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Tonight the Grizzlies play a team in the New Orleans Hornets which has a distincitve Memphis air to it. Mainly because the Hornets have traded for Greivis Vasquez and Xavier Henry in the last month, both former 1st round picks of the Grizzlies.

Helping us break down the Hornets, who also traded their All-Pro PG to the Clippers for a bunch of young talent, is Ryan Schwan from Hornets 247, an ESPN TrueHoop Network blog, and Rohan from At the Hive.

The Hornets are chasing the Rockets and Grizzlies for 3rd place in the always competitive Southwest Division. However there has been suggestions by many people, including some of the blogger we’ve talked to, that the Hornets may be better served by losing rather than winning. That topic as well as the ownership issue in New Orleans are discussed today.

1) The Hornets have two former 1st round draft picks of the Grizzlies in Xavier Henry and Greivis Vaquez. What are their roles on the Hornets and how have they been playing?

Ryan Schwan: Xavier Henry hasn’t played at all yet, though I believe the plan is to have him compete with the inconsistent Belinelli for minutes at the Shooting Guard.  Vazquez, however, is getting backup minutes both at the point guard, next to Jarrett Jack and at the Shooting Guard, next to D-League refugee PG “Squeaky” Johnson.  He an Squeaky keep trading the honor of being the best true point guard on a team that struggles to score.  The team’s offense does become slightly better with Vazquez running the point – but the stingy defense, which gives the Hornets their only chance to win – does fall off.

Rohan: Vasquez has served as the primary bench playmaker, backing up Jarrett Jack. On the early season, his shooting has been pretty dreadful (34%), but he’s also been able to get teammates involved often enough to be valuable (30% assist rate). Henry is yet to suit up for New Orleans due to his pre-existing injury, though when he makes it back on the court, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to make the backup swingman role his.

2) After the big CP3 deal, are you more pleased or less by the direction the team is going?

Ryan: No, I’m not really pleased with the way the team is going.  The idea of tanking is the correct one.  If the League isn’t going to let the Hornets trade for players that would keep them in the playoffs, then they should hit the restart switch.  The problem is the team, as constructed right now, isn’t bad enough to get a top 5 pick.  In a deep draft like this one, it’s not as bad, but the Hornets do need to move a few of its veteran players for minor draft assets and work at tanking a little harder.

Rohan: I’m pleased. The only way for a small market NBA team to build a title winner is via the draft; in choosing the Clippers’ trade over the Lakers’ offer, David Stern essentially advocated that viewpoint as well. The 2012 draft will be critical to the long term future of the franchise, but I certainly am heartened by the pieces that exist outside the draft itself – specifically Eric Gordon (who’s currently hurt) and Monty Williams’ defensive scheming ability.

3) What is the outlook for the Hornets, are they moving or finding a local owner?

From everything we hear, there is a ton going on behind the scenes, and the spin we get is very optimistic.  Every few weeks we hear that the team should be sold shortly, but nothing concrete is offered yet.  There are some other good things, though.  The team reached it’s goal of 10k season tickets.  The lease is being re-worked to no longer have that odious clause that draws attention to attendance.  The team has only a couple hefty, long-term contracts, and that would make it more attractive to buyers.  In all, the news is trending the way Hornets fans would want, but until the owner is decided on, it’s hard to get excited about anything.

Rohan: Stern’s plan since December 2010 has been to find a local owner committed to keeping the team in New Orleans through the new Arena lease agreement. That lease agreement looks to be finalized some time in the next couple months and would definitely be a significant step towards keeping the Hornets in NOLA long-term. Unfortunately, the ownership situation itself still looks a bit muddled.

Local businessman Gary Chouest was on the verge of buying the team last summer, only to see the deal fall apart due to a lack of minority buyer support. It’s unclear where he currently stands, and so the impending Arena lease agreement will be the first of a set of dominoes that falls in New Orleans. Stern has been adamant, though, that he wants to keep the team in the city so I don’t think we’ll get much serious “move” talk unless things really begin to sour.

3 Shades of Blue appreciates these informed opinions from some die-hard fans of the Hornets. Since the Grizzlies and Hornets play three more times this season if anyone has questions feel free to post them in the comments section and we will attempt to get the answers


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