Tag Archives: Darren Collison

Pacers Poised To Steal The Central Behind Kevin Pritchard

Before Larry Legend walked away on top for the third time in his NBA career — Bird being the only man to have won MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year — feeling the franchise was on the right track, he made a couple of solid moves, the first being to remove the interim tag from Frank Vogel’s name tag after Vogel vaulted the Indiana Pacers up in the Eastern Conference standings last season.

Bird then turned the roster reigns over to a man frankly long overdue to once again try and guide a franchise to the next level, Kevin Pritchard, promoting him to GM. Pritchard was the first victim in a recent long general management unemployment line drawn in Portland under the bizarre direction of the eccentric Paul Allen, even after guiding them back to the playoffs from a five-year absence.

Sure, Pritchard laid a couple of eggs like Greg Oden, and landed an eventual lemon in Brandon Roy, but they were well calculated risks going in that few teams would have passed on given circumstances, and even really good GMs drop a few pebbles from time to time. All in all, at a glance, Pritchard has a better overall record than the Chicago Bulls’ Gar Forman, who seems to have a penchant for a little luck and a propensity to fill holes with puzzling  lower-end free agents.

Our buddy Jared Wade took a good look inside some of the early maneuverings from Pritchard, who wasted no time jumping right into his role with the confidence of a man who knows what he wants, what he needs. Ironically, Pritchard had to pony up to one of his old tricks from his former franchise to hang onto Roy Hibbert.

On Portland giving Hibbert a max offer right out the gate: “If you look at the history of the league, usually in the first week of free agency, big guys get the biggest offers and the quickest offers. So we were pretty prepared.”

Pritchard knew he needed more size-wise than the barely serviceable, if admirable, Lou Amundson and Tyler Hansbrough.

On rationale behind acquiring Ian Mahinmi: “When you go against the top teams — specifically in the East — you better have rim defenders. And we needed another rim defender. We felt like when Roy went out of the game, we didn’t have as much size. So we really needed some size.”

-Eight Points, Nine Seconds, Kevin Pritchard Discusses the Pacers’ Offseason

He followed that up by inviting the former Utah Ute, Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Luke Nevill, to training camp. Even if the Aussie press is unimpressed with the move, damning Nevill to “effectively be the third-fiddle centre,” that means the Pacers have three 7-footers in training camp this fall, four if you count the 6′ 11.75″-in shoes Miles Plumlee, who has a 7’1″ wingspan.

Pritchard has proven his savvy by drawing the ire of Utah Jazz fans repeatedly. While at Portland Pritchard treated the Jazz like his own personal farm system, first front-loading a contract for Paul Millsap the Jazz felt they had to match, limiting Utah’s upcoming options in free agency, then stealing gem in the rough Wesley Matthews the following year, a move many fans still feel was a low note in Jazz history.

Heads up, Gar. If Kevin can’t beat you on the court, he’ll try like hell to beat you off it every off-season.

Wade continues:

On the logic behind trading Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones for Mahinmi prior to signing DJ Augustin and Gerald Green:  ”We had to do that to meet certain restrictions in using our cap space. We did it a little bit differently in that we had a pretty good feeling we were going to get a good point guard in DJ Augustin … We had been in contact with his agent. He was [a restricted free agent] but, just the way it shook out, we had a good feeling that we were going to be able to bring him in. So it looked backwards the way it was reported when in actuality it wasn’t like that.”

My take on that last part: It seems as though this was all one big mega-deal in the mind of the Pacers front office.

While on paper this may feel like something of a lateral move at point guard, Collison has been a bad fit for the Pacers, his numbers steadily declining, with Collison dishing a career low assists last season, at 4.8, and a mere 24.9 AST%, very low for a point. On the other hand, Augustin was poised for a breakout season before nagging, minor injuries were blamed for a prolonged shooting slump. Nevertheless, Augustin managed to continue distributing at a career rate with new highs in assists, 6.4, and AST%, 38.9, a prospect likely to suit both his role and the Pacers’ plan more smoothly, and overall, Augustin in four years has shot .374 from 3 to Collison’s .363 in three years.

Oddly enough, I feel like David West should benefit more from Augustin than he did with Collison, despite former team ties on the New Orleans Hornets. “Hey, look! We don’t need Chris Paul after all!” was fun in 2010 and all, but the snickers were quickly turning to groans in Indiana.

The Pacers’ roster just feels right now. Balanced.

