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Copperhead 11-11-2010 01:40 PM

Hornets bench

The bench has been coming through so far for the New Orleans Hornets

After struggling throughout the preseason, the emergence of the New Orleans Hornets' reserves has been vital in the team's 3-0 start.

They have been able to maintain leads and beat teams in transition and defend in much the same manner as the starters. It has allowed Hornets Coach Monty Williams to confidently extend his rotation; he's played all 12 players in two of the first three games and 11 in the other.

Willie Green has been a defensive stopper at both guard spots. Guard Marcus Thornton has emerged as the team's third-leading scorer with an 11.7 average.

Backup center D.J. Mbenga, a 7-footer, had three blocks in Saturday night's 99-90 victory against the San Antonio Spurs. Forward Jason Smith has emerged as a midrange scoring threat and effective rebounder. Guard Jerryd Bayless continues to adjust to new teammates after coming from the Portland Trail Blazers in an Oct. 23 trade, but he is one of the team's quickest players.

"I think it starts in practice, going hard against the starting five and carrying that over into games, " Green said. "We have a lot of guys who can come in and play multiple positions. But our main focus is being aggressive all over the court."

With his backups excelling, Williams has not had to overextend starters Chris Paul and David West. Both are averaging fewer than 36 minutes per game.


Play of the New Orleans Hornets bench has been key in the perfect start

In the recent past, there have been times when the New Orleans Hornets’ bench could go several games without scoring 30 points.

On Tuesday night, reserves put up that number in the fourth quarter.

If there has been any reason for New Orleans’ bolting out of the starting blocks with an unblemished 7-0 record, other than its new defensive mindset, it has been the play of the subs, an area initially thought to be deficient.

The Hornets took steps to address that perceived weak link almost until the opening tip of the regular season, making trades to acquire Willie Green and Jason Smith from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Darius Songaila and rookie Craig Brackins, then dealing a future first-round draft choice to Portland for Jerryd Bayless five days before opening night.

Those transactions are now reaping huge dividends, and never was that more evident than Tuesday night when Green and Bayless combined for 26 fourth-quarter points, allowing Coach Monty Williams the luxury of keeping workhorse point guard Chris Paul out of the game for the final 14 minutes, 19 seconds as the Hornets improved upon their best start in franchise history.

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