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Game Thread: Knicks at Hornets- 4-4-08

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Yo. The Knicks are in New Orleans tonight to take on Ryan Bowen and the Hornets. In anticipation of tonight's game, I exchanged some questions with Rohan from At the Hive. Dig:

P&T: Chris Paul is having an unbelievable season and has turned this team around with his stellar play...but is he MVP-worthy?

AtH: Yes, definitely. I'm a statistics oriented guy, and the stats for CP are just off the charts. For one, he's blowing away either of Steve Nash's MVP years by about 6 points in John Hollinger's PER stat. Much has been made about him being the first guy to average 20, 10, and 3 (which he won't get this year barring a 20 steal night), but nobody's ever even had the 20-10-2.7 he's posting. A lot of MVP debates will begin with the premise that LeBron has the best stats of all the competitors, but according to PER, this isn't necessarily true. LBJ does sport a 29.5 PER to Chris Paul's 28.6, but one thing nobody realizes is that PER isn't normalized for position. A point guard having a 28.6 PER is just unfathomable; in fact, it's the single greatest season in NBA history by a point guard. That includes Magic (max'd at 27), Oscar Robertson (max'd at 27.6), Stockton (23.9), and Nash (23.8). So the arguments certainly are there for him.

One thing I hate about how the MVP debate currently works is how much emphasis is placed on wins. I find it absurd that a player on a non-top 3 team can even be considered. What are we punishing him for? Not having good enough teammates? Voters have gotten into an inexcusably lazy method of selecting their winners: find the team with the best record, find that team's best player, and anoint him the best in the league. So while the Hornets are atop the West, I refuse to use that in my CP3MVP argument. He's got David West's jumpers, Peja's threes, and Tyson's rebounding, much in the same way that Kobe has a fellow named Pau Gasol on his squad (and an amazing bench and awesome team defense which has put the Lakers where they are despite KB24 having his worst statistical season in 3 years). So yeah, my vote would not go to Kobe; to me it's between CP and LBJ, and it'll depend on how they finish their last 10 games.

P&T: The Hornets managed to acquire Mike James and Bonzi Wells (the latter of whom is a personal favorite) before the trade deadline. How have those two fit in, and do you see either or both of them playing a big role heading into the playoffs?

AtH: Mike James hasn't really played much since coming over, behind Pargo and Paul on the depth chart. That said, he's a hell of a third-string point guard. I doubt we'll see him play much of a role in the playoffs though, unless we see some injury (knock on wood). Wells, on the other hand, has played a solid role since coming over. He (and Julian Wright) have single-handedly turned a mediocre bench into a positive, and Wells has really surprised me with his offense. He's been stroking the midrange jumper, driving hard to the hole, and even rinsing the occasional three. And, of course, he still hangs his hat on the defensive side where he's been assigned some tough covers, and done an admirable job. The way things are shaping up now, Bonzi will be an integral part of how far we go in the playoffs.

P&T: The most recent news out of New Orleans was the return of Chris "Birdman" Andersen. How badly did you miss this guy, and how is it having him back?

AtH: Oh man, it's so awesome having his energy. The guy was always a crowd favorite, and from the looks of it, he really hasn't lost a step. On the court, he hasn't produced much in the way of points or rebounds yet, but he's still been a major shot in the arm in terms of altered shots. Between him, Wells, and Wright, the reinforcements really did arrive in March to spell some heavy-minute starters.

P&T: As I write this, the Hornets have the top seed in the West. Depending on how the rest of the season shakes out, New Orleans seems most likely to see either Dallas, Denver, or Golden State in the first round. Which of these teams would you prefer to face? Which is the scariest? Why?

AtH: It's looking more and more like New O can hang on to that top seed, but even with the two spot, we'll play DAL, DEN, or GSW as you say. Of those three, I'd love to play Dallas. Golden State (Ellis) and Denver (Iverson) both have two really quick guards they can put on Paul, but since losing Devin Harris, Dallas has nobody. CP3 ate the Kid's lunch last time they played, and I can't see why it would be any different. Josh Howard is the easiest cover (for the Hornets, at least) among those three teams' star scorers (Baron Davis, Carmelo, and J-Ho). The team that scares me most from that trio is Golden State. Not only is their jump-shooting a tremendous wild card, but also you know Nellie will try to exploit mismatches all series; nobody does it like him. This Sunday's ABC showdown between GSW and NOH will do a lot to alleviate or escalate my fears.

P&T: If, by some feat of biology, you could combine two Hornets into one über-player, who would you pick? I'm going with Juvid Wrightest, the high-flying freak athlete of a power forward with a smooth jumper, great fundamentals, and a knack for rebounding.

AtH: I'm feeling Juvid Wrightest, hahaha. Although you can't underestimate the amazingness of Peja Bowen. A gritty hustler that drains threes, and wears a "40 year old man in a rec-room pickup game" knee brace, all while maintaining a pasty white complexion? Whitest vs. Wrightest, I'd pay to see that.

Thanks to Rohan for the interview. To check out my answers to his questions, head over to the enemy territory. Get them W's.