Heading into Tuesday evening’s showdown with the New Orleans Hornets, we got in touch with Hornets.com’s Jim Eichenhofer, who follows every dribble, jumper and rebound for Chris Paul and Co. Eichenhofer took some time to fill us in on the Hornets’ recent hot streak, CP3’s hyper-competitiveness and more:
MT: As the Hornets have won 8-of-10 and four in a row, the Lakers recently lost back-to-back games for the first time this season – albeit at the buzzer – and lost their backup point guard. Is New Orleans licking their chops for revenge from the 93-86 early-season win in N.O.?
Eichenhofer: I’m sure the Hornets are motivated by several factors entering this game, with one of them being the loss you mentioned. New Orleans has won six straight at home and is 7-1 here since that night. The fact that the Lakers are now within range in the West standings is another reason why this feels like an important game.
But I don’t think anyone should be “licking their chops” to play the Lakers, despite their recent losses. A two-game losing streak might be considered a mini-crisis in L.A., but the Lakers are still 21-5, still have the best record in the West and still have Kobe Bryant. I think Hornets fans and players have the utmost respect for Kobe for several reasons: He’s consistently had big games against this team, including a 50-point outing in NOLA two seasons ago; he was obviously the reason Chris Paul did not win the MVP award last season; and he has a knack for draining huge baskets, including that killer three-pointer he made in the Nov. 12 matchup with about a minute remaining.
MT: Why don’t people realize how chippy and feisty Chris Paul is? Does being one of the darlings of the NBA help him get away with some sneakiness?
Eichenhofer: I think the best way to answer this is to quote Chris, who says, “I am two totally different people. I’m one person on the court, and (another person) off the court. On the court, I am very competitive in everything I do. You can’t be buddy-buddy or friends with the (opposing team) on the court… After the buzzer sounds and they say that we won, then I will smile. But for those 48 minutes… no.”
Sometimes people think that because Chris has such a sterling reputation off the court, that means he should act that way on the floor as well. That doesn’t make sense. When he’s playing the game, he is probably as competitive as anyone in the NBA.
Is he chippy and feisty? Of course. But you WANT your best player to set the example of being deathly serious about winning every night during the long 82-game schedule, don’t you? As Byron Scott says about Chris, “He’s got a little nastiness in him, kind of like what Isiah Thomas had when he played.”
Is this a bad thing? No way. This is just old-school basketball. Personally, I love it. Being chippy is not a bad thing. Playing soft is a bad thing.