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News » Hornets-Thunder Preview

Hornets-Thunder Preview

Hornets-Thunder Preview
As familiar as the New Orleans Hornets are with Oklahoma City, they have not played there when the home fans were rooting for the other team.

The Hornets make their return to the Ford Center, where they spent plenty of time following Hurricane Katrina, and will be part of the Oklahoma City Thunder's national television debut on Friday night.

Katrina sent the Hornets (5-5) away from New Orleans and the team adopted Oklahoma City as its new base, playing 71 of its home games at the Ford Center in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. A capacity crowd showed up for 30 of those games and the average attendance was 18,340, prompting the team to return to Oklahoma City for its preseason opener last year.

That's the last time the city has seen the Hornets, who went on to have the best season in franchise history. They finished 56-26 to win their first division title before losing to San Antonio in seven games in the second round of the playoffs.

Commissioner David Stern and the NBA were so impressed by Oklahoma City's dedication to the Hornets, it shot to the top of the list among cities to next receive a franchise. The Seattle SuperSonics' desire to relocate after last season ended up bringing the NBA back to Oklahoma, and the Thunder were born.

Now the franchise will be featured on ESPN in front of a national TV audience for the first time.

"This is a chance to welcome back familiar faces and remind the nation that Oklahoma City has the best fans in the NBA," said Dan Mahoney, the Thunder's vice president of corporate communications and community relations.

It certainly doesn't have the best team. Oklahoma City (1-11) has the worst record in the league after finishing with the worst in the Western Conference last season at 20-62.

"We got to come in and watch film and get better at practice. We have to play harder," Thunder leading scorer Kevin Durant said. "I myself have to play harder and work harder so we can get better."

The Hornets also have not been happy with their effort. They've lost five of seven following a 3-0 start.

"We definitely have taken steps back as a team," New Orleans forward David West said. "We're going to have to come together and make a push because right now teams are just walking over us."

The latest to do so was Sacramento, which had lost three straight and was 1-5 on the road before winning 105-96 in New Orleans on Wednesday. West scored 22 points and Chris Paul added 20 to go with his 15 assists, but the Hornets let the Kings shoot 54.7 percent.

Paul leads the league with 11.9 assists per game and is averaging a team-best 20.7 points, and West is averaging 19.3 points, but other Hornets have been disappointing. Peja Stojakovic is averaging 11.6 points - 6.5 below his career average - and shooting a career-worst 37.4 percent from the field. Tyson Chandler has only two double-doubles in the last eight games after finishing with 38 during his career-best 2007-08 season.

"We are not playing 110 percent," coach Byron Scott said. "We are not playing like it's the last quarter of the last game. We are not playing with that sense of urgency. Like I told them, I don't know what we are waiting on."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 20, 2008


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