The NFL Scouting Combine runs through Wednesday through March 1 in Indianapolis. Will that be business as usual for Payton and the coaches and scouts as usual as the March 3 deadline for a new CBA fast approaches? "Absolutely," said Payton. "We'll evaluate the draft class as normal. There will be some potential restrictions in the draft itself with regard to trades if there is not a new agreement, but that preparation hasn't changed."
If ever a team needed the All-Star break, it's the Hornets.
The Hornets, who lost their third straight game on Wednesday night against the red-hot Trail Blazers 103-96 at Portland because they could not close the deal. The Hornets could not sustain their energy in the fourth quarter as four of their starters played 40 minutes or more. The Hornets had played the night before, losing at Golden State.
"We got tired down the stretch," said first-year Hornets coach Monty Williams. "I had to play guys 40-plus minutes. It's hard to do that back to back.
Even back in November, when the Hornets were the NBA's hottest team, Williams spoke about how the team needs a tough, defensive approach to compensate for as center Emeka Okafor missed his ninth consecutive game with a strained oblique muscle.
Okafor's absence has been a major factor in the Hornets losing nine of their last 11 games. That followed a 10-game winning streak.
Okafor would have come in handy Wednesday as his shot-blocking and inside presence could have helped on Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge,who scored 34 points. The duty of guarding him fell to power forward David West, but he is also the Hornets' leading scorer -- he had 27 points on Wednesday -- and needed to stay in the game.
The Hornets continue to play hard under Williams. On Wednesday, they controlled the middle two quarters by pounding the offensive boards, finishing with13 offensive rebounds and 25 second-chance points.
However, the Hornets once again had trouble closing out a win in the fourth quarter, when they were outscored 33-20. All-Star point guard Chris Paul -- who had just eight points and five assists -- said the team needs to get right mentally to solve that shortcoming.
"We've got to get our confidence back after the break and be a fourth-quarter team," said Paul. "We feel like we can play with the teams the last few games, but in the fourth quarter, we're not as confident."
Okafor is expected back after the All-Star break. The Hornets (33-25) were a 12-3 back on Nov. 22 and have fallen to sixth place in the Western Conference, a few percentage points behind the Blazers (32-24).
"We need this break -- recharge, get back to ourselves again, get Emeka back and make our push," said Williams, who was an assistant at Portland before becoming coach of the Hornets.
Special teams coordinator Joe Robinson has resigned from the LSU coaching staff to pursue an opportunity at another school, head coach Les Miles confirmed on Thursday afternoon.
Robinson, who also assisted with the LSU defensive line, just completed his third season with the Tigers.
“Joe Rob did a great job coaching our special teams in his three years with us,” Miles said. “We wish Joe and his family great success in their future endeavors.”
Miles said that he will be in no hurry to find a replacement for Robinson. LSU starts spring practice on March 11.
by Ed Staton
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