New Orleans Hornets vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Staples Center (Los Angeles)
7:30p PT FOX Prime Ticket
It’s the first meeting of the year between the franchise that traded away it’s superstar and the team that gave up most of its young prospects. And things seem to have worked out for both sides, except the Hornets will be without Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis (both recovering from injuries).
But that just means more time to reminisce about our old friend Al-Farouq Aminu, who is quietly enjoying his best season as a pro. We go 3-on-3 with Joe Gerrity of Hornets247 in advance of tonight’s game:
1) Fact or Fiction: Old friend Al-Farouq Aminu is living up his draft position (8th overall).
Jordan Heimer: Fact. As someone who may have once compared The Chief to Scottie Pippin (I know), I couldn’t be happier to see him playing well. After frequently looking like a gangly teenager, he seems to have discovered a controlled aggression both on D and the fast break. Also, his tumblr – Here Comes the Chief – is a revelation.
Joe Gerrity: 1. Fact. Aminu is already a quality defender at the age of 22. Provided he doesn’t take the ball to the floor in the half-court, he’s actually pretty efficient on the offensive side of the court as well thanks to his transition game. Is he going to be a superstar? No, but he can be an above average starter for years to come. That’s good value from the 8th pick in my book.
Andrew Han: Fiction. This has less to do with Aminu and more to do with the Hornets (much like draft position and hype have little to do with the actual player). For whatever reason, Dell Demps (Hornets GM) declined the 4th year option of Aminu’s rookie scale contract; a measly $3m. And it’s widely accepted that rookie deals are the best value in the NBA. That makes it tough to justify a mid-lottery slot.
2) Fact or Fiction: Despite improvement from within (Aminu) and additions of Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, this year’s Hornets (16th in offensive efficiency and last in defensive efficiency) are worse than last year’s.
Heimer: Fiction. We’ve yet to see the best of the Hornets so far this season: Austin Rivers has been gawdawful; Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson have barely played together; Eric Gordon has yet to play, period.
Gerrity: Faction. With Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson on the court, they’re superior to last year’s squad. That said, without even one of the three I’m not sure that’s the case, and they have combined to play about half their games so far. Also, despite all of Jarrett Jack’s flaws, he is vastly superior to anyone the Hornets have played in the backcourt so far this year.
Han: Fiction. Even if the Hornets posted the worst record in the league this season, they’d still be better. Three of the players are rookies and New Orleans has committed to giving them time on the floor to develop. This year the Hornets’ barometer isn’t tied to win/loss but the development of their rookies.
3) Fact or Fiction: If the Clips lose this one — with Davis presumably out — Vinny Del Negro will deserve to start feeling the heat.
Heimer: Fiction. “Deserve” is a strong word. Road losses to playoff teams happen, sometimes even consecutively. A loss tonight would be sinful, no doubt, but let’s not get nuts here.
Gerrity: Fiction. If Del Negro deserves to feel heat I don’t think it should be a result of anything but his larger body of work. Losing a few early season games to likely playoff teams on the road doesn’t change who he is, nor should it determine his future.
Han: Fiction, only because I’m not sure he’s doing anything differently. If people were praising him as a players coach during the Clippers’ win streak, then it’s unfair that he get the blame when losing to playoff teams on the road. If the struggles continue through December, though, I could see the optional seat warmers being turned on.