Pritchard on that: “There are all kinds of studies out there in the last four or five years that say one of the most important things is keeping your core together — allowing them to grow, allowing them to learn each other. And we feel like we accomplished that.”

West will again play offensive anchor while Hibbert, George, and Augustin find their NBA footing on the next level, while behind the scenes Pritchard will continue to quietly upgrade and plug holes, fill needs. He was a perfect fit for this franchise. Many others will be sorry they passed on him for so long.

Few may be talking about the Pacers as contenders for the East, perplexing to me on some level after last year — they didn’t get worse — but if you sleep on Kevin Pritchard he’ll sneak right up and steal your thunder.

Assisting Darren Collison’s Assists

“Darren Collison. 16 points. They have him with 20 assists tonight… And this is a Hornet’s rookie record of 20 assists. I’m going to say this politely. They need to watch the video of this game because Darren Collison has about 13 assists in the game, not 20. The person keeping assists tonight is a little unclear on the rule. You’ve had balls thrown in and then guys making moves then scoring and still an assist will be credited. That’s up for the league to look at, eventually.”

This was a quote by Bob Fitzgerald towards the end of the Hornets victory over the Warriors Monday night. Bob Fitzgerald is the Warriors play-by-play man. When I was watching the game and saw the stat, it didn’t really seem correct to me either. I guessed that Collison might have around 15 assists. To hear 20 was sort of alarming.

We’ve heard about issues in the past with Nick Van Exel in Denver or what’s been assumed with Chris Paul in New Orleans in terms of his stats being inflated for the hopes of ending up on SportsCenter because of pretty round numbers. Well, 20 assists for someone that the Hornets are desperately hoping takes away some Rookie of the Year recognition from Tyreke Evans with his half of a season’s worth of brilliance is quite the round number to make people notice.

Since Fitz wanted someone to check out the video tape and see if 20 was a legit number for Collison tonight, I decided to cue up the old League Pass Broadband and go over each registered assist for Collison.

For clarification, we’re going by the generally accepted definition of an assist:

“In basketball, an assist is attributed to a player who passes the ball to a teammate in a way that leads to a score by field goal, meaning that he or she was “assisting” in the basket.”

Here is a break down of each assist credited to Darren Collison with my description of the play and the verdict of whether or not it should be an assist.

Assist 1: Fast-break pass to Morris Peterson on the wing for three
The first score of the game by the Hornets happened off a turnover in which Collison intercepted a horrible pass, took it the other way and threw a pass to Mo Pete on the wing that was offline too. Mo controlled the pass with a bounce, gathered himself and shot the three. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 2: Transition three by Morris Peterson
Collison quickly jogs the ball up the floor and finds Morris Peterson running with him all alone. He throws a quick pass to Mo Pete on the left wing again and Peterson rises up for his second three in as many attempts. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 3: Pass to Peja Stojakovic in the mid-post for a jumper
This is the first questionable one of the night for Collison. He dribbles up the right side where Peja has his defender in the post around 16 feet from the basket. Collison passes to Peja who isn’t even looking at the basket. He’s not really facing it so much as he’s facing the scorer’s table. He turns and takes a big jab step towards the baseline. When the defender recovers because he realizes he isn’t going anywhere, Peja makes one more small jab step and then fires up the jumper. I find it hard to believe that this pass led to the score in the spirit of the definition of an assist. Verdict: Invalid Assist

Assist 4: Alley-oop to Emeka Okafor
Completely legit here. It’s a lob into the center of the key, which Okafor catches and dunks in one motion. I like to call it the ‘ole alley-oop. It’s catchy (pun intended). Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 5: Morris Peterson three in the right corner
Collison gets the ball into the post on the left side of the floor. After the pass to West down low, he cuts into the middle of the lane. He catches the pass from West and the defense collapses to the middle. He kicks out to the right corner where Peterson catches and fires the three. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 6: Pass to West inside for a basket
Collison and Okafor run a pick-and-roll on the right side of the floor. Collison drives towards the middle, jumps in the air and then passes to a cutting David West on the baseline. West catches the ball and puts it up in one motion for an easy score. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 7: Pass inside to Okafor for a turnaround basket
In a pseudo-transition opportunity, Collison dribbles down the middle of the court and finds Okafor with good position in the paint around 10 feet from the basket. He dumps it into Okafor who takes a dribble while he fakes back to the middle of the lane with his right foot and then turns and gets fouled on a turnaround jumper that goes in. This one is kind of sketchy because by the rule he doesn’t really make a move toward the basket at first. But in the spirit of the rule, I think it’s a good assist call. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 8: Pass inside to Okafor for the dunk
Collison runs a pick play with Songaila on the left side of the floor. As he dribbles towards the middle, he finds Okafor in the center of the key, right in front of the basket. He quickly drops the ball into Okafor, who makes a strong drop-step to the basket and dunks it home immediately. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 9: Pass to Thornton off the screen for a jumper
Collison dribbles the ball on the right wing above the three-point line as Marcus Thornton comes off a screen on the baseline to the same side of the floor. Thornton pump fakes then dribbles the ball to his right before pulling up for a jumper. There’s no way this should count as an assist. The score was completely created off of Thornton’s fake and then dribble to free himself up for the shot. Verdict: Invalid Assist

