If you haven’t been watching this year, the New Orleans Hornets have blossomed into one of the NBA’s most exciting teams. After the past three losing seasons, Coach Byron Scott’s plan to build the team around the young nucleus of point guard Chris Paul, forward David West and center Tyson Chandler paid off with a 56-26 record and the second-best record in the Western Conference, barely behind the Los Angeles Lakers. Paul in particular has been nothing short of electrifying, a bona fide MVP candidate whose lightning speed and uncanny assists are reminiscent of Isiah Thomas and Kevin Johnson in their primes.
Adding to the equation, sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic has recovered from back surgery and is nailing rainbow 3-pointers, and Bonzi Wells and Julian Wright have been vital contributors coming off the bench.
For guiding the team’s turnaround, Hornets coach Byron Scott has been named the NBA Coach of the Year and will be honored at a pre-game ceremony tonight. If the Hornets can win at the New Orleans Arena and knock the Dallas Mavericks out of the playoffs (game starts at 6 p.m. on the TNT network), it’ll be sweet vindication for Scott — especially since he’ll be sending Mavs guard Jason Kidd home for the offseason. It was Kidd’s incessant complaining that got Scott fired as coach of the New Jersey Nets. Expect Kidd to be booed every time he touches the ball tonight; he’s Public Enemy No. 1 for the Hornets after his ejection from Sunday’s game for a dangerous flagrant foul on the Hornets’ Jannero Pargo.