By Aggrey Sam
For a variety of reasons–to capitalize on the past weekend’s momentum, to “research” an upcoming long magazine feature on the Honeybees (the Hornets team dancers; sike, but look out for a piece on the site about one of them soon) and to see Jason Kidd’s re-debut with the Mavs–I hit up Wednesday night’s Dallas-New Orleans game at the New Orleans Arena. While I did take extensive notes, I’m just gonna hit y’all with the basics.
–Off the top, the game looked like it was about to be a new school-old school point-guard battle between Chris Paul (shout out to his brother CJ, who recommended a couple Honeybees to interview) and Jason Kidd, who was wearing No. 2, as Josh Howard rocks No. 5 for Dallas. I guess that veteran ish doesn’t work when the young buck with your number is a well-established star, even if you’re a future HOFer. Anyway, Kidd dropped a dime to Howard on the very first possession of the game. This would NOT be a sign of things to come.
–Dave West is a beast. As a Temple alum, I watched him give work to my Owls for four years in the A-10 and while I disagreed with many who said he’d be a mediocre tweener in the League, I thought he’d be more of a 15-10 guy at best and most likely a solid fourth option, not the All-Star, 20-10, borderline first option he is now. Of course, I thought the same thing about Elton Brand and I thought Carlos Boozer would be a solid backup. And let’s not get into my Kenyon Martin as a better version of the old Antonio McDyess (the Denver, drop 50 ‘Dice, not the current version) or my Ron Artest as a point forward predictions. Regardless, D. West is such a complete four man–he has moves for days on the block, takes slower bigs off the bounce, rebounds like he’s five inches bigger (I swear he’s only 6-6, 6-7) and can step out to 20 feet without a problem. The Spurs scout next to me said he’s an automatic double-team these days. High praise.
–Mo Pete looks very old. Sadly, so does my fellow TU alum Eddie Jones, as do the Mavs in general. The young players in their rotation are Howard, Brandon Bass…and that’s it. Not that Devin Harris is the next coming or anything, but that J. Kidd deal better work out for them very soon. Reminds me of Shaq to Miami, in a bad way. And I still don’t agree with that trade. Think about it: Tuff Juice, Odom, Wade, Haslem–now that’s a young nucleus. Speaking of, doesn’t N.O. have a nice one with Paul, Chandler and West? Maybe they’re contenders, maybe they’re not, but outside of L.A. and maybe Portland, who in the West wants to see them in three years?
–Kidd and his new teammates aren’t in sync yet. Nobody is expecting his passes and he’s deferring way too much. That said, I see them getting a lot better in a semi-short period of time, just because of all their vets. Stack (one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the League; he remembered me from a story I did on him about three years back) getting back on the court will help; so will a healthy Howard.
–CP3 got seven steals in the first quarter; he ended up with nine, just missing (31 and 11 dimes) a triple-double. I think the stat people missed a steal in the third quarter; he got two in about five seconds. I’ve only been here a month, so nobody can say I’m biased–he might be the best point guard in the League right now. Although Deron Williams gave him the business the day after All-Star selections were announced, who, besides ‘Bron, Kobe and Mike Beasley (wait, this isn’t ’09 yet), is more important to their team? He controls the tempo, scores when he has to, makes everyone better, creates havoc on D and always comes up with big plays. Take Nash, Kidd, Chauncey, whoever–give me CP and holla at me after you see him live. Outrageously talented and savvy for a young player.
–Peja and Bobby Jackson are making some big shots. If they can get those two (or Jannero Pargo and Rasual Butler) to consistently step up, this team will be dangerous in the playoffs. They don’t have great depth (especially in the post) or size, but they play hard, D up and have excellent chemistry. CP runs the show and everyone else is a role player, to a degree. If they can somehow grab a veteran big in the off-season and maybe an athletic two in the draft (no offense to Julian Wright, but Nick Young would have been a no-brainer), I’ll like them even more next season.