Assist 10: Pass to Julian Wright in the Post who scores a layup
I will admit that so far, the majority of the assists are completely legit. However, this one is pretty egregious. Collison dribbles up the right side of the floor and finds Julian Wright in the post about 12 feet away from the basket. Wright catches the ball, faces up to his defender and then dribbles towards the baseline. He spins back into the lane before laying it up. This is in NO WAY an assist. This shouldn’t even be close. He took two dribbles and about five steps total after catching the ball with his back to the basket to begin with. I’m starting to think the league should have a team of guys to verify stats after the game. Verdict: Invalid Assist

Assist 11: Transition pass to Thornton on the right wing for a three
This is an easy one to call. Collison gets the pass in the backcourt from David West off the rebound and pushes it up the floor. He finds Thornton on the right wing, who catches the pass with one foot inside the three-point line. Without a dribble or hesitation, he slowly gathers himself behind the line and drains the three. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 12: Dribble handoff for the Peja three-pointer
Collison dribbled this one on the left side of the court just inside the three-point line as Peja curled behind him from the baseline. Collison dropped it off to Peja for the quick three. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 13: Pass into the mid-post for a Peja layup
Collison pushes the ball up the court after a Curry missed floater. He finds Peja in the post on the left side. Peja catches the ball and squares up. He jabs towards the baseline and back to the middle twice before taking it into the middle and making the layup. Five seconds and two dribbles after Peja catches the pass, he scores a layup and somehow Darren Collison gets an assist. This is inexplicable. Verdict: Invalid Assist

Assist 14: Pass to the right side for a Peterson three
Off a broken and wild play in which Collison saves the ball on the opposite end of the court, he brings the ball back up the middle of the floor, draws a double team as Morris Peterson sneaks to the right perimeter. Collison finds Mo Pete for a three on the right side. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 15: Alley-oop pass to Emeka Okafor for the dunk
Pick-and-roll play at the top of the key for Collison and Okafor that results in Collison drawing both defenders and Emeka rolling unabated to the basket. Collison throws a perfect lob and Emeka dunks it home. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 16: Transition pass to Peja for the layup
Collison pushes the tempo once again and catches the Warriors defense slow to set up or even react. He dribbles up the middle of the floor and find Peja right under the basket. Peja catches the ball and goes right up for the little reverse layup. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 17: Pass to Okafor in the middle of the key for the short runner
With the shot clock running down, Collison dribbles down the right side of the lane and kicks it back to a cutting Okafor in the middle of the paint. He catches and puts up a quick little runner. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 18: Pass to David West on the baseline for the step-back jumper
Collison dribbles from the right wing over the top of the three-point line towards the middle of the floor. As he drives into the foul line area, he passes off to David West who is fading towards the baseline from where Collison just was. West doesn’t catch the ball cleanly and by the time he corrals it, he shoots the jumper from the baseline. Even though the catch wasn’t clean, the pass clearly led him into that shot. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 19: Handoff pass to James Posey for the three
After a steal by Thornton, Collison catches the ball in the frontcourt on the right side of the floor. He has James Posey trailing right behind him and circling back to the three-point line. Collison takes the pass and dumps it off to Posey for the immediate three. Verdict: Valid Assist

Assist 20: Pass on the fast-break to Thornton for the layup
After the Curry turnover, Collison pushes the ball up the right side of the floor in a two-on-one fast-break with Marcus Thornton. Once he gets the defender to commit to his side, Collison shoots a pass across the lane to a streaking Thornton who lays it up on the right side of the hoop. Verdict: Valid Assist


Overall, it’s not quite as bad as Bob Fitzgerald made it out to be. There was one questionable assist, four assists that shouldn’t have counted and ultimately, 16 assists that I’m fine with Collison having. Did he ACTUALLY set the rookie record for the Hornets with 20 assists? Technically, he did. In reality, he didn’t.

