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It's management 101: Identify your weaknesses and address them. Last season the Hornets finished 25th in the league in scoring, averaging a paltry 92.8 points. Enter free-agent forward Peja Stojakovic, a career 18.4-points-per-game scorer who was signed to a five-year, $64 million contract.
Defensively New Orleans wasn't much better, ranking in the bottom third in opponents' field goal percentage (45.9%). Which is why the Hornets didn't blink at assuming the remaining five years and $54 million on the contract of center Tyson Chandler, who anchored a Bulls D that led the NBA in the aforementioned category.
Chandler's development stalled last season, when he averaged a career-low 5.3 points (and 1.8 in the postseason). "I saw a guy who was a defensive presence," says Hornets coach Byron Scott, "but I thought offensively he was much better than what he was showing." After being ignored in Chicago's attack, Chandler will frequently find himself on the receiving end of passes from point guard Chris Paul in an offense that emphasizes speed: The Hornets occasionally practice with a 20-second shot clock instead of a 24. "Last year I didn't get a lot of touches, so I wasn't comfortable with the ball," says Chandler. "Here I'm getting so many that sometimes I'm not even ready for them."
Ready or not offensively, the 7'1" Chandler, 24, must remain the defensive force he was in Chicago. (He has a career average of 1.40 blocks per game.) "I'm going to challenge a lot of shots--a lot of shots," he says. "I'm talking to guys on the floor so they know I've got their back."
Projected Starting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 38--44 (10th in West)
Points scored: 92.8 (25th in NBA)
Points allowed: 95.6 (12th)
Coach: Byron Scott
(third season with the Hornets)