Hornets rebound from difficult start with pair of fresh legs and hands
It may be too early to tell if Jeff Bower can turn around the New Orleans Hornets (let's wait for Chris Paul to get back), but Bower has already proven he's making a difference by doing one simple thing Byron Scott didn't -- playing his talented rookie tandem of Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton.
The move has helped kick start a Hornets' resurgence with Thornton averaging 11.8 points and Collison averaging 11.3 points. New Orleans recently won four of five games, including victories over Phoenix and Atlanta, before dropping two straight to the Lakers and Kings on a West coast road trip.
"We bring a lot of energy to the table being rookies," said Collison, who scored 20 points against the Lakers on Tuesday. "It was frustrating at the beginning of the season when the team was going down and we weren't playing, but we knew once we got our chance we'd show what we could do. We don't ever want to go back to the situation we were in."
For the second week in a row, Collison and Thornton both remain in the top 10 while a familiar face spearheading another rebuilding project is once again the leader of the pack.
(All stats and records are through Dec. 3.)
Last Week: 1
Tyreke Evans, Sacramento KingsAs much as Brandon Jennings is being lauded for turning around the Bucks this season, it's a bigger miracle to see what Evans has done since he's taken over the Kings with Kevin Martin out with a fractured wrist. The Kings, who won 17 games last season, have won eight of their last 12 games and are currently riding their second four-game winning streak of the season since Evans took over. The reigning Western Conference Rookie of the Month is now being featured in billboard ads across Sacramento as the team's Lion King. Evans, who scored 26 points and made five free throws in the final 44 seconds to beat the Pacers Wednesday, and LeBron James are the only two players currently averaging at least 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game.
Last Week: 2
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee BucksJennings leads all rookies in points (21.8), assists (5.7) and three-point percentage (.500) but his play has dipped recently as the Bucks have lost five of their last six games. During the swoon, Jennings has made only 32 of 105 shots and averaged 14.6 points. With defenses focusing more on Jennings, he's beginning to look more for the open man than a contested shot. "My main goal is to get my assists up and get my teammates shots," Jennings the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I'm not looking to score as much as I did before. I'll score at times, but I don't think people will see me going for those crazy numbers anymore. I'll just keep it simple and get the wins. That's the most important thing."
Last Week: 3
Jonny Flynn, Minnesota TimberwolvesThe triangle education of Flynn continues in Minnesota as Kurt Rambis is trying to acclimate Flynn to the subtleties of carefully running the offense while maintaining Flynn's high-octane approach. "He's walking the ball up the floor too much for my liking," Rambis told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We need him to push the ball more. He's allowing defenses too much time to settle in against us." That's partly the reason why Ramon Sessions is still splitting time with Flynn at point guard, but Rambis has hinted at the possibility of Sessions starting over Flynn, most recently prior to the team's 106-100 win at Denver.
Last Week: 5
Stephen Curry, Golden State WarriorsIn addition to finding his shooting touch following the trade of Stephen Jackson, Curry has also increased his passing output. In his last eight games, he's averaging 6.3 assists and ranks 17th in the league with 5.3 assists overall. Still, Curry has been asked by the coaching staff to be more aggressive in looking for his shot and he's also done that, scoring a career-high 18 points against Dallas and in double-digits in eight of his last nine games.
Last Week: 7
Darren Collison, New Orleans HornetsNot only is Collison taking advantage of the starter's minutes he's getting with Chris Paul out, recording 14.1 points, 6.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 30.9 minutes in seven starts this season but he's also proving that he's a clutch player. He hit a game-tying three-pointer with 7.5 seconds remaining to send the Hornets' game against the Bucks into overtime last week and he hit 3-of-4 free throws in the last 38 seconds of OT for the 102-99 win. "It's been mixed emotions," said Collison of the starter's role he has because of Paul's injury. "I really wanted to play, to get out there on the court and showcase my talent. But now I have an opportunity to do so. It's been fun playing with the other guys."
Last Week: 9
Omri Casspi, Sacramento KingsCasspi has scored in double figures in each of his last six games after reaching that mark only once in his previous six. Averaging 13.8 points over that stretch, Casspi has been a perfect complement for the Kings off the bench, adding some toughness and speed that this team sorely missed last season. The only part of Casspi's game that isn't doing well these days is his free-throw shooting. He's made only made 10 of his last 18 attempts and is shooting 50 percent this season. In fact, Casspi is shooting three-pointers (47.2 percent) almost as well as he's been shooting free throws this season.
Last Week: 4
Terrence Williams, New Jersey NetsFollowing a strong showing last week, in which he scored 51 points over three games, Williams has scored only 22 points in his last four games. Williams remains perhaps the most versatile player on the Nets, playing four different positions this season on a team that's been riddled by injuries and losses. Williams, who is averaging 9.9 points and 5.1 rebounds this season, is leading all rookies with four double-doubles and is also tops in total rebounds with 90.
Last Week: 8
Ty Lawson, Denver NuggetsThe most impressive stat about Lawson, who is averaging 8.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists, through his first 18 games is that he's only committed 25 total turnovers, extremely low for a rookie point guard and especially one who plays as quick as Lawson. "He plays at a high speed but he's under control," said Nuggets coach George Karl. "Most people that play at his speed lose control or lose vision or lose something, but he doesn't lose anything."
Last Week: 6
Marcus Thornton, New Orleans HornetsAfter averaging a team-high 18 points over the first six games after Byron Scott's firing, Thornton's production has tapered a bit. He's scored 23 points and grabbed just 2 rebounds over the past three games and has only attempted two free throws during that stretch. Thornton, however, isn't worried about a couple of bad games after sitting on the bench for the first nine games of the season. "I had to pay my dues before I got on the court and I knew once I got on the court I was going to contribute," said Thornton. "It's not going to be easy every night but I'm showing what I can do and I'm helping this team win."
Last Week: 10
James Harden, Oklahoma City ThunderHarden has cooled off some after scoring in double-digits five straight games. The Thunder, however, have won four of their last six partly because of Harden's improvement and playmaking ability. If he can develop some consistency he could help the Thunder make a run at a playoff spot by season's end.
Honorable MentionDeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors (scored 21 points at Atlanta this week and has scored in double figures in three of his last five games), DeJuan Blair, San Antonio Spurs (leads all rookies with 5.5 rpg, scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against the 76ers last week), Chase Budinger, Houston Rockets (scored 19 points against the Clippers this week and is averaging 8.7 points), Toney Douglas, New York Knicks (scored 17 points at Orlando this week and is averaging 8.1 points), Wesley Matthews, Utah Jazz (scored 17 points against the Grizzlies last week).