Either way, it brings up the question of whether or not the league does need to monitor this. They go back and look at the tape for flagrant and technical fouls. For anything close that wasn’t called and actually should have been a flagrant or technical, they can reverse it.

So why not have a dedicated team of video watchers for each night to verify the game scorer’s findings? It doesn’t take much. If we’re going to base awards and All-Star appearances off of numbers, shouldn’t we be absolutely sure that those numbers are legit?

Brand New Day

Don’t get all worked up, this post has nothing to do with HP.

The last few seasons have felt like we were simply adorning an already established base with additional decorations. Kevin Durant. Derrick Rose. A few re-alignments: Brand goes to Philly, Baron goes to LA, the Lakers re-establish themselves as the best franchise in basketball. There was movement at the top, but no major shifts in the NBA globe, so to speak.

The continents were the same, we just had population shifts, if you think about it.

Now, though, we’re looking at a re-alignment of the way this NBA Universe works. It’s not unexpected or unheard of, it occurs fairly regularly, just as the 2004 class established itself over a two year period, we’re seeing a different kind of shift, and the time period of last June through this upcoming August should leave us with some violent changes, if not any variations on the overall theme: LAKERS WIN.

The upcoming free agency has a lot to do with it; even if two of the big three stay where they’re at (LeBron, Wade, Bosh), that still leaves a mountain of players looking for greener pastures in an uncertain environment loaded with money and a looming CBA restructuring. The development of some players has to do with it in part. We watch Kevin Durant and obviously see this middle-child of excellence, so to speak. But there’s also the possibility of Oden bouncing back (again), and players like Luc Richard Mbah A Moute and Andrew Bogut coming into their own roles, Dwight Howard being the dominant center, and Derrick Rose entering the top levels. There’s some fade going on as well, with Baron Davis being the least relevant he maybe has ever been, Iverson close to fading out due to his family’s health problems, McGrady looking like a shell of himself, the uncertainty Yao, and Elton Brand being nothing more than a footnote.

But this draft class has more to do with it than any of us thought. A class many regarded as “terrible,” has turned out to be sensational. Seemingly every game you see a player that makes an impact. It’s managed to not only be top-heavy, but deep.

Evans is a revelation, and even if his ROY is challenged by Collison/Curry, he’s still had more of an overall impact on his team than either one. He’s a complete player, effective on both sides of the ball, and a constant threat that has the ball in his hands all the time, and with a worse core than either one. After all, the Hornets aren’t talking about trading CP3 this summer, and the Warriors… well, let’s just leave that wasps’ nest be, shall we?

But this isn’t to say those two haven’t been phenomenal. Curry has stunned me with his passing acuity. I thought he’d fail at this level, being primarily a shooting guard with low vertical, watching his shot be blocked at every turn and getting beat up by larger players. In that respect, maybe it’s a blessing that he landed on terrible Golden State. The freewheeling style plays to his strengths, but it also keeps him out of physical situations which could impact him. His passing is leaps and bound s above what I anticipated, and he’s looking like instant-offense, even in the context of a “add water and mix” offensive system. Collison? Collison is a nightmare. An absolute nightmare. The turnovers are horrendous, no doubt. But his speed and shooting touch simply shred the other team. Watching him, I look like I’m trying to deal with some sort of epileptic seizure-inducing film. It’s almost painful to see how good this kid is, baseline to baseline.

This is before we get to Casspi’s playmaking ability, Harden’s fit in OKC, Serge Ibaka being the big we all thought OKC needed, Ty Lawson breaking the sound barrier on a regular basis, DeMar DeRozan flying through the air, Brandon Jennings being part of a possibly playoff-bound Bucks, Jeff Teague adding significant minutes, Taj Gibson being better than anyone expected, Beaubois looking like a potential DPOY in four years, Marcus Thornton, Jonas Jerebko, Jonny Flynn, Hansbrough when healthy, or Eric Maynor.

And don’t even get me started on Blair.

The Thunder may be shifting what we look at as “how to build through the draft.” I’ve argued that Presti may be taking Pritchard’s prototype and improving on it, simply by not improving on the team with veterans. The Nets and Knicks: one of them will come out of this summer with tremendous potential for contention. The Magic have shook the previously held ideas about what a defensive team looks like. And the Celtics have set an impossible quandary with “Should you sell out your future for a thirty second shot at glory?” question.

