SI Vault
 
2 NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
Chris Ballard
October 28, 2002
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?
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 28, 2002

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?

View CoverRead All Articles

PROJECTED LINEUP

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)

STARTERS

PVR*

2001-02 KEY STATS

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%

BENCH

PVR*

2001-02 KEY STATS

C

Jamaal Magloire

134

8.5 ppg

5.6 rpg

1.05 bpg

55.1 FG%

73.0 FT%

G

Courtney Alexander#

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%

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

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 awful."

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.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

1