Chris Paul returns to Hornets, dozens cheer

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Does anyone even read this?

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Photographs by Jonathan Bachman

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OK, that headline is a bit misleading, but considering that the Hornets didn't announce Chris Paul would be playing until 90 minutes or so before tip-off and that attendance at the Hive was just over half-full, it sure seemed like no one's paying attention to this team (that and I hear the local pigskin club is making some noise in its league play).

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(At the sake of oversusing parentheses [and we can't have that, can we?] I have to say that, in all fairness to the Hornets, this season could turn out worse attendance numbers since this team made that magical run to No. 2 in the conference two years ago. At 8-11, this team isn't exactly a powerhouse and with the Saints undefeated playing right across the street, there's little reason to even pay attention to basketball right now. But mark my words, this team WILL come together and show their worth down the stretch, full Arena or not.)

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But such are the turns that are made during an 82-game season. Sure, Paul led the Hornets to a 98-89 win over the lowly, two-win Minnesota Timberwolves, but that was to be expected. The Hornets are at a precarious moment in their season. At just about a quarter of the way through the season, this is a team that is still searching for an identity. For starters, they could think about showing consistent effort on rebounds (they gave up 20 second-chance points and collected just seven offensive rebounds off of 39 missed shots).

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"We just didn't finish plays," David West said afterwards. "Sometimes it's just concentrating on finishing possessions. We gotta continue to improve and we will."

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Seems like we've been hearing that same quote for over a year, so should Hornets fans be worried? With all the new faces and with Jeff Bower stepping in as head coach, it seems like a rebuilding year at the Hive and that's not far from the truth. Except for one caveat - for Bower, he gets one chance. Right now he seems like a man on the edge of something; be it a breakout season or a complete disentegration is too hard to tell. But while inconsistent play may drive fans batty, Bower continues to approach each day with patience and resolve.

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"We were able to play through some things in our line-up. I'm not going to lie, I had reservations about changing our line-up in the second quarter line-up in the beginning but decided to let them play through it and am happy with the decision."

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Another line we've heard before. Or is it? Byron Scott used to love to just let his players try and figure things out when really they needed a coach. Jeff Bower, though, sees that he can only coach 'em so much and there are appropriate times to let his players work out the kinks. The Hornets are growing as a team -- it can be seen in their growing mutual trust on the floor and how they carry themselves in the locker room -- but as to how quickly and how far they will grow is anybody's guess. With Paul back in the mix, this team has the opportunity to do great things, only time will tell if they can come through.

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