We’re in a new era, and the future is more uncertain than ever. There’s a lot of fear (CBA) to go along with the excitement (new paradigms on contention-building), but we’re remiss if we don’t take a second to absorb the whole amount of change we’ve seen in this sport. We have a New King, a potential new Dynasty (LA), and new pillars of greatness (Durant, Rose, potentially Evans if he doesn’t fall), and in a year, a new CBA. The times they are a changin’.

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Which corresponds with some other changes I want to touch on, that are phenomenally cool.

I haven’t really talked much about it, but I think it’s worth mentioning the awesome work being done by Kurt Helin at one of my other shops, PBT. Kurt ran the best Lakers blog on the planet for 5 years, and has brought the same high level of discussion and style to NBC sports. That Helin has been granted that kind of an opportunity shows that quality is being rewarded, and that we will probably be able to see more and more blog authors producing terrific content with an actual voice through major portals in the future. Throw in Mahoney and Krolik being the young guns laying in their usual brilliance in shorter doses, and you have a hell of a team over there. Plus, I get to get called a moron 25 times every weekend,which is pretty fun. (Side note: Paroxi-Wife: “I do not think I like Lakers fans. They are mean to you.” Me: “I’m mean to them, honey. I’m mean to them.”  Also funny? Five days a week we’re “biased towards LA” and on the weekend we’re “nothing but a bunch of Laker-haters.”)

Bethlehem Shoals returned to FanHouse, and I have to say, as a longtime reader of FD, I think the style at FH fits him amazingly well (and SN has found a prolific replacement). I write over at FH as well, and can tell you that it’s stunning to be able to have my work next to Tom Ziller, Bethlehem Shoals, Brett Pollakoff, Matt Watson, Will Brinson, Rob Peterson, Chris Tomasson, and Tim Povtak. It’s an incredible lineup over there, and instead of waiting until I’m gone for whatever reason, I think it’s important to note now how much I think of their work. There’s a balance at FH that’s difficult to duplicate. Matt Watson doesn’t get nearly enough credit publicly for the job he’s done there, balancing a new style, format, and approach with the blog-style that made FanHouse famous. So just know, Watson kills it. And there has to be kudos to FanHouse for bringing in Shoals to do what he does, riff on the NBA in a style that at once cuts to the heart of the matter and flies wildly over your head. And having he and Ziller next to each other is like teaming LeBron and Wade. You’re just in awe.

This is before we get to the great work being done at SBNation.com, which is building a new type of portal with what I feel is one of if not the best content integration I’ve seen from any network-type site on the planet. They have a tremendous crew over there, featuring Mike Prada, and Andrew Sharp, and with Seth Pollack managing the NBA blogs, that’s a simply fierce alignment of team-centric work.

This is also before we talk about all the great young talent out there. John Krolik and Rob Mahoney freelancing various places. Holly MacKenzie who continues to be one of the most marketable personalities in the blogosphere, and it has very little to do with her being a woman. Jared Wade, Zach Harper, both of whom you’ll recognize from this site and others. It’s been just a little over a year since I started to read those two, and I’m constantly blown away by both their talent, and ability to connect with people (read: I am insanely jealous of their popularity).

This is before we start to talk about the TrueHoop Network, and how much it’s grown under Henry and Kevin, and all the bloggers they’ve brought on board. THN provides content you really can’t get elsewhere, an attempt to bring insight, humor, and a passion for the game into every post. We’re doing something which hasn’t been before in NBA circles, bringing blog-coverage to a major platform affiliation and working to combine the two. It’s an incredible opportunity, and given the support, you’re seeing great work out of everyone in the network, particularly Kyle Weidie, Rahat, and Graydon, Tim, and the new guys, just to name a few (and to leave out a ton of great talent). That HP is a part of that, I’m pretty grateful, and excited for our future.

Finally, there’s been a new change, announced today, that I want to cover. Ball Don’t Lie has been a daily part of my blog-life since its inception, and I was thrilled when Dwyer was given his chance to kill it daily there, and even more thrilled when they brought in Skeets to run the blog-version of pick and roll with him. Skeets has been a valued supporter of this blog and a solid bro since I met him. That he and Tas are getting the opportunity they’ve worked so hard for is more heartwarming than that show I watched about the one-legged puppy getting adopted. They built a product, not just a name, and they’re taking what they’ve built, this original creation, to the next level. Cheers, mates.

