COMMENTARY | As the 2012-13 New Orleans Hornets continue to struggle through this rebuilding season, fans are looking for anything on which to build for the future. Like most of this season, the Hornets played with a maddening degree of inconsistency in the month of February. After falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Hornets finished the month with a 5-8 record.
Take a look back at the New Orleans Hornets' highs and lows during the month of February.
Prior to the NBA All-Star break, New Orleans defeated the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers by an average margin of victory of 27.5 points. These strong outings in February were made all the more impressive by the fact that Eric Gordon didn't play in either contest. Whether the Hornets trade Gordon in the offseason or he misses time due to injury, it was a great confidence boost for New Orleans to play so well without him.
Although Anthony Davis and particularly Austin Rivers struggled early on, both showed marked improvement in February. While Davis' statistics had been good early in the season, he appeared to be more acclimated in the Hornets' offense this month. Rivers became a much more effective passer in February and his great effort on defense stood out as other Hornets' guards struggled defensively.
Greivis Vasquez continued to pad his resume in February for the NBA's 2013 Most Improved Player Award. Vasquez increased his margin as the NBA leader in assists. He also temporarily moved into second place in assists per game. Vasquez even leads the NBA in double-doubles among guards. Although he lacks the quickness of other point guards and still must improve on defense, Vasquez's positives far outweigh his negatives for New Orleans.
In the 13 games the Hornets played in February, opponents reached 100 points eight times. New Orleans looks like it has the skinniest big men in the NBA, which doesn't bode for rebounding and defending the lane. This weakness necessitates Hornets guards to play help defense, which leads to open perimeter shots. In a game in late February, New Orleans allowed the Brooklyn Nets to shoot 12-20 on three-pointers.
The Hornets also failed to close out several tight winnable games in February. Many people thought Eric Gordon would help New Orleans in this regard, but that hasn't materialized to a large degree. The Hornets actually lost a game in February in which they led the Dallas Mavericks by four points with under a minute left. Next season, New Orleans needs to acquire a veteran who is a proven winner to help the Hornets win close games.
After winning four of five going into the All-Star break, the Hornets finished February by losing five of their next six. This has led some fans to start looking ahead to the draft and projecting how many Ping-Pong balls New Orleans will have in the hopper. The fact that the Hornets held on to their most difficult strength of schedule ranking in February didn't help matters either.
As the NBA trade deadline passed in February, the Hornets did not trade Eric Gordon. Throughout February, Gordon continued to miss the second game of every back-to-back, complained of a sore back, and missed a game due to a sprained wrist. Late in the month, he had several great first half performances only to disappear in the second half. Hopefully, New Orleans makes a wise decision in regards to Gordon's future in the offseason.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. Patrick has followed the Hornets since they moved to New Orleans and has covered the team since 2010. He was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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