by Aggrey Sam and Toney Blare

Pre-game

AS: Apparently my name is “Aggrey Moore” now, or so my media credential reads. That’s a first. As you can imagine, people usually mess up my first name, but Sam is pretty easy.

TB: Back in the pressroom for the first time since April, I eat some swine and enjoy the RC Cola on tap. On tap!

AS: I felt as patriotic as I ever have during the National Anthem.

TB: The National Anthem is performed by the La. Philharmonic’s trumpet section. 16,000 people sing back-up in the softest rendition you can imagine. For the first time since I can remember, I don’t think about war or find the whole thing corny. I just listen. Down where I live in the 9th ward, there’s a naval base that blasts a recording of the anthem every morning at 8am. Makes you feel like you’re a ballplayer when you get out of the shower. Today it got stuck in my head and I sang it again over my cereal. Wow.

AS: “Put On” is the new intro music for the Hornets. As Toney comments, it’s pretty much a perfect arena song.

TB: Hugo rocks a parasol that may or may not be fireproof.

AS: Caught a glimpse of ESPN. Forgive me for being blasphemous, Derrick Rose.

Q1

AS: Tyson opens up the scoring, followed by two Al Horford jumpers sandwiched around Peja miscues with the ball.

TB: Peja is getting the Manu baldspot.

AS: Toney and I agree that this might be the first time Mo Pete has played sans headband since his Michigan State days.

TB: Atlanta up 6-2 on a J-Smoove jumper.

AS: Along with the aforementioned jumpers, Horford shows off some off-season improvement by pushing the ball up the court off a defensive board. The kid can play. I don’t ever see him becoming some kinda 25-and-10 monster, but I wouldn’t be shocked by an All-Star appearance or two in his future.

TB: CP3 still yells at DWest fairly often, All-Star or no. The gold medalist quickly picks up 2 fouls and gives way to the Mike James Experience. Josh experiences the Mike James crossover, which ends in a lay-up and seems to piss the young fella off. The next time down, Smoove smothers DWest, then drains a 3.

AS: Peja is done until the second half. Turnovers, jumper not falling, a trey ball in transition blocked by Smith. He’s not the type to shoot his way out of a slump without taking the time to gather himself first. Rough start.

TB: Rasual Butler looks jacked this year. Are we sure he didn’t go to jail after all?

AS: ‘Sual put in some work this summer. I was at a Hornets practice right before the season started and he was the last player to leave, putting up tons of shots on The Gun (no pun intended) while everybody else was long gone.

TB: Mike James gets his shot blocked. Ask them, How do they feel when they block Mike James’ shot? Huh? Quarter ends 24-16 ATL.

AS: ATL is hitting everything early and the Hornets are only in the game because of CP’s scoring. Can’t get dimes if your teammates can’t hit shots. Mo Pete did a decent job when he was out.

Q2

AS: The Hornets just don’t flow right without CP. People talked about their bench last year, but this year is a lot worse. Mike James’ plus/minus ratio was -8. “Byron Scott is coaching like Mike Woodson right now,” Toney tells me.

TB: CP3 is back with Posey, Hilton, Rasual, and Dev Brown. Hilton hits a nice 15-footer.

AS: CP just hit a one-legged Bob Cousy floater.

TB: Rasual gets hit in the eye on D and his knees buckle. Obviously, this ain’t sh*t if you’ve done hard time, as he comes back with a nice drive and finger roll. 29-22 ATL.

AS: Slowly but surely, the Hornets start to come back. They’re on a 7-0 run since CP checked back in (or Mike James left the game, however you want to look at it).

TB: Ric Flair Whoo! Did anyone else read about the Nature Boy fighting with his daughter’s boyfriend this offseason? I liked how when the cops showed up, Flair was layin in bed, probably all overheated, sapped of his old man strength. Hulk Hogan shoulda whipped the sh*t outta his whole family, I tell you.

AS: CP just stared down Woody after hitting a trey. Wonder if he harbors any resentment toward ATL for passing on them in the draft.

TB: Posey fouls Bibby and Lang’s man Steve Holman of Hawks Radio wants a flagrant. Steve is right next to Aggrey and me, so we get to hear his commentary throughout. He is high on the Hawks.

AS: Was Posey’s shove unnecessary? Yes. Was it good for the Hornets? Yes, indeed.

TB: There’s some kind of entertainment going on where a “fan” in a Hawks shirt inserts what looks to be a small beer bong into the front of his pants and then drops a shot into his mouth. As he does this, Hugo dumps a beer down the bong and the guy’s pants get soaked from the inside. People applaud. Aggrey says I can cover that description. SO there, I did.

AS: The Hawks might not take the Celtics to the limit again in the playoffs, but I think they’re a better team, despite losing Josh Childress. Horford, Smith and Marvin Williams all have another year under their belts, and Joe Johnson (who came into the game leading the League in scoring) is super nice. I like the Flip Murray and Mo Evans pickups, too.

TB: CP3 lay-up + 1. He seems to score pretty effortlessly, though it’s still the start of the season and his weird pull up at the free line is a little disorienting. Maybe that’s the point. Next possession, he goes behind his back then hits TC with a bounce pass to cut it to 43-40.