Which brings me to the interim editor, Trey Kerby ,who you may recognize from such films as “The Morning Bell” and “Chill Out, Juwan Howard.” I consider myself lucky to call Trey, one of the funniest, goofiest, most-awesomest bros around a friend, and I’m thrilled for this opportunity for him. I know he’ll do great things, be it in the short-term or the long-term. It’s an amazing opportunity, one Trey and I used to talk about after some epic BDL live-chats back in the day. Seeing him succeed is just good vibes. Plus, we get more Brad Miller (I have suggested multiple times this morning that the blog be renamed ‘Brad Don’t Lie’ to no avail).

Being a part of this community is incredible, and unless specifically limited by something legally in the future, I won’t stop linking to great work, wherever I see it. The internet’s big enough for all this great talent to have a home, a readership, a subscription, and in a time of uncertainty in every walk of life, it’s good to know there will always be voices to entertain us, to inform us, to shed a little light on things like Danny Granger’s batcave or how much Vince Carter sucks.

To make a long story short (TOO LATE), the internet is awesome. Embrace the future, people. Go read some blogs.

Guest Post: Should The Hornets Go Full-Tilt?

Michael Pina is a contributing writer for the Hoop Doctors, the Huffington Post, and Hoops Addict. He’s here today to ask the question of if the Hornets should bite the bullet and go all-in on a change-up.

It’s not that bad. Really it isn’t. Yes there’s the losing record, the fact that through the first two months there was a Henry Hudson-esque mutiny towards Byron Scott and a threatening ankle injury for the franchise point guard. Add in a recent bludgeoning by the Knicks that saw Chris Duhon do his best proctologist impersonation (six threes from a 30% shooter) and still things could be worse. Much, much worse.

The season’s still in its prepubescent stage. Chris Paul is back, says he’s healthy and is conducting his troops like the future Springfield bust that he is. At their house, aka The Hive, New Orleans is 8-3; giving up nine fewer points per contest than when they’re on the road.

As long as the aforementioned Paul is in a Nola uniform, they’ll be competitive. It’s clear Scott’s inconsistencies were wearing thin on the team and the shakeup should prove beneficial, but none of this necessarily means they’re a championship contender. What we do know is they won’t quit as some accused them of doing in last year’s postseason.

So right now who are the Hornets? They’re a financially strapped bunch that’s a lot older than you think. 32-year-old Peja Stojakovic can still snipe with the best of them but defensively he looks, to put it nicely, God awful. Both him and David West are regressing (West’s currently putting up 15.7 points per contest which is his lowest since 2004-05).

Their recent draft picks have been on a Rodney White level of discouraging and haven’t performed anywhere near up to par. (Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong have yet to tie their shoes correctly.)

Regardless they still have some nice pieces. Most notably Chris Paul who controls NBA games better than you do with an Xbox controller.

James Posey, who is either the leagues most overrated or underrated sixth man depending on your expectations, continues his relentless defensive intensity, on floor leadership and three-point accuracy that got him his mildly unrealistic four-year $25 million dollar deal.

22-year-old Chris-Weinke-ancient rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton have been playing pretty solid, specifically Thornton. Like a sorority girl eyeing a lonely bottle of mango flavored vodka, the Hornets were familiar with the Baton Rouge native and aggressively pursued.

For a second lets look at the team realistically and not through Bud Fox’s eyes. This means treating 2007-08 like an aberration instead of a progressive step towards the league’s elite that some stubbornly still believe.

In order to seriously compete, Nola’s got to wheel and deal. A blockbuster, division shake-up type move.

Here’s an idea. Take Stojakovic and West, two players who are closer to the mountain’s summit than its base, throw in Julian Wright and send them to Toronto for the stupendous Chris Bosh, Rasho Nesterovic and Reggie Evans. With Toronto playing unsatisfactorily so far this season, the probability of re-signing Bosh is decreasing by the day. It’d make sense from the Raptors standpoint to, at the least, grab two former all-stars for him. From Nola’s perspective, they’d be adding one of the best players in the league for the rest of the year. Should they choose to do so, the Hornets could then build around a Paul/Bosh nucleus that would vie for a championship these next few years.

If no trade goes down, there’s still one shining light to look at. While Paul was out with his ankle injury the team stayed afloat, going 4-4. They’re still in contention to make the postseason but expectations should be tempered. This isn’t three years ago and Tyson Chandler isn’t walking through that door.