News » Plenty of new faces as Hornets begin training camp

Plenty of new faces as Hornets begin training camp

Plenty of new faces as Hornets begin training camp NEW ORLEANS - The Hornets have plenty of work to do when they begin training camp today at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

First, they need to get to know one another, because six players who have been acquired since the end of last season are expected to make the team.

Second, they need to figure out the roles for each player, because all those newcomers have to fit into the rotation.

Third, they have to lay a foundation to get back to where they were two years ago as Western Conference contenders and avoid a repeat of last season's embarrassing exit in the first round of the playoffs.

"One of the things that excites me about training camp," coach Byron Scott said at media day on Monday before heading to Lafayette, "is that every position has some competition."

Of course, two-time All-Stars Chris Paul and David West are entrenched as the starting point guard and power forward, respectively, but there is competition behind them. Bobby Brown, acquired in a trade with Minnesota last month, and first-round draft choice Darren Collison will battle to see who will be Paul's primary backup.

Scott said he hopes those two will enable him to finally realize his annual goal of cutting Paul's minutes from nearly 40 per game to more like 34-35 per game.

"I'm more confident about it with Bobby and Darren fighting for that backup role," Scott said. "If we can do that, he's going to be a more effective Basketball player, because he's going to be fresher."

West should be fresher, too, because two other newcomers - Ike Diogu, signed as a free agent, and Darius Songaila, acquired in the same trade as Brown - figure to add more dependable depth along with holdovers James Posey and Sean Marks.

"This might be the deepest team we've had since I've been here," said Paul, who's entering his fifth season.

The most significant newcomer is center Emeka Okafor, who was acquired from Charlotte in trade that sent the player he's replacing - Tyson Chandler - to the Bobcats.

"I've gone from trying to make the playoffs to trying to win a championship," Okafor said. "I'm looking forward to that."

Small forward Peja Stojakovic said his back, which was surgically repaired more than two years ago and flared up on him last season, is pain-free after he spent the summer swimming and exercising the back at his home in Greece.

Scott said he expects Julian Wright, a No. 1 pick two years ago, to have "a breakout season," which would provide more dependable depth behind Stojakovic.

The starting shooting guard is expected to be Morris Peterson, who lost the job to Rasual Butler early last season after Peterson was injured. Butler was traded to the Clippers in the offseason.

"I'm entering my 10th season, and I know how important it is to take care of my body," said Peterson, who changed his jersey number from 9 to 24, reclaiming the number he wore before signing with New Orleans as a free agent three years ago. "I got a chef and a nutritionist, and I'm back to the weight I played at in college."

Peterson will be backed up by the sixth prominent newcomer: former LSU guard Marcus Thornton, who was acquired in a draft-night deal with Miami, which had selected him in the second round.

Thornton played well in the Las Vegas Summer League, his first taste of NBA action.

"I need to be able to go strong to the basket," Thornton said. "I see centers are 7 feet tall and 300 pounds. I have to be strong enough to take the contact and still be able to get the shot up."

Paul said the six days the Hornets will spend together in Lafayette remind him of his rookie season, when the team relocated to Oklahoma City for training camp - and most of the next two seasons - in the wake of Hurricane Katrina four years ago. He said he expects the time spent getting to know one another to be healthy.

Okafor said the Bobcats went away for camp each of his five seasons, but he doesn't think it matters much either way.

"You're going to practice and you're going to get tired either way," he said. "So the location is really a moot point."


The Hornets signed free agents Earl Barron and Larry Owens to training camp contracts Monday. Both players have played with the Hornets during the Vegas Summer League. Owens played with the Hornets' Summer League team the past two seasons, and Barron was on the 2008 team.

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Added: September 30, 2009


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