Elite playerThunder coach P.J. Carlesimo said Chris Paul is one of the most difficult defensive match-ups in the league because he can shoot 3-pointers, penetrate and score or penetrate and dish. "He runs the pick-and-roll as well as anyone in the league other than maybe Steve (Nash),” Carlesimo said. "I put them 1-2. Their decision making is so good it’s unbelievable. He and Steve are both pass-first guys, but they can also score and play for teams well constructed for their talents.”
WELCOME BACKThe Hornets received a large ovation in pre-game warm-ups. The loudest reception for either team was Chris Paul. "That was great,” said New Orleans coach Byron Scott. "That shows they still think about us here. I know we think about them. We had a great time here. The fans were unbelievable. My wife still talks about how great it was here. It’s something that will be with us the rest of our lives.”
SWIFT SIDELINEDThunder center Robert Swift, suffering from back spasms, didn’t suit out for Friday’s game. The injury occurred sometime Friday. Swift has appeared in seven games, starting four. He has averaged 3.7 points and 6.3 rebounds, including a career-high 13 rebounds against New York.
BACK-TO-BACKThe Thunder and Hornets will play again tonight in New Orleans. "Everything is equal,” Carlesimo said. "The travel and preparation are the same. The scouting report, they already know the personnel, but we’ll break the film down on the plane there. If you play a back-to-back it’s easier to play the same team.”
Hill to TulsaThe Thunder has assigned Steven Hill to the Tulsa 66ers in the NBA Development League. The 7-foot Hill has played in only one regular season game. The Branson, Mo., product played at Arkansas.
WILKINS PLAYING MOREDamien Wilkins started 31 games last season in Seattle, averaging a career high 9.2 points. The Georgia product played little the first two weeks but is in the rotation with Desmond Mason, who is sidelined by an elbow injury. Wilkins responded with 17 points against the Clippers. "It wasn’t anything that I had done wrong,” Wilkins said. "That’s what coach told me. I just (try) to stay professional, stay in shape and keep my game sharp. You never know when an opportunity like this may come. It’s a long season. Things happen. It’s important for me to be ready.” BY MIKE BALDWIN