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Weekly lineup

 Tuesday, October 26
Charlotte Hornets
Clubhouse/schedule | Stats: Preseason / 1999 | Roster
Last year: 26-24, fifth place in Central
Coach: Paul Silas
Arena: Charlotte Coliseum (24,042)
Last NBA title: None
Record the last 5 years/NBA rank: 222-156 (13th)

Pos Player Key Stat Skinny
PG David Wesley 6.4 APG Baron pushing him makes him better
SG Eddie Jones 2.5 SPG Lakers: "What, defense matters?"
SF Bobby Phills 14.3 PPG Poor-man's Eddie Jones very underrated
PF Anthony Mason 0 games Will they get the unselfish Mason?
C Elden Campbell 9.4 RPG Emotionally, he needs to start
PF Derrick Coleman 37 games Emotionally, he needs to start, too
PG Baron Davis rookie Better playmaker than Wesley
SG Eldridge Recasner 24 threes Third guard steps up with Ricky Davis out

Can Derrick Coleman and Anthony Mason play together? One will have to come off the bench and accept his role. If he does -- probably Coleman -- and can be productive, I think the Hornets can have a good year. I think they will be a surprise team in the East. They have Elden Campbell and Eddie Jones to start the year and are very aggressive. They finished strongly under Paul Silas last year and feel good about themselves this year. They lost Ricky Davis for a part of the season, and that will hurt them. But overall, I think the Hornets will be much improved. I think they can fight for the top spot in the conference if they stay healthy because they aren't as deep as other teams.
Get to know them
Key newcomer: Baron Davis
Will be missed: None
The Star: Eddie Jones
Underrated: Bobby Phills
Rising: Jones
Falling: Derrick Coleman
If things go well: Happy frontcourt
If things don't: Frontcourt anarchy

By Ken Cross
Basketball News

Former National Football League commissioner Pete Rozelle surely would have smiled at the parity in the NBA's post-Michael Jordan era. Before the Bulls dominated on the court in the 1990s, Larry Bird's Celtics and Magic Johnson's Lakers ruled the game. Now, as the new millennium approaches, any one of 10 teams appear capable of claiming an NBA title. That's why the depth, versatility and burgeoning cohesiveness of the Hornets have the team thinking big.

"You've got to love the talent we have and the chance we have in front of us," says Eddie Jones, acquired last March with Elden Campbell in a trade with the Lakers for Glen Rice. "In L.A., they were never happy with the team, and they had real potential. Here, we're happy, and we feel we can compete."

The Hornets are two-deep at every position, and friendly training camp battles between Derrick Coleman and Anthony Mason, and point guard David Wesley and first-round draft pick Baron Davis had fostered a sharp intensity in the early weeks of training camp. They may also have left Paul Silas, in his first full season as head coach, with some dilemmas.

"Paul has got to be thinking, 'Great, we've got all of these players who can play,'" says Wesley. "But I don't know if I would want his job. It could be tough to keep this many talented guys satisfied. But you've got to go with whatever wins."

The Hornets worked out together so much over the summer and before camp that they have drawn comparisons to last year's Indiana Pacers squad. But will this team take it to the next level or fall well short, as the Pacers did?

"The team cohesiveness is wonderful," says Jones. "We hang out together, we came in this summer to ball together. Guys even went fishing and traveled with each other. Everyone has the right mind and a lot of confidence."

Player to watch

Elden Campbell

For years Elden Campbell underachieved in Los Angeles. Then he goes to Charlotte and thrives. What's the deal? Campbell always had great ability but often chose to keep it inside because Shaquille O'Neal was the post threat, not him. Will the return of Anthony Mason and continued pouting of Derrick Coleman push Campbell back to his L.A. days? We say no, and that a 15-point, 10-board season's coming.

Point guard
The much-maligned Wesley has taken a lot of criticism, perhaps undeservedly so. But he rounded his playmaking skills into shape late in '99 and showed more leadership potential than in the past. Wesley can also work at 2-guard when Davis checks in to spell him at the point. According to Silas, it's not an issue as to who will assume the point guard role.

