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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, October 31st (All times eastern)

Sacramento Kings (0-0) at New Orleans Hornets (0-0), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Hornets open their 2007-08 seasons tonight at New Orleans Arena.

The Hornets are back in New Orleans for their first full season since the city was crushed by Hurricane Katrina. They relocated to Oklahoma City for two seasons after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast region in August 2005.

New Orleans has not qualified for the playoffs the last three years. This season could be different, as the Hornets have a deep, talented roster that wants to prove it can compete with the best. Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic headline a talented Hornets' roster. Add forward David West and swingman Morris Peterson to the mix, and this is a team that should be in the thick of the playoff race in 2007-08.

Paul is one of the most dynamic players in the league. The Wake Forest product can score and is excellent at creating opportunities for his teammates. The 2005-06 Rookie of the Year, Paul averaged 17.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and a team-best 8.9 assists in 64 games.

Chandler was a monster on the boards in 2006-07 for the Hornets, who finished 39-43 and were three games behind the Golden State Warriors for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference. The 6-11 Chandler posted 9.5 points and a team-high 12.4 rebounds per game.

New Orleans dealt with its share of injuries during the 2006-07 campaign, as Stojakovic, who was playing in his first season with the club, missed 69 games and West was sidelined for 30. Bobby Jackson was out for 26, Paul 18 and Chandler nine. West averaged a club-high 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds, while Stojakovic netted 17.8 per game in the 13 contests he participated in.

Head coach Byron Scott is back for his fourth season on the Hornets' bench. Scott guided the club to a dismal 18-64 record 2004-05 and 38-44 mark in 2005-06. Injuries hurt the Hornets big time last season, but Scott did a good job keeping the team in playoff hunt until the final week of the season.

Peterson and big man Melvin Ely signed with the club as free agents during the offseason, while forward Brandon Bass and swingman Desmond Mason left through free agency. Jannero Pargo re-signed and the team added Kansas forward Julian Wright with the 13th overall pick on draft night.

The Hornets will host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday before embarking on a three-game road trip. They will visit Denver, the Lakers and Portland on the upcoming swing.

A new chapter is set to begin in Sacramento. Reggie Theus, who played 4 1/2 of his 13 seasons in the NBA with the Kings, was introduced as Sacramento's new head coach on June 21st. Theus, who coached the previous two years at New Mexico State, led the Aggies to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999 this past season.

A former NBA guard, Theus replaced Eric Musselman, who was relieved of his duties on April 20th after just one season as the general of the Kings. Prior to his time at New Mexico State, Theus spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Louisville under Rick Pitino.

In 2006-07, the Kings finished a disappointing 33-49, and didn't qualify for the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Sacramento's poor performance forced management to make Musselman's tenure a short one.

Point guard Mike Bibby, who was the subject of trade rumors during the summer, averaged 17.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. The Arizona product, who was the only King to play in all 82 regular-season games in 2006-07, still could be moved in a trade because of his contract.

Bibby tore a ligament in his left thumb during a team practice on October 25th and will likely be out for six-to-10 weeks.

Kevin Martin had a breakout season. The 6-7 guard led the Kings in scoring (20.7 ppg), pulled down 4.3 boards and shot 47.3 percent from the field, including 38.1 percent from beyond the arc. Martin was one of the few bright spots during a very disappointing campaign.

The volatile Ron Artest ended with averages of 18.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 70 outings, while center Brad Miller and forward Shareef Abdur- Rahim had disappointing seasons.

Artest will miss the first seven games of the campaign as he received a suspension from the league for pleading no contest to infliction of injury on a spouse stemming from a domestic dispute in March in Placer County, California. At the time, Artest was suspended indefinitely by the Kings and later fined $600, ordered to get counseling, conduct 100 hours of community service and take part in a 10-day work project.

During the offseason, Sacramento drafted Washington center Spencer Hawes, who is out indefinitely after having arthroscopic left knee surgery, with the 10th overall pick, and signed free agent big man Mikki Moore, who registered career-highs in points (9.8 ppg) and rebounds (5.1 rpg) for New Jersey in 2006-07, to a contract.

Veteran forward Corliss Williamson opted to retire, while free agent guard Ronnie Price inked a deal with the Utah Jazz.

Sacramento is scheduled to visit San Antonio on Friday and Dallas on Saturday, before returning home for its home opener against the Seattle SuperSonics.

The Kings have dropped five in a row on the road against the Hornets.

10/31 10:43:14 ET


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