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Preview: New Orleans Hornets (0-0) at Phoenix Suns (0-0)

New Orleans Hornets 85, Phoenix Suns 84

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The New Orleans Hornets could be battling this season just to keep their heads above water and out of the cellar in the Western Conference.

But even after the Chris Paul trade rocked the roster from the year prior, the Hornets don’t think they should be counted out, and they’ll get their first true test against the Phoenix Suns tonight at 7 p.m. in US Airways Center.

“I’m sure a lot of people are counting us out,” Hornets power forward Carl Landry told the Associated Press. “We’ve got guys that want to be good players in this league and they come and practice hard every day, and I’m sure it will have a carry-over into game situations.”

The Hornets don’t have anyone older than 29 on their roster nor a franchise player, but nonetheless, their revamped team could test the Suns, especially on the interior. New Orleans runs outs bruisers Landry and center Emeka Okafor along with former Los Angeles Clippers big man Chris Kaman.

Phoenix’s big men will be tested this game, and head coach Alvin Gentry is tasked with determining how to dole out minutes.

The improvement of Phoenix center Robin Lopez from last season will be put on display, as will the seriousness of a broken thumb to fellow center Marcin Gortat. The 7-footer said he’ll play despite not being able to dunk. He also told Paul Coro he has participated in all of the recent practices.

Channing Frye could slide to center, Coro writes, and in any instance rookie Markieff Morris will have an opportunity to get quality minutes from the start of the season.

“That’s what I’ve been working toward my whole life and now it’s finally here, and I’m ready to play,” Morris said on Media Day.

If the Suns clamp down with their interior defense and rebounding, that’s half of the battle, and they still won’t be able to rest easy. On defense, they’ll need to lock down guard Eric Gordon, the athletic combo guard who was also shipped to New Orleans in the Paul trade.

Likely it’ll be on Grant Hill, Josh Childress and Jared Dudley to limit Gordon, though Gentry could give Shannon Brown a number of minutes against a high-level athlete to see what one of the newest Suns can bring to the table.

Our preseason 5-on-5 preview presented a lot of “what ifs”, and tonight’s season opener against a youthful and reorganized Hornets squad might begin to spell out the answers.

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