team.
Tip is at 7 p.m. Go Sam Presti.