SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Hornets coach Byron Scott didn't like the question. He liked his answer even less. Life was hard on the Hornets when four of their top six players struggled simultaneously with injuries. Our question: How hard would life have been had the Hornets not acquired free agent guard Devin Brown? "Oh, man,” said Scott, shaking his head. "I don't even want to think about it. We would have been struggling big-time.” Our query was posed about 90 minutes before Chris Paul returned to the court after missing 17 games. At that moment, the Hornets had won 19 games. Scott rattled some numbers through his head. "We might be at 14 wins (without Brown),” Scott surmised. "Who knows?” Without Brown, the Hornets might have entered Monday night's game at Sacramento with a 16-31 record. Instead they entered 21-26 and just three games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. For one player to be the difference between winning and losing in five games would be a significant total for one season. In Scott's estimation, Brown had made that amount of difference in his first 20 games. Not bad for a guy who waited 2½ months for the phone to ring inside his San Antonio home. "He's proven he definitely can play and definitely belongs in the NBA,” Hornets guard Bobby Jackson said. "As a player, I know it (stinks) when you know you can play, but nobody calls you.” Brown was simply caught in a numbers game before the season began. Brown had signed as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, but a 7:30 a.m. wake-up call the day after media day informed Brown he had been put on the waiver wire. The Warriors has a slew of guards with lengthy contracts. It was the wrong place at the wrong time for Brown. The Hornets had considered acquiring Brown last summer, but also were full at the position after re-signing Rasual Butler and acquiring Jackson and Peja Stojakovic. Quality NBA players stay on the waiver wire for one day, maybe two. Brown remained there for 80 days before signing with the depleted Hornets on Dec. 22. He has averaged 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists and had started 14 of 23 games since joining the team. When opportunity knocked, Brown pounced. "You want to come in and do anything you can,” Brown said. "I wanted to show him (Scott) that I was thankful of that. I just want to do things to make him keep me out there.” Brown had just two games with the Hornets before Paul was lost with a severely sprained ankle. While on the mend, Paul sat and watched a free agent come to the rescue. "Devin has just been a huge asset to this team,” Paul said. "He's a guy who just goes out and does what he has to do to help us win. He plays hard every night. He just knows what it takes to win.” In a season filled with new faces, it's the newest team member who has helped the Hornets save face. "He's given us such a big lift,” Scott said. "You think about if we hadn't signed him, where we would be.”
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