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News » POWER POINT


POWER POINT


POWER POINTLAFAYETTE

last season's playoffs, Denver Nuggets guards Dahntay Jones and Chauncey Billups aggressively bumped Hornets point guard Chris Paul and hemmed him in on one side of the court.

Worn down by the Nuggets' incessant physical play, Paul could not assert himself and was flustered as New Orleans bowed out 4-1 in the first-round series.

But any point guard who thinks the tactics Jones and Billups used will work again might be in for a surprise this season.

Paul, who averaged 22.8 points and led the league in assists with an 11.0 average last season, spent the offseason going through an extensive weight-training and conditioning program.

He went back to his Washington, D.C-based trainers who helped him get ready for his first NBA season in 2005-06, when he won the league's Rookie of the Year award. He went back to flipping heavy medicine balls over his head and lifting dumbbells until his arms hurt.

"We're not blind to the fact that teams try to trap and not let you get the ball," said Paul, who's listed at 6 feet and 175 pounds, a few pounds heavier than his rookie season. "Everybody on our team should have a chip on the shoulder. It wasn't about them (Nuggets) beating me up physically. We lost as a team, and they beat us in rebounding, but now it's behind us, and we have to get ready for this season."

After the first week of training camp in Lafayette, it didn't take long for Paul's teammates to notice his improved strength. Several Hornets said they had difficult times jockeying with Paul for position.

During Saturday's scrimmage, Paul was positioned on the wing and fought off forward James Posey, who's listed at 6-8 and 217 pounds, to get open.

In training camp, Paul has fought through screens better than last season, Hornets Coach Byron Scott said. Scott said when his star player gets bumped hard on drives, he withstands the contact instead of falling to the floor.

"He definitely looks stronger, and it looks like he was working all summer long," said Hornets forward Peja Stojakovic, who's been Paul's teammate the past three seasons. "When I spoke to him, he was working on his flexibility and strength. He's dedicated as always. You see him on the court, and he's the first one out there and the last one leaving."

With improved depth, especially at the point guard with first-round draft pick Darren Collison and Bobby Brown, Scott said Paul will not average 38.5 minutes a game, as he did last season. To better utilize Paul's increased strength, Scott said he plans to play him off the ball more to give him more opportunities to attack from other areas besides the backcourt.

"Chris has been able to hold his ground more (in the post)," Scott said. "He has such a low level of gravity that it makes it hard to post him up. It's probably the most serious that I've seen him. He's never been about individual achievements; the thing he told me this summer is that he wants to win a championship. That's all he talked about."

Shooting guard Morris Peterson traveled to Winston Salem, N.C., twice this summer to work out with Paul. The workouts were both challenging and extensive, Peterson said.

"There were a couple of times when I stepped out of Chris' house before going to the gym, and it was still dark outside," Peterson said. "We got some guys that are hungry, and we're all pushing each other. Chris has definitely got stronger. We did our bench-press test, and he did pretty well. You have to do weight training to hold up for a long season. That's something I did when I was at Michigan State."

Paul said he plans to continue working to maintain his strength for the entire season.

"I've been pretty successful after my first four seasons, but I still haven't won a championship," Paul said. "If that means I got to get to practice early or be harder on myself, than that's what I'm going to do."

. . . . . . .

John Reid can be reached at jreid@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3407.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 5, 2009

 

 
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