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2007, January 24, 2008: ESPN.com Daily Dime – Look Who’s Leading Now: The Charlotte Hornets

June 24, 2008

January 24, 2008 — The New Orleans Hornets own the best record in the West.

Who would have thunk it?

The Hornets, now 29-12, took care of the other biggest surprise in the
West, the Blazers, 96-81, on Wednesday for their sixth straight win.
Notably, they got a big contribution from what is probably their
weakest area, bench production.

Reserve guard Jannero Pargo gave them a spark, scoring 24 points in 24
minutes. To make a long playoff run, they have to shore up the
consistency of their bench, now led by Pargo and Bobby Jackson. That’s
the missing piece now that if improved upon, will make them a viable
playoff threat.

My former teammate in Chicago, Hornets center Tyson Chandler, had
another strong game, pulling down seven offensive boards, 14 in total.
He leads the league in offensive rebounds (4.3 per game). He gives them
an active, consistent rebounder, can catch lobs, put home tips, block
shots and more.

When teams help on Chris Paul’s drives, they have to make a choice on
who to cover. That gives Chandler the opportunity. David West, who can
step out past 15 feet and hit a shot, gives them another strong option.

Hornets coach Byron Scott is on track to coach the West All-Stars, if
the team still holds the best record on Feb. 3. (Suns coach Mike
D’Antoni is disqualified because he coached the West team last year.)
Scott coaching the All-Stars in the Hornets’ home of New Orleans would
be special, and it looks like Paul is a shoo-in to be on the team too.

This should be a great opportunity to show how far the city has come
from the Katrina disaster. While the Hornets aren’t drawing well
(second to last in the NBA attendance), as long as they keep winning, I
think they’ll find a way to draw the fans.

Seeing Chandler and Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge (17 points, nine
rebounds) both playing well in this one can’t help but bring to mind
what could have been in Chicago. Hindsight is always 20-20, but you
have to wonder what the Bulls would be like with those two instead of
Ben Wallace and Tyrus Thomas to go along with Chicago’s perimeter
players.

As a fan of the league, it’s fun to scour the talent and see who gets
on the bandwagon of some players. Aldridge is someone I picked early in
the season to be Most Improved Player, so in my head, I’m thinking "I
told you so" as those who appreciate his game become more numerous.

It was clear that he would get his chance with Greg Oden on the shelf
for the entire season. Now, when Oden comes back next year, they will
be a formidable 4-5 combo. In the West, having those two strong players
up front has been a good formula for teams looking to make that long
playoff run

Blazers guard Brandon Roy has his team in position to make the
playoffs, well ahead of schedule. Roy saw several double teams in this
one, which is no surprise. As Portland has more success, you can see
scouting reports will increasingly be focused on making it tough for
Roy to beat you. That means other guys have to knock down shots, and
when James Jones, Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw are knocking down
their shots, the Blazers have more success.

ESPN analyst Jalen Rose is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime. For more about Jalen, visit his Web site: JalenRose.com.

By Jalen Rose – ESPN.com