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Target on Tyson (continued)

Posted: Monday September 25, 2006 5:17PM; Updated: Monday October 2, 2006 9:19AM
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So which Chandler have the Hornets acquired? The underrated defensive star we saw in 2005, or the offensive millstone that spurred Chicago into trading him for the soon-to-be 37-year old P.J. Brown?

At this point, you have to lean towards the former. Any bit of offseason conditioning will be an improvement, and according to Hornets GM Jeff Bower, Tyson has been working out in California and Oklahoma City since the trade with Chicago.

"He's a young player, continuing with his development, and he has a lot more potential to be taken advantage of," Bower said. "His opportunities will come. We also think that playing alongside Chris Paul is going to help his offense."

But it's the other end of the court where Chandler needs to shine. "We're looking for his defensive contributions first, some length and shot blocking, his ability to run the floor in transition," Bower said.

This is key, because with Chandler manning the interior defense and glass as he did in Chicago, the Hornets can grow into a devastating running team. Fast-break points were not exactly a big source of the team's offense last year, and and even when coach Byron Scott had Jason Kidd at his disposal in New Jersey, the Nets barely cracked the league's top 10 running teams. But if Scott turns up the tempo, it could nearly counter the depth and experience of division mates like Dallas and San Antonio.

More emphasis on the transition game should also benefit Stojakovic and another former King, backup point man Bobby Jackson. Desmond Mason, coming off his worst season as a pro and heading into a contract year, could also be aided by an up-tempo attack -- and he'll reap the benefits of his first full training camp under Scott's steely gaze.

If trading for Stojakovic seems like a bit of risk, it should be noted that the Hornets acquired him for the pittance of a trade exception. Also, if Paul's time in Japan with Team USA is any indication, he's at his best when locating shooters with pin-point passes. Paul led that outfit in assists -- and not with the usual batch of alley-oop lobs and full-court baseball tosses that have dotted previous U.S runs.

Paul was advancing the ball on a delayed break, or finding shooters peeling off screens -- and it wasn't hard to imagine Peja (with a quicker release and more accurate touch) easily replacing Carmelo Anthony as Paul's designated target.

Bower isn't worried about Paul's stamina heading into a second season and coming off an extended bout of international play. Each Team USA participant "all played about 20 minutes a game," he noted, "they were all in one site, and that lessened the travel demands. We'll gauge in the preseason how he reacts to it all -- but he's a smart young man who knows the type of energy he needs to perform at."

Still, the onus is on Chandler -- and not the all-world talents like Stojakovic and Paul -- to put this team over the top. The Hornets were 20th in the NBA in defensive efficiency last season, and if Chandler can push this team to a mark above the average while also chipping in offensively, then a playoff berth could be in the offing.

Bower can't help but like what he sees so far. "Tyson is hungry, and focused, and that's all you can ask for," he said. "He thinks he has something to prove."