Suns-Hornets Preview

Although the New Orleans Hornets are coming off the worst

January in the franchise’s 24-year history, facing a Phoenix Suns

team that might be without Steve Nash could help them open February

on a positive note.

The Hornets try to put a dismal month behind them Wednesday

night when they host the Suns.

New Orleans (4-17) won two of its three December games –

including a split of two contests against Phoenix – but was unable

to carry any momentum into the new year. The Hornets went 2-16 to

set a record for January futility for the franchise, which was

established in 1988.

New Orleans, last in the Western Conference and still without

Eric Gordon, completed the month with Monday’s 109-95 loss at

Miami. The Hornets actually led the high-powered Heat, who were

coming off an emotional win over Chicago the day before, by 12

points midway through the second quarter before allowing Miami to

go on a 56-23 run.

Jarrett Jack, who averages a team-best 16.1 points, scored 14

for New Orleans, which finished with 25 rebounds – the lowest total

in the NBA this season.

Hornets coach Monty Williams felt the game could have played out

differently if his team got calls similar to Miami’s

superstars.

“It’s hard to play the kind of basketball that you need to play

when you’re not getting what you feel is a fair call at times,”

Williams said. “I thought our guys got beat up a little bit going

to the basket.”

The reigning East champs were too much for New Orleans, but the

team could have better luck against Phoenix (7-13), especially if

Nash can’t go.

Since the start of last season, the Suns are 1-8 when the

two-time league MVP doesn’t play.

Nash, the NBA’s assists leader with 9.9 per game, bruised his

left thigh when he took a knee from Marc Gasol in the final seconds

of Saturday’s 86-84 victory over Memphis. The 37-year-old star

point guard sat out Monday against Dallas, and the Suns couldn’t

keep up in a 122-99 defeat.

Marcin Gortat had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix, which

allowed opponent season highs in points and field-goal percentage

(55.2) in losing for the fourth time in five games.

“The floodgates really opened and it was tough for us,” said

Jared Dudley, who is averaging 17.5 points in his last two games –

7.1 better than his season average. “All that you can do is just

come in, look at film, look yourself in the mirror, work

harder.”

Nash is known for his exceptional work ethic, but his status

against New Orleans is uncertain.

If he plays, he’ll have a good chance to pass Kevin Johnson as

the Suns’ all-time assists leader, needing only seven more. He has

posted at least that many in all 18 of his games against the

Hornets since the 2006-07 season.

Nash recorded 12 assists in each of the first two meetings of

2011-12, a season-opening 85-84 home loss Dec. 26 and a 93-78

victory in New Orleans four days later.