Replacing Chris Paul(notes) is not a simple task, but rookie point guard Darren Collison(notes) has done an effective job of leading the New Orleans Hornets while the three-time All-Star has been injured.
With Paul out indefinitely with a left knee injury that will likely require surgery, Collison will get another chance to guide the Hornets past the Phoenix Suns on Monday night at New Orleans Arena.
An MRI revealed more damage to Paul’s knee than the initial diagnosis of a bruise, Hornets coach Jeff Bower said Monday. The coach refused, however, to confirm reports that Paul had a meniscus tear and would miss at least a month.
“We’re in fact-finding stages right now, gathering as much information as possible for decisions to be made to take the next steps,” Bower said. “It is likely there will be a surgical solution for it. We don’t have a timetable (for Paul’s return) right now, nor do we know a surgical procedure right now.”
Paul initially hurt his left knee Wednesday against Golden State, then aggravated the injury by colliding with a camera on the final play of regulation in a loss to Chicago on Friday. With Paul sidelined Saturday, Collison had 17 points and a franchise rookie-record 18 assists as New Orleans (26-21) overcame a 21-point third-quarter deficit to defeat Memphis 109-102 in overtime.
The victory moved the Hornets ahead of the Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff Western Conference playoff spot.
Paul, who leads the league with 11.2 assists per game, set the previous rookie mark of 16 against the Warriors on April 5, 2006.
“I give credit to (Paul),” Collison said. “I get the chance to watch him every day in the pick-and-roll. I was being a lot more aggressive in the pick-and-roll finding my gaps.”
Collison averaged 14.9 points and 6.4 assists as New Orleans went 4-4 without Paul, who was out with a sprained left ankle, from Nov. 14-Dec. 1. Collison had 15 points, five assists and five rebounds in a 110-103 victory over the visiting Suns on Nov. 19.
While New Orleans tries to avoid losing two in a row at home for just the second time, Phoenix (28-21) continues its four-game trip by looking to build on its first road win since Jan. 5.
Sparked by Amare Stoudemire’s season-high 36 points and 11 rebounds and 11 points and 16 assists from fellow All-Star starter Steve Nash(notes), the Suns snapped a five-game road skid with Sunday’s 115-111 overtime victory against Houston. Phoenix had dropped 12 of 13 on the road.
“A lot of things didn’t go our way, and we found a way to hang around and get it done,” Nash said. “On the road, the way we’ve lost a lot of games like that this year, to have the toughness to continue and find different ways to win the game was exciting.”
Stoudemire, who led eight Suns in double figures with 21 points in a 124-104 home win over the Hornets on Nov. 11, averaged 27.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in his last three games in New Orleans.
Stojakovic averaged 22.3 points and shot 55.2 percent from 3-point range in the Suns’ last three visits to New Orleans Arena.
The Hornets have won four of five at home against Phoenix.