Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 1/26/12

The season continues to slip away from the scrappy and hard fighting Hornets as New Orleans dropped their 8th in a row to the powerhouse in the Oklahoma City Thunder by a score of 101-91.  The Hornets hung tough for most of the game, even cutting it to a two point deficit with 9 minutes left in the game but were unable to get any closer and faltered at the end. 

Once again leading the charge for New Orleans was Jarrett Jack, who continues to play out of his mind to pick up the offensive slack and keep this team in games.  With no real offensive threat on the team with Eric Gordon out with his knee problems, Jack is forced to become a scorer averaging 16.6 ppg this season which is good enough to land him in the top 5 in scoring among point guards.  Gustavo Ayon was a pleasant surprise on offense adding 16 points in only 17 minutes of playing time off the bench.  Carl Landry remains a decent offensive threat in scoring 15 points off the bench in 28 minutes.  The only other player to hit double digits in scoring was yet another bench player, Al-Farouq Aminu hit on 5 of his 6 attempts from the field for 11 points.  Aminu continues to slowly improve offensively, already a solid rebounder he still continues to struggle dribbling and handling the ball.

Xavier Henry finally made his way onto the court for his Hornets debut and scored his first point on a free throw, but struggled from the field going 1-5 for a total of 3 points in 13 minutes of playing time.  It was his first appearance, so it may take some time to adjust and get into the flow of the game to improve as the season goes along.  Trevor Ariza struggled his way to a mere 2 points on 1 of 8 shooting and was clearly frustrated and drew a technical foul in the 4th quarter.  Marco Belinelli had a quiet night with 4 points, and the other starter Jason Smith chipped in 8 points.  Emeka Okafor matched Smith’s 8 points, while pulling down a team high 8 rebounds.  The only other Hornet player that scored was reserve point guard Grievis Vasquez who added 4 points and dished out 3 assists.  DeJuan Summers only saw 1 minute of playing time and did not have any points, assists, or rebounds.  Inactive or did not play was C Chris Kamen, PG Squeaky Johnson, SG Trey Johnson, and of course the injured SG Eric Gordon.

Speaking of Eric Gordon, yestarday was the last day for the Hornets and Eric Gordon to come to an agreement for an extension.  Those talks failed and no extension was signed.  At this point in time there is no need to panic on Gordon’s long term future with the club, Eric has no problem staying with New Orleans long term and the front office was probably leary on handing out the league maximum right away.  So what this means is that Gordon now has three options in the future.  The first one is he could sign an offer sheet with another team during the offseason, the Hornets would be able to match any teams offer if they are looking to keep him which they more than likely would.  A second option would be for Gordon to sign a contract over the offseason.  This would make more sense as it is unlikely the team offered Eric anything above a 4 year 58 million dollar contract during the extension talks.  This gives the team a chance to allow the market to dictate his true price over the summer to find out what he is worth.  The third option would be for Gordon to sign a one year qualifying offer with the team to become an unrestricted free agent in 2012, this option would mean that he would lose out on millions and long term financial security to bolt from New Orleans.  It would seem obvious to me the Hornets want to keep Eric Gordon in New Orleans, and Gordon has stated he is interested in staying with the club so things should end up working out in the long run for both sides.

Staying on the topic of contracts, New Orleans has picked up the team options on point guard Grievis Vasquez and shooting guard Xavier Henry.  Vasquez has made an appearance in every game for the Hornets averaging 19 minutes, 5.5 ppg, and dishing out 3.1 assists per game.  Since Grievis is still under a rookie contract so he will make 1.19 million for the 2012-13 season, up from the 1.11 million he is making this season.  Henry falls under the same category, only he will make 2.32 million the 2012-13 season which is up from the 2.17 million he will make this season.  As stated since both are still under their rookie contracts the team will once again have the option to keep them for the 2013-14 season.

So now with the team sitting on a 3-15 record and in a battle with Charlotte, Washington, and Detroit for the worst record in the league the chances of a high lottery pick increase with each loss.  That means the time to look at potential players in the upcoming draft that could end up wearing the Creole blue uniform next season such as Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis, Jared Sullinger, and all the others in what appears to be a strong draft.  So coming soon I will take a look at many of these projected lottery picks and how they would fit in with the Hornets as they look forward to the future.  Also with the trade deadline coming up in March, the Hornets have plenty of trade pieces such as Chris Kaman, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, Jarrett Jack, and basically no one is untouchable as the team falls out of the playoff race and into the draft lottery race.  Not all the players will be traded and some less likely than others, but there is no doubt in my mind that teams will be calling Demps in the near future.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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