While it will take the Hornets some time to get used to the new faces on their roster, the three players New Orleans got in exchange for star guard Chris Paul will all look familiar to the Phoenix Suns.
Will Paul now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, a division rival of the Suns, the Hornets unveil their new-look lineup for the first time in the regular season tonight in Phoenix.
The former face of the Hornets franchise, Paul said he would not sign an extension to stay in New Orleans, leading to the club sending the All-Star point guard to the Clippers for shooting guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman and forward Al-Farouq Aminu. Gordon and Kaman should immediately log big minutes with the Hornets, while Aminu adds depth off the bench.
Gordon quickly becomes the main offensive weapon in New Orleans thanks to the loss of Paul and free agent forward David West. The 22-year-old set career highs last year with 22.3 points and 4.4 assists per game in his third season.
"I've always liked him. I'm always one to get guys on our team that I fear coaching against and he's one of those guys," said second-year Hornets coach Monty Williams. "When he shoots it from range or when he's attacking the basket you're always on edge because you know you're in trouble."
Still, minus one of the league's best players, Williams knows that getting the Hornets back into the playoffs for the fourth time in five years will be much more difficult then it was in his inaugural season in the Big Easy.
"I inherited what most coaches would want to inherit. Yet, it takes a while to put your program in place, so we're looking at starting over again, which is not something we had planned on or are looking forward to. But it's what I have to do," said Williams, who became just the third first-year head coach in team history to reach the playoffs.
While New Orleans' postseason run came to an end in the first round at the hands of the Lakers, the Suns did not reach the postseason despite finishing behind only the Lakers in the Pacific Division. Phoenix had reached the postseason in five of the previous six years.
"We're excited, we have a little more depth this year," Nash said at the team's media day. "I think for every team depth is going to be a huge part of a team trying to get into the playoffs or trying to exceed expectations, trying to make it through this schedule."
Lopez is likely to start tonight with Gortat having suffered a broken right thumb during the abbreviated preseason, but the latter is expected to play with a splint on the injury.
The Hornets won their final three games versus the Suns last year and snapped a three-game slide in Phoenix with a 1006-100 win on March 25.