Blazers/Hornets Pre-Thoughts

BA-TUM, shake shake shake the room. VIVE LA FRANCE!!!!!!

Per Joe Freeman’s tweets, Nic Batum is listed as ‘probable’ and is a gametime decision for sure, for sure going to make his season debut against the Hornets. To me this is the news du jour (get it because he’s French) as the return of Batum will help the Blazers in ways we all are not quite ready to understand yet. I’m just interested in seeing him play, because to tell the truth…I almost forgot what he can do. Remember all that talk about how much he improved in the off-season, we don’t know what Frenchie has in him. This may be the perfect environment to see his aggression with Brandon Roy out of the lineup. That being said, just about any news regarding this team getting healthier and stronger is good news. Jerryd Bayless is listed as a gametime decision, but Freeman reported that Steve Blake will start regardless. Fun fact: the Blazers are 8-2 when Blake and Andre Miller start together.

All of that news, leads us to tonight’s game between the Blazers and the New Orleans Hornets. A game in which I guarantee the city of New Orleans will not give one hoot about. Seriously, the only Hornets fans who might care about this one are people not from Louisiana. The Hornets refuse to leave the Western Conference playoff race. After an ugly, ugly start that led to Byron Scott getting canned for Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura (I know that’s an old joke but it’s still hilarious) the Hornets have bounced back. Only 3 games out of the #8 spot, New Orleans is 9-4 in the month of January and beginning to show some signs of life. Their biggest problem? They are awful on the road. Coming into tonight they boast a 7-16 record away from N’Awlins and have lost 7 of their last 8 road games. That being said, they are still dangerous. The Ghost of Chris Paul continues to haunt me and it should haunt all Blazer fans. Yeah….I said it. Sorry Martell, but damn. CP3 is putting up some staggeringly under appreciated numbers: 19.9 PPG, 11.2 assists per game, 4.5 boards, 2.2 steals, shooting 49% from the field and only averages a couple turnovers a game. Even more impressive when you consider a few of his main offensive weapons include Darius Songaila and Devin Brown. The other major key to the Hornets is David West. He has proven in the past that he can put up big numbers against the Blazers. Over the past couple years or so, the winner of the West/LaMarcus Aldridge battle has usually seen their team leave with a victory. He is however probable with an ankle injury, and if he is out the Blazers obviously have a much better chance at winning. Don’t believe me? David West or Darius Songaila? Exactly.

The rest of the cupboard is pretty bare when it comes to Hornets. A bunch of capable players, but not consistent enough to put it together every night. Marcus Thornton’s ability to get hot (and the 20 points he dropped on Portland in NO) scares me a little bit but who knows if he’ll play. If West is out the Blazers for once won’t be facing an elite frontline. I like Pendergraph/Howard/Cunningham going against the Songaila’s and Sean Marks of the world. It  could be an explosion of hustle in the paint though. Truth be told, without West the Hornets should not be able to score a lot of points. Locking down Stojakovic and Okafor becomes huge if West is out.

Keys to the game

Crash the boards: Without David West, New Orleans just lost to Denver in a game in which they got out-rebounded 61-37. They also gave up 20 offensive rebounds. If he misses tonight’s game, this is a team that can get punished on the boards. I expect LaMarcus Aldridge to go into beast mode and will be disappointed if he does not.

Another big night from LMA?: LaMarcus Aldridge has actually responded quite well to the criticisms of his season being disappointing. Over the past 6 games, LMA is averaging 20 points, 10.5 rebounds and is shooting 52% from the field. He should be able to have a big night on the boards. We’ll see how he handles the physical play of Songaila and Okafor. He could be in store for a big night.

Make CP3 into either a scorer or a distrubtor, not both: The Hornets are 12-8 when CP3 has a double-double (points/assists). If the Blazers allow him to go off for his points and create for his teammates, we’re in deep trouble. New Orleans does not have many guys who can create their own offense, so not allowing CP3 to create for them is a must. I’ll take him dropping 30 with 5 assists. 32 and 11….yikes.

Win the energy battle: This is a matchup that on paper could finally be somewhat favorable towards Portland. It will result in a loss if that energy, heart and hustle that we’ve had of late doesn’t appear tonight. It’d be a shame to take a step backwards in this category.

Very interested to see Batum back in the lineup and how it could possibly affect Rudy/Martell. I’m sure he’ll only play limited minutes, but still will be great for him to be back in the lineup. Also interested to see how Portland responds to not having Brandon Roy in a situation where they are not facing a sort of manufactured adversity. By that I mean either a tough opponent (Boston, Orlando) or a road game. They are at home, in comfortable surroundings, facing a team they can beat. I want to see how this team reacts.

Topics: Batum Return, Brandon Roy, Jerryd Bayless, LaMarcus Aldridge, Martell Webster, New Orleans, New Orleans Hornets, Nic Batum, Nic Batum Debut, Nicholas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers, Rudy Fernandez, Steve Blake

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