–Dirk is starting to get busy. Good thing, too, because he’s the only one putting in work, although Devean George is knocking down open looks (he better, after almost effing up that deal) and Brandon Bass is giving max effort. Dirk is abusing Tyson Chandler, who’s only guarding him because West is in foul trouble, on the wing. I’d rather see scrappy Ryan Bowen on him, but that’s why I’m writing this and Byron Scott gets the big bucks.
–The arena is going crazy now. Hornets PR Director Scott Hall walks by the media table with a sign stating the attendance is 15,941, and it shows. If you’ve been following the Hornets’ saga with a potential opt-out clause in a few years, you know this is a good thing. Tonight is a great atmosphere, so maybe All-Star opened up people’s eyes. $10 tickets, good in-game entertainment, the Honeybees, red beans and rice for that pre-game meal–what’s effing with that? After a close game through the majority of three quarters, the Hornets start to pull away and New Orleans wins it, 104-93.
–I wasn’t trying to stick around too long after the game, but I wanted to get thoughts on the big trade, so I talked to the man of the hour, Malik Allen. Ben Osborne’s main man was a part of the deal, too, and I actually think he’ll be an asset to Dallas. Plus, I wasn’t waiting 10 minutes to ask Kidd a question and Malik, a ‘Nova grad, is from South Jersey, not far from Philly, where he works out with my guy John Hardnett every summer. Anyway, he told me, “I’m happy about it. It was nice to be in New Jersey, close to home, but this is a situation where it’s a legitimate contender…I think it’s a nice fit for me. The offense revolves around a lot of pick and roll and a lot of people think of me as a big man who can step out shoot the basketball.”
While I’m on this late-night writing spree, i figured I’d get some high school stuff in, too. Playoffs are underway down here in Louisiana (I can’t even discuss Philly, where all types of upsets are occurring now that I’m gone; I’m disappointed in Boca and ‘Lik for letting my favorite Pub and Catholic League teams lose like that), but I wanted to give y’all the scoop on some of the better players I’ve seen so far. Obviously, anyone who knows anything about high school ball knows about the state’s best player, McDonald’s All-American and future Georgetown Hoya Greg Monroe. I haven’t been to enough games to call myself an authority on the region (not yet, at least), but as I’m a big fan of sleepers, here are a few to watch out for:
–Charles Hammork, 6-5 wing, O.P. Walker: Long, smooth, athletic and versatile, the rail-thin Hammork has a lot of people here comparing him to Kerry Kittles. I wouldn’t go that far, but he has a similar frame, slashes to the bucket and handles the ball well enough to play all three perimeter positions. A year of prep school would serve him well.
–Russell Moore, 6-3 wing, St. Augustine: A strong and aggressive slasher with a high basketball IQ, Moore is as tough as they come. A solid, if not flashy, passer and ballhandler, he’s a lockdown defender and hits the boards as hard as a big man, all the while with a quiet demeanor.
–Charles Carmouche, 6-2 combo guard, McMain: One of the best shooters I’ve seen in the class–period–the slightly-built Carmouche is as smooth as they come. Although he sees the court well and can handle like a point, he’s definitely a shoot-first guard, with great savvy, deceptive athleticism and body control.
–Patrick Swilling, Jr., 6-3 combo guard, Brother Martin: Only a sophomore, the son of the former Saints’ linebacker of the same name, is a big-time scorer. While his ballhandling could use some work, he already possesses a college-ready frame (with his bloodlines, it’s no surprise that he’s also a highly touted football recruit), superb athleticism and deep range on his J.
–Eldridge Moore, 6-5 wing, St. Augustine: Russell’s younger brother, a sophomore, is extremely long and looks like he could grow to 6-7 or 6-8. Even if he doesn’t, his soft touch, fluid moves and knack for scoring could make him an excellent college prospect, especially with added strength. Look out for St. Aug to become a national power again, as they were in the days of the aforementioned Kittles, Hollis Price, former Arizona strongman Eugene Edgerson (his squad won a high school national chip), ex-Orlando Magic forward Donald Royal and so many others, when eighth-grade phenoms Sydie London and Javan Felix, two kids who were at the PeacePlayers International/adidas event on All-Star Saturday, join the squad.