For the second straight year the Hornets believe they can make a late-season charge, provided a star player is able to return from injury. Last year Jamal Mashburn recovered from a lower abdominal strain to help the Hornets win 10 of 15 in March, but he was sidelined by vertigo in the playoffs, and they bowed out in the second round. This time the Hornets are waiting on point guard Baron Davis, who was averaging 16.8 points and 6.9 assists before undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Jan. 28. Last week Davis was in Vancouver with renowned physical therapist Alex McKechnie to alleviate chronic back spasms. New Orleans, which was sixth in the East at week's end with a 31-27 record, hopes a mid-March return by Davis will give the team time to pull together before the postseason.
In the meantime New Orleans will rely on veteran playmaker Kenny Anderson, acquired last Thursday from Seattle for center Elden Campbell, who had been slow to recover from arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. Though the deal weakened the Hornets' traditionally deep frontcourt, Campbell had already lost the starting position to 6'11" Jamaal Magloire, the 19th pick in the 2000 draft. "I think I can be an All-Star," says Magloire, who was averaging career highs of 9.6 points and 8.4 rebounds in 29.5 minutes through Sunday.
While the ambitious Magloire has shown more fire than Campbell, New Orleans wishes he had some of Campbell's finesse. Silas has been working with Magloire before practices and believes his play will improve when Davis returns. Together they could transform the Hornets into a high-energy sleeper for the Finals. "Baron makes the game so much easier for me," says Magloire. "He breaks down the defense and knows how to find me in the seams and get me easy looks at the basket."
When well-traveled forward Chris Gatling couldn't find work in the NBA last summer, he moved to Russia and signed a $1 million contract with the club CSKA Moscow. Gatling spent about three months there before tiring of the hassles. "One day a cop pulls me over and demands 500 rubles [about $16]," he says. "I said, 'I'm not paying.' " Instead he called a team manager and then handed the cellphone over to the officer, who withdrew his demand after learning who Gatling's employer was.
Gatling, 35, was granted his release in early December and has joined the Italian club Scavolini, based in Pesaro. After averaging only 19.7 minutes during his 11-year NBA career with eight teams, he believes he is spry enough to play overseas until he's 40. "The team is owned by clothes designers, so I can buy suits at half price," says Gatling. "They really take care of you—except that you have to wash your own gear and towels after practice."