Without question, the Hornets are the most exciting sports team in the entire city of New Orleans [please fact check this before publishing], despite occupying the cellar of the Southwest Division. But if the Hornets were in the Eastern Conference, they'd be a fifth seed in the playoff hunt. (This handy stat illustrates how competitive the Southwest Division can be, and how my little sister's rec league team could make the playoffs out East.)
It seems as if the Hornets are the NBA equivalent of a McMansion purchased with a toxic subprime loan fished out of Countrywide Financial's dumpster. The team seemed like a great idea in 2007-08, when their expensive roster narrowly missed an appearance in the Western Conference Finals before falling to the Spurs. But now the Hornets are getting close to a NBA foreclosure, and no one is going to bail this team out. During this past offseason New Orleans had to trim some payroll fat in order to limbo under the $69.9 million luxury tax line, but the team is still not there. While they might never swap Chris Paul for Steve Blake and a bag of game-used towels (reason #9862415 why I am not a NBA GM), the team does have all-star forward David West permanently on the trading block and will most likely make some sort of move before the deadline.
Meanwhile the Blazers have had more luck in New Orleans than a frat boy with a fistful of beads at Mardi Gras (classy!), as Chris Paul has suffered various untimely injuries in Portland's previous two victories on the Hornets' home court. At the Rose Garden, it's been even better—Portland was won six of the past seven meetings between these two teams at home. Paul took an elbow to the eye during Friday's victory over Minnesota—he might be forced to wear Slick Rick's jeweled eye patch (not confirmed)—but he will play. West is day-to-day with a sprained left ankle and will be a game time decision, as is Jerryd Bayless for Portland.
But that is not the biggest news on the injury front: Nicolas Batum is back. 45 games into the season the former starter and defensive linchpin is ready to play his first minutes. Although he's officially a game time call for Coach McMillan, Batum is convinced that he is ready. Considering how this season has gone for Portland, it's a strange sensation to hear about players getting healthy, instead of just leaving for extended periods of time. Welcome back, Frenchman.