Hornets expect West back
By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer
3 hours, 24 minutes ago
NEW ORLEANS (AP)—A hard shot to David West’s ailing back finished him for the fourth quarter of the Hornets’ blowout loss at San Antonio in Game 6.
Game 7 on Monday night is another matter entirely.
One day of rest proved enough for the Hornets’ All-Star forward to get back on the court for Saturday’s practice, working on his game-changing array of mid-range jumpers, fadeaways and post-up moves.
That was a relief to teammates, who were understandably concerned when West was face-down on the court in San Antonio on Thursday night, his left arm bent awkwardly over his lower back, after a hard screen set from behind by Spurs veteran Robert Horry.
“If you come to practice and one of your best players is hurt, and you see him out here getting some shots up, that’s the sign of a warrior,” Hornets guard Morris Peterson said. “That’s a sign of somebody who is putting the team in front of himself. That’s the kind of guy he is. It did feel good to see him out there. It gave guys more confidence that he’s going to play Monday.”
With both teams taking Friday off, Horry was greeted on Saturday with lingering questions about his motives for the hard foul that resulted in West being helped to the locker room with team personnel propping him up from each side.
Although West had not played well to that point in Game 6, going 4-for-14 for 10 points, he had dominated the Spurs in the Hornets’ Game 5 victory in New Orleans on Tuesday, playing through a pinched nerve in his back while reaching playoff career highs of 38 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots.
There was no doubting that a hard foul on West could provide an edge to the Spurs in Game 7. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Horry—while never known as a dirty player during most of his 16-year career—got thrown out of a game during last year’s playoffs for a hockey-style check that sent Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash crashing horizontally into the scorer’s table.
“It all stems from what happened with Steve Nash and that situation,” Horry said. “But you know, I didn’t know his back was hurt. I just thought he had tweaked something. … If he would have got up, this question would be moot right now. You wouldn’t be asking me this question. But since his back is hurt— it was just a regular back pick, he fell down and it hurt his back.”
Horry and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich both noted that Horry’s foul on West was no harder a hit than Hornets center Tyson Chandler’s backside pick on Spurs guard Tony Parker earlier in the series. In both cases, the hits likely would have been legal had Horry or Chandler stood still or fell back and absorbing the contact. Instead, they each leaned forward to ensure the opposing player took the brunt of the collision. Parker also went down hard, but was not injured on the play.
“Very silly,” Popovich said of the scrutiny given to Horry’s hit on West. “It’s nothing. Just like the back pick that Chandler put on Parker. … It was just a basketball play. I just think it’s typical of where we live. This is our country. We’re sensationalistic, we look for things, we have to have stories.”
The Spurs’ coach, known for sporadic surliness and sarcasm, added: “We’re maybe the dirtiest team in the NBA. We always have been. We’ve been known for that. … We wear black.”
A team spokesman said West needed to meet his wife right after practice, so he was not available to talk with reporters. Hornets coach Byron Scott had reviewed Horry’s foul on tape but declined to offer his opinion on whether it was clean, deferring to NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson, the league’s disciplinarian.