Sacramento (14-20) at New Orleans (15-19)

Fair Currently: Norman, OK
Temp: 57° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Fri Jan 13, 2006
  • TV: CSCA
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The unexpected return of point guard Chris Paul gives the New Orleans Hornets some optimism as they adjust to another home arena.

The Hornets will play in their third home venue this season when they host the Sacramento Kings at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

The game was originally scheduled to be played in Baton Rouge, La., but the team was disappointed when only 7,302 fans showed up for a game there in December.

The Hornets, who are averaging close to 19,000 fans at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, explored other options to move the game back to Oklahoma. With the Ford Center already booked, the team opted to move the game to the University of Oklahoma’s on-campus facility.

Tickets have been discounted for fans, and those that attend will get to see Paul play his second game back after tearing a ligament in his right thumb last Friday against Portland.

Originally expected to miss two weeks, Paul participated in the morning shootaround before New Orleans’ game with Detroit on Tuesday and Hornets coach Byron Scott made the decision to play the rookie point guard. Paul, who leads all rookies with 16.2 points and 7.3 assists per game, only missed Saturday’s loss in Atlanta.

“He’s just a very competitive young man who wants to play,” said Scott, who was told by team doctors that Paul couldn’t damage the thumb any further by playing.

Paul had 13 points and five assists in his return, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Hornets from losing 96-86 to the Pistons.

“Today he showed a lot of character,” forward Desmond Mason said. “I knew he was a warrior, but I think he proved it to everybody by the way he played with an injury.”

The Hornets have followed a season-high three-game win streak with consecutive losses.

The Kings’ injury problems continue to mount but Sacramento still managed to beat Houston 88-80 on Wednesday night, avoiding a third straight loss.

The win came at a price, however, as Peja Stojakovic left the game after re-aggravating a protruding disc in his back. Brian Skinner also missed the game with the flu, and Bonzi Wells and Shareef Abdur-Rahim have missed multiple games due to injuries.

Stojakovic is listed as day-to-day. Kings coach Rick Adelman said he hopes the eight-year veteran can play Friday.

The Kings won Wednesday despite shooting only 42 percent and getting outrebounded 53-43.

“That’s something we haven’t found a way to do this year—win ugly games,” said Corliss Williamson, who scored 19 points. “This was an ugly one, but it was a good one.”

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