New Orleans Hornets forward David West(notes) went down with a knee injury on Thursday night, and all initial reports are far from promising. The former All-Star gruesomely twisted his left knee in a play that each member of the BDL staff hasn't seen out of choice, leaving the Hornets without their go-to rock at big forward.
This is terrible news for West, who learned that he will be out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL on Friday. The Xavier product has enjoyed a nearly malady-free career since his rookie season, and in his ostensible prime he was due to hit the open market during the next offseason (whenever that might fall, perhaps in the fall) as a free agent.
The Hornets? They probably just watched their chances at a second-round appearance go down the tubes, as well.
Because though this team makes its hay on the defensive end, West was this team's offensive rock. Chris Paul(notes) has come through with MVP-styled production for good chunks of this season, but he's also gone weeks at a time looking like an average player. And in the waning moments of games, it's been West's face-up game that has either kept the Hornets engaged in close contests, or helped them pull away. Paul, frankly, has been a disappointment in the clutch this season, though the Hornets (as has been the case for years) remain one of the better late-game offensive teams due in great part to West's versatile play on that end.
What happens next for New Orleans?
The team, luckily, is one of the few that actually goes deep in terms of scoring power forwards, one of the hardest roles to fill in this league. Carl Landry(notes) seemed to be a completely superfluous pickup last month when the Hornets dealt Marcus Thornton(notes) (a player New Orleans badly needed to play more, and a guard who has averaged nearly 22 points on 48 percent shooting in 15 games with Sacramento following the deal) to the Kings for his services. He'll be asked to step in as West's replacement, and though he won't be as good as West, he shouldn't be far off.
Because while Landry has had a rough go of things since being traded to the Kings 13 months ago, he's healthy and isn't far removed from acting as a B-level David West-type of sorts for the Houston Rockets. He's not a good defender, but he can score ably in several different ways, and can be counted on down the stretch of games in the same style as West. Landry doesn't have West's range in the post-up game, few do at his position, but his scoring will help a Hornets team that often struggles to find good looks at the hoop.
Landry is a terrible rebounder, and while West will never be confused with Wes Unseld in that regard, both Paul and Emeka Okafor(notes) will have to pick up the slack in that department with Landry playing heavy minutes. West is not the best defender out there, either, but the Hornets have still managed to rank sixth overall defensively despite his shortcomings in that area. Landry's worse, but I wouldn't expect New Orleans to fall off too much.
The team won't be as good, though, overall. Replacing an All-Star level player with a pretty good player at a truly important position hurts, and Landry's ascension to the starting lineup only means more minutes for people like Aaron Gray(notes) and D.J. Mbenga(notes). The D-League can help in that regard, but the team's already-dodgy bench will be taxed in West's absence.
New Orleans is currently a full game up on Memphis, working with the West's seventh seed. The Grizzlies are going through injury issues of their own with the news that Rudy Gay(notes) could be out until October after shoulder surgery, and the Houston Rockets (currently three full games in back of New Orleans) are improving by the week. The Hornets have already downed the Rockets in two out of three games this year, but the two squads pair up in the first week of April in what could be a huge game. Though Landry, a former Rocket, may want to take it to the team that dumped in Siberia Sacramento one year ago.
The playoffs are still likely in New Orleans' future. But one of the NBA's more underrated players will be missed, badly, as the Hornets attempt to right the ship using Chris Paul's one working leg. The Hornets can nearly keep up the team's winning ways, but it won't be easy.