"David is a proven point guard," says Silas. "Baron is just learning. He has to be given time to come in and learn the league."

Davis, an explosive athlete with scoring and pure playmaking skills, fell into the Hornets' lap with the third pick in the draft. He was elated to be picked at that position and still be on a team with a chance to contend for a title in the near future.

Shooting guard
All Jones needed was a fresh start -- and Charlotte was happy to accommodate him. Jones was lost in L.A.'s "I-fense" last year and the Lakers didn't fully appreciate his defensive skills. The Lakers' bad judgement was the Hornets' boon. Jones became the sparkplug of a team that was 5-12 at the time of the trade and nearly bounced back make the playoffs.

Jones has become more assertive on offense with the Hornets, and his defensive skills will set up a team that loves to get out on the break with additional scoring opportunities.

Silas will have plenty of depth here with Eldridge Recasner, Ricky Davis and Bobby Phills, who will play mostly at the 3, all able to spell Jones. The Hornets would like to see Recasner regain his shooting touch of two years ago, when he made 58 threes on .414 shooting for Atlanta.

Small forward
Phills assumed the leadership role last year and cemented it with game-winning shots against Indiana and Washington during the team's late-season playoff run. In teaming with Jones to form one of the NBA's most lethal defensive tandems, Phills' worth was again underscored in a 1-5 stretch near the end of March when he was out with a pulled groin. Phills sees the Hornets getting 12 players under contract early as a key to the upcoming season.

"Last year we had lots of unanswered questions," says Phills. "This year all the expectations are to finish in June with a trophy. It is hard to imagine all of this from where we have come from in a year."

Ricky Davis, currently out with torn knee cartilage, will back up Phills at the 3. His 32-point outing in the season finale and an outstanding summer league performance should spring Davis into a key role player off the bench.

Power forward
Mason sat out the entire lockout-shortened season with a torn biceps and now says he's ready to go. He brings some of the experience and tenacity the Hornets missed a year ago, and he'll help address the problems on the offensive glass that so fervently worry Silas.

Mason and Coleman are vying for the starting position, but Mason downplayed the competition during the early stages of camp.

"They're building the battle for the starting job as more than it really is," says Mason. "Our competition is against people in other uniforms. All we're gonna do is make each other better."

Coming off the bench could help Coleman's career. With his proneness to injury and often-subpar physical shape, he might lead a longer, more productive NBA life by playing decreased minutes. In his defense, Coleman seems willing, for now at least, to toe the line. He even showed up early for camp and participated in the Hornets' pickup games.

When Silas talks about the Hornets' need to rebound better this season, he has to leave Campbell out of the discussion. After the trade, Campbell averaged a team-high 9.4 boards and, additionally, proved himself to be a shot-blocking threat. The latter fact allows the Hornets to put more pressure on the perimeter and not worry as much about getting beaten off the dribble. Campbell's versatility -- he can also play power forward -- is just another advantage for Silas.

Coleman will serve as Campbell's primary backup at center. If there's one thing Coleman can do in almost any shape, it's rebound, which is obviously high on Silas' list of priorities.

If Coleman is unmotivated or out of shape, second-year man Brad Miller will get the opportunity to pick up the slack. Miller was another Hornet who had an excellent summer league, and he's added bulk to his already-solid frame.

This is now Silas' ship, and he proved in a very short time last year that he's able to guide it in the proper direction. The Hornets play hard for Silas and believe in him because he shows confidence in all of their abilities and doesn't rail on them with every turnover or missed defensive assignment.

This will be Silas' first full season as a head coach since the early '80s, when he had very little going for him as front man of the San Diego Clippers. He likes the fact that he's in a situation in which there are expectations. But with whispers of a title run surrounding the Hornets going into the season, those expectations are considerable.

Material from Basketball News.
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