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Old 08-31-2009, 03:16 PM   #1
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Default look to Okafor to help team return to glory

The way Jeff Bower explains it, all the Hornets did was take a shortcut. The one-time salary dump of Tyson Chandler that turned into a salary grab in Emeka Okafor isn't as confusing as it appears. The end game was always the same.

"When you look at it you start to understand it a little bit more," the New Orleans general manager said. "The trade during the season was made to bring in two additional players [Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox] into the frontline and we felt that they would help us improve our depth and our team at that moment. They also would have had provided us with flexibility this summer for free agency, knowing we would have had a need at that position."

Had the Hornets moved Chandler to Oklahoma City during the season -- a deal rescinded after the center flunked his physical -- it would have opened up room this summer to bring in someone of Okafor's caliber. Bower ended up skipping the middle man to get another man in the middle.

Considering the investment in Okafor and the Hornets' tenuous place in the Western Conference food chain, Bower hopes it's the right man in the middle. The same goes for Chris Paul and David West. After the surprise run of 2007-08 that culminated with a 56-26 record, Southwest Division title and trip to the West semifinals, injuries and uncertainty tripped New Orleans up last season.

The team fell to seventh in the West at 49-33 and was humiliated in the first round by Denver. The five-game romp featured an all-time franchise low, a 58-point beatdown at home in Game 4. The momentum from the season before had dried up.

Okafor signals a new direction.
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