The New Orleans Hornets have started the season like a bat out of hell, notching wins against the Nuggets and Lakers en route to a 4-0 record.
But are they for real?
The Hornets essentially spent all of last season on the road in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They were also plagued by the injury bug, with Peja Stojakovic and Chris Paul both going down for extended periods.
Despite those obstacles, New Orleans managed to win 39 games, just missing a playoff berth in the Western Conference.
This year, they're looking to get over the hump.
As it stands, the Hornets sit atop a fiercely competitive Southwest Division on the strength of their team speed and outside-shooting abilities.
Newcomer Morris Peterson and rookie Julian Wright have been able to stretch defenses with their long-range marksmanship. The Hornets have also benefited from a much-improved Tyson Chandler posting big numbers in the paint.
Last night's victory 118-104 victory over the Lakers was just a preview of what the Hornets can do.
Stojakovic and Paul both set club records, the former with 10 three-pointers and the latter with 21 assists. Paul also added 19 points, while emerging leader David West delivered 22 points and eight rebounds.
More promising still was the Hornets' ability to close out the game down the stretch. Even New Orleans' bench players were able to maintain the lead as the Lakers battled back.
With the realistic shot to go 3-1 in their next four games—against Portland, San Antonio, Philadelphia, and New Jersey—the Hornets are definitely a team to watch. They may not have the talent of the Spurs, Suns, or Mavs, but they've got plenty of heart.
In a league hurting for passionate performances, the Hornets play to win night-in and night-out. Teams that take them lightly are bound to fall.
Best of all, Byron Scott has his team playing as a cohesive unit, a rare feat in the NBA. Expect the Hornets to do their city proud by making the playoffs—and possibly surprising one of the "big boys" in the first round.
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