2 New Orleans Hornets The new fans are revved-up, the top scorer is healthy, and the supporting cast is battle-tested. Any reason this transplanted team shouldn't be a contender?

Oct. 28, 2002
Oct. 28, 2002

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Oct. 28, 2002

NBA Preview 2002-03

2 New Orleans Hornets The new fans are revved-up, the top scorer is healthy, and the supporting cast is battle-tested. Any reason this transplanted team shouldn't be a contender?

Even the slightest motion would send forward Jamal Mashburn's
world dipping and twirling. One drizzly day early in the summer
it was the swish of windshield wipers as his wife drove him to
the doctor. "You're used to being able to look past the wipers,
but I couldn't," Mashburn says. "I got dizzy right away. It was

This is an article from the Oct. 28, 2002 issue

His energy level wasn't much better. Constantly fatigued, he was
unable to play with his toddler son, Jamal Jr., for more than a
few minutes at a time. At first one doctor told Mashburn it was
anemia that had sent him off the court 10 minutes into the
Hornets' first playoff game last April, lightheaded and
vomiting, unable to return for the rest of the postseason. They
started him on a daily regimen of shots, told him he might have
to continue taking them for the rest of his life. At the urging
of his mother, Helen, Mashburn sought a second opinion.
Eventually he found a neurologist who was able to diagnose his
illness correctly. Positional vertigo, he was told, caused by a
stomach virus. The only cure is rest.

The spinning didn't stop until the end of June. "When I woke up
one day and I wasn't dizzy, that was the happiest I'd been,"
says Mashburn, 29, the team's leading scorer last season.
"You're always checking yourself, you're always asking, Is that
it? And then one day you're fine."

Able to work out again, the 6'8" Mashburn did exercises to
strengthen muscles around the lower abdominal strain that kept
him out for 42 games at the start of last season. Though a
sprained left knee sidelined him during the preseason, his abs
are stronger, and he can once again get low into a crouch, a
necessity for gaining position in the post. "His power base
looks better," says point guard Baron Davis, who called Mashburn
twice a week in the summer to check up on him. Coach Paul Silas
agrees. "You can even see it on his jump shot," says Silas.
"He's squaring up better."

A healthy Mashburn is not only good news for Silas but also bad
news for the rest of the East. Though losing Mashburn certainly
hurt the Hornets in the playoffs, the silver (or teal) lining
was that, in reaching the conference semifinals, the team
learned to win without him. Fourth-year man Davis emerged as an
opportunistic scorer and true floor leader, one capable of
carrying a team; he averaged 22.6 points in the playoffs, 4.5
more than his output in the regular season. (Though in his
subsequent World Basketball Championship performance he was more
erratic.) What's more, after playing to the league's smallest
home crowds in 2001-02 (average attendance at the Charlotte
Coliseum: 11,286), this year the Hornets figure to have a true
home court advantage at the New Orleans Arena (seating capacity:
18,500). Says Silas, "Barring injuries, we think we have a good
shot at winning the East."

Considering his veteran squad--six key players have at least
nine years' experience--and how well the Hornets played last
year in Mashburn's absence, it's hard to disagree. --Chris

COLOR PHOTO: NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES STEADY AND READY A bout of vertigo laid Mashburn low during the playoffs, but he returned to camp fitter than ever.

Of the 127 players who made at least 125 free throws last season,
Baron Davis (58.0%) shot better than only Shaquille O'Neal

an opposing team's scout sizes up the Hornets

"This is one of those rare teams that can be effective inside and
outside, and it has a decent bench.... I'm not a big fan of
Elden Campbell because he doesn't play with emotion, and you
don't know what you're going to get. Nonetheless, he's one of
the top five centers in the Eastern Conference and, this being
the last year of his contract, you can expect his best effort.
Plus he's going to get pushed by Jamaal Magloire, who's trying
to prove that he's worthy of taking over for Campbell next
season. Magloire scores a lot off putbacks, and he's good if he
has room to spin, but he has trouble if you drop guards down and
pressure him.... They should be a toughened bunch after last
year, when they didn't have Jamal Mashburn most of the time,
they didn't know if the team was moving and they had no home
court advantage in Charlotte. They reacted positively by going
23-18 on the road.... I don't believe their small backcourt is
a problem, because David Wesley is such a tough defender at the
two. Sure a 6'5" guy might shoot over him, but that guy's going
to work his ass off to get that shot because Wesley's strong and
he'll fight through every screen.... If he accepts the role,
Courtney Alexander could be a help as the third guard.... The
only big question I have concerns Baron Davis, who is showing
signs of letting his new contract go to his head. I was
disappointed in him this summer at the world championships, in
which he tried to dominate from the point guard position. I'm
sure he was trying to ensure that they didn't lose, but in fact
he was ensuring that they would. He has to be more unselfish and
stay with the high-percentage passes instead of going for the
spectacular play.If Davis does those things, then the Hornets
are in great shape, because he's the kind of guy who can hit the
big shot when it presents itself."


Tough D

Fair D

No D

2001-02 record: 44-38 (second in Central)
Points scored: 93.9 (20th) Points allowed: 92.9 (7th)
Coach: Paul Silas (fifth season with Hornets)


SF Jamal Mashburn 49 21.5 ppg 6.1 rpg 4.3 apg 1.13 spg 40.7 FG%
PF P.J. Brown 100 8.4 ppg 9.8 rpg 1.3 apg 0.98 bpg 47.4 FG%
C Elden Campbell 65 13.9 ppg 6.9 rpg 1.3 apg 1.78 bpg 48.4 FG%
SG David Wesley 110 14.2 ppg 3.5 apg 1.10 spg 40.0 FG% 33.2 3FG%
PG Baron Davis 27 18.1 ppg 4.3 rpg 8.5 apg 2.10 spg 41.7 FG%


C Jamaal Magloire 134 8.5 ppg 5.6 rpg 1.05 bpg 55.1 FG% 73.0 FT%
G Courtney
Alexander[1] 150 9.8 ppg 2.6 rpg 1.5 apg 0.63 spg 47.0 FG%
F Lee Nailon 177 10.8 ppg 3.7 rpg 1.2 apg 0.75 spg 48.3 FG%
F George Lynch 248 3.8 ppg 4.1 rpg 1.2 apg 0.89 spg 36.9 FG%
F Robert Traylor 315 3.7 ppg 3.1 rpg 0.6 apg 0.61 bpg 42.6 FG%

[1] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)