AS: He’s mostly getting to the bucket, although his J is hitting tonight, too. When that happens, there’s not much teams can do against him.

TB: Bibby drops a 3, half ends 46-40 ATL.

Halftime

TB: Aggrey sure knows a lot of the older ladies working in the arena. Just sayin’.

AS: You never know who has a sexy, 20-something daughter. Also, after seeing her up close, Brianna is my early favorite for Honeybees ROY.

Q3

TB: Chris is complaining a lot and picks up his 3rd foul as a reward. You-know-who is ready to take his place, just tell him, he’s warmed up, whenever whatever.

AS: Is that a threat? He’s in much better shape this year, but I think he’s done. Always more of a sparkplug/instant offense/shoot-first type of point guard, he no longer gets buckets, distributing was never his strong suit and he gets cooked on D.

TB: Peja drops his 2nd 3 in a row, Dwest hits a jumper and we’re tied at Curtis.

AS: Told you Peja wouldn’t get right until after the break.

TB: Hawks have been shooting really well, but the Hornets D starts to swarm. Wonder if they shouldn’t pound it in to Horford a couple times.

AS: Hilton with a nice pass to a cutting Peja for a layup. Didn’t know he had that in his repetoire.

TB: Posey is a cool player to watch. Always right in the flow, never taking bad shots. On a fast break, he goes to the hole and gets the foul rather than trying something dumb to hit a semi-open man. Also speeds up at the right time to catch the outlet.

AS: Besides the Celtics series, I didn’t see much of the Hawks last year, so I could be wrong, but I think they miss some of Chill’s intangibles out there. Co-sign on Posey. He’s a pro’s pro.

TB: Quarter ends with the A up 62-58.

Q4

AS: Mike James alert.

TB: Hilton fouls Zsa Zsa and they both compare notes on poodles.

AS: James ends up with the ball in his hands as the shot clock runs out. The Hornets just seem like they play with less effort/confidence when he’s out there. Yeah, that’ll wane without CP period, but there was more energy when Pargo was in the same role last year.

TB: Lang texts that if only the Hawks can stop turning the ball over… Not to worry, I say, let Mike James help you. All joking aside: the Hornets better get this back-up PG situation straightened out right away. CP3 is coming off a herculean summer and you’re basically giving him only enough rest for Mike to lose control of the game. I love Mike James, but he should go to Russia and send Pargo back with love. This NBA sh*t is over.

AS: I can’t emphasize enough how bad losing Pargo was. In contrast, Flip Murray was a huge acquisition for ATL.

TB: Flip is heating up, also delivers a forearm shiver to Chris’s chest. Zsa Zsa knocks TC down for good measure. JJ buries a 3 and its’ 75-67.

AS: Flip got his nickname from the late Bernie Mac’s character from “Above the Rim,” although I’ve heard him say it’s because he did gymnastics as a kid. I see the resemblance.

TB: Radio announcer Steve Holman makes a good point to us—people are sleeping on the Hawks by staying with that “everybody is 6’9”” stereotype. What if everyone is 6’9” and playing hard? Right now, they have the Hornets by the throat.

AS: Holman also says that with Flip and Mo Evans, they don’t miss Chill at all. So much for my theory.

TB: What if Flip Murray is the PG? That’s my question, as Bibby sits out almost the entire Q.

AS: To be honest, they should probably split minutes. Bibby has been nowhere close to his Kings days since getting to ATL, but that’s still a major upgrade from what they had before him. But with Flip in the picture and Joe Johnson as an excellent ballhandler at the 2, the need for a traditional point isn’t as important. If Flip’s size and scoring ability are giving CP issues, I can imagine he’ll create bigger headaches for non-elite point guards.

TB: Posey steal and fouled, cuts it to 78-72 with 4:00 to go. Wasn’t he on a Grizzlies team with White Chocolate and Bonzi? Alright, yes, GreyTone misses Bonzi and will use whatever connections to bring him up. Yes, we can.

AS: Pachulia has a niche on this team. Play hard, play with energy, get under opponents’ skin, as he did with KG in the playoffs.

TB: Joe Johnson is killing them right now. He finishes with 24 points.

AS: Flip has 14 off the bench (and tough D on CP late, including a two-handed strip in traffic), Marv Williams hits three treys, Josh Smith has 11 and 11 and Horford has a quiet nine and seven, while CP ends up with 22 and 11 dimes and Posey is the only other Hornet of note with 10 off the bench in a less-than-vintage performance for the home team. Most of the crowd is out when Joe puts ATL up 11 with under two to play and the Hawks win it, 87-79.

TB: We don’t stick around. I wanted to ask some guys about their voting experience, but staying up last night left me fairly faded, if inspired. Oh—did anyone catch that hologram lady on CNN? I thought she was going to tell Wolf Blitzer where the Empire had her locked up.

AS: The worst part of election night was when they got will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas in from Grant Park via hologram. Reminded me of the Chappelle bit about Ja Rule commenting on 9/11.

TB: Speaking of empire, today was the first day of the non-Bush era. Regardless of tonight’s final score, today was a good day for all of us. Let’s be good to each other.