by Clay A. Smith
Photograph by Jonathan Bachman
Despite a mercurial season the New Orleans Hornets can still see an opportunity to climb up in the Western Conference. Tyson Chandler is glad to be back-in a big way. Chandler has given the Hornets reason to celebrate.
The Hornets' center has stepped up his play as of late, and in his return helped lift New Orleans past the Sacramento Kings with a double-double that included ten rebounds and fifteen points. This is good news for the Hornets because a determined Chandler could spark a big second half for New Orleans.
But Chandler isnt the only Hornet improving his play. David West had 24 points and nine rebounds against the Kings. Finishing with 30 points West's rebounds and free throws were key in helping New Orleans nip the struggling Detroit Pistons 90-87. Small forward James Posey gives New Orleans solid minutes off the bench- a bench that is arguably the least productive in the N.B.A.
But perhaps gone unnoticed has been the emergence of Rasual Butler. New Orleans is happy to get anything out of the shooting guard position in the absence of anything resembling a shooter since the un-coachable J.R. Smith left for Denver, but Butler has carved a nice little niche for himself. Butler averages just over ten points a game and since the loss to Boston on February 11th, he has scored at least 12 points in every game (except against Detroit) - including 21 in a loss against the Utah Jazz and 31 in a loss against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Look for the Hornets to make a push with upcoming games against some sub par teams from the Eastern Conference. They'll start with the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that's lost three of their last four games. Then they'll play the 26-32 New Jersey Nets who, if not for a controversial buzzer beater by speedster Devin Harris, might have lost six of their last seven instead of just five. And they'll finish up against the Philadelphia 76ers who, at 28-28, shouldn't pose that much of a threat to a team with playoff aspirations.
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