[Thanks to paddyfairview for today's game preview. Lets call this the game thread too. -ed.]
I picked the Hornets as my "team to watch" this year, because I like a lot of their players (I usually pick one in every sport; once I watched an entire Cincinnati Bengals season. It was terrible). I predicted the Okafor resurgance, and I still think CP3 doesn't get nearly enough MVP talk considering he basically fills the role Rose has with the Bulls. He is certainly the more "traditional" of the two guards, which seems to mean something to a lot of people. It's a shame we're seeing NOLA without Okafor because it's a fun matchup (two superstar-driven teams playing above their talent threshold, or whatever). That said, I think the Bulls are the better team.
Aaron Gray has actually been decent during Okafor's injury, and David Anderson has looked good too. It's hard to credit or fault Monty Williams, he's tried different lineups and I think in general they were just outplayed during that rough patch. Almost everyone has new orleans as a first round out in the playoffs, but I really wouldn't be surprised if they got healthy and made a run. They can be pretty scary when Belinelli is hitting and Paul is in the zone (and as always, David West is massively underrated).
Here's the matchups:
Kurt Thomas vs. Aaron Gray:
Big Sexy versus White Panther. Pass the popcorn.
Carlos Boozer vs. David West
It's amazing, but Booz has become the new whipping boy. I guess that's what happens when Jimmy Johns goes to the D-League. Happily the Sloan news and a Bulls W have overshadowed his shitty night. Jazz people said he played badly in Miami (his "adopted home", whatever that means); in general I don't think he's a "mental toughness" kind of a guy. I'm thinking a) we'll be happy to have his consistent production in the playoffs and b) you don't really want to lean on him when the games matter. Years of half-assed Utah playoff runs also support that theory.
Luol Deng vs. Trevor Ariza
Dunno what to think about Ariza. He's been a key piece on a top team, but I wouldn't trade for him. His outside shooting is atrocious. They needed a wing, and I think Demps has done a great job (flipping the talented guy behind the superstar to fill a gap is textbook GM work, right?) but is anyone excited about this guy? I think he's destined to be the athletic guy on the not-quite-contending team. At least Lu knows to defer (and play D); Ariza takes 4 threes a game.
Keith Bogans vs. Willie Green
I like Marco Belinelli better. That makes two teams that need a change at shooting guard.
Derrick Rose vs. Chris Paul
The real story of the night. As an unabashed homer, even I can't call Rose the better PG with a straight face. As the season progresses and the games really start to matter, I can't say I give too much of a shit if Rose is the MVP or not, or if he's the best PG or whatever; I pretty much just wanna "wee-un" [ha! -ed.]. But pulling out a victory in the fourth against Paul would be an event in my book.
Should be a really fun game, both these teams are capable of coming up clutch or being terrible for no reason. Either way we'll get some great PG play.
This is my dream match-up for the Finals. It's also probably Stern's worst nightmare, since I'd be the only one watching.
The enemy: At The Hive