New Orleans Hornets loss of Kamen puts Davis, Anderson, Gordon, Rivers at center of attention

new orleans hornets logoWhen Chris Kaman signed with Dallas this week, it virtually assured that the Hornets will enter the 2012-13 NBA season without an effective center. For the record, the Hornets acquisition of veteran center Brad Miller, 36, from the Timberwolves was partly cap-related, and also provides a big body to wear opponents' jerseys in practice. I believe Kaman missed an opportunity to re-sign and become elder statesman of a team that probably will be the youngest and most inexperienced in the NBA next season.

     Inexperience is okay if you have the talent to fit the new paradigm, which is the direction the Hornets appear to be heading. In NBA parlance, "long" is not "big," because the latter implies a hulking plodder while the former can also give you defensive quickness and better shooting. Exhibit A is No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, who at 19 has been ballyhooed as a once-in-a-decade talent. The recent sign-and-trade with the Magic for small forward Ryan Anderson brings to the Hornets a 24-year-old, 6-foot-10, sharp-shooting forward who also can loft the 3-point shot at nearly 40% effectiveness. Anderson, by the way, was recruited to the University of California Berkeley by former UNO head coach Joe Pasternack.



     The late-season audition of 6-9 Al-Farouq Aminu, who is 22, apparently provided Demps and Williams with enough information to increase his role this year. No. 10 pick guard Austin Rivers, also 19, is fearless and a good enough shooter that Demps traded veteran point Jarrett Jack to Golden State to give the kid from Duke more minutes. Not to be forgotten is the fact the Hornets matched Phoenix's offer for Eric Gordon, who, if healthy, will be the team's leading scorer and will only be 24 on Christmas Day.

     Looking at things realistically, with this young talent on board how critical is the absence of a center who will give you 30 minutes a game? With such a high emphasis on point guards and athletic forwards these days, is the absence of a true center a death knell for success or merely a hindrance against certain teams? I would suggest the latter, because having a true center is not the imperative it has been in the past. Look around and name the best centers in the league right now. If your list stops with Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, Andrew Bynum and Marc Gasol, then we definitely are in an era when the center of attention isn't a center.

     A current and highly visible example of this de-emphasis in the position would be the United States Olympic team, which counts ex-Hornet Tyson Chandler as its only true center. Agreed that Chris Bosh or Howard would be on the team if they were notinjured, the loss of whom could put the Americans at a disadvantage against the likes of Spain or Brazil. But those teams must ask themselves who will defend a front line of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony? USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo stressed the point recently when he said: "I'll take versatility and athleticism and speed and quickness. That beats size all day long, because size alone can't get it done." Colangelo thinks the days of the traditional low-post center are gone, largely because there are so few talented bigs anymore.

     That all should be good news for the Hornets this season and beyond, as Demps and Williams appear to be building a team to fit the new pardigm. They have added players who have defensive quickness and shooting ability. If those ingredients can produce a championship, we will be celebrating another Olympic basketball title this summer while the Hornets will look back at the summer of 2012 as the year it all began.

by Jim W. Miller

Read his new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," which is now available in local bookstores and at his website: www.JWMillerSports.com



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