Jarrett Jack

The New Orleans Hornets’ season has had three distinct parts so far. In the first part, they won 11 of their first 12 games and Chris Paul was receiving early hype for MVP. In the second part, they lost nine of 12 games and it became clear that Paul simply doesn’t have the supporting cast for this team to be a legitimate championship contender. It seems as though not many people have noticed the third part where they’ve rebounded to their current position at nine games over .500 and sixth in the Western Conference after winning four straight and seven of their last nine.

As they were earlier in the season, the Hornets are winning with defence. They rank fifth in the league in Defensive Rating with 102.4 points allowed per 100 possessions — only the Bulls, Celtics, Magic and Heat are better. It helps to have a solid defensive big man like Emeka Okafor and the league’s most dangerous ballhawk in Chris Paul (2.7 steals per game).

Injury report

Toronto: Neither Peja Stojakovic nor Jerryd Bayless are expected to play against their former team today, and Sonny Weems and Leandro Barbosa are also out.

New Orleans: Marco Belinelli is nursing a sprained right ankle and is listed as questionable.

Five questions

1. Do you think that the teams trying to trade for Carmelo Anthony are thinking that acquiring ‘Melo will make them an attractive free agency destination for Chris Paul in 2012?

2. Will Paul’s unwillingness to commit to the Hornets play into David West’s decision about where to sign after this season?

3. Is Andrea Bargnani making a push for All-Star Game consideration with his recent play? In January, he’s averaging 25.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game on 49.6 percent shooting.

4. Do you think the Hornets still feel that Jarrett Jack is the best player that was involved in their November trade with the Raptors?

5. Vince Carter scored his 20,000th point in New York today. Do you think this mean’s he’s a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame? Only two eligible players (Mitch Richmond and Tom Chambers) have scored that many points and aren’t currently enshrined.

Start time: 3:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
New Orleans: Chris Paul, Willie Green, Trevor Ariza, David West, Emeka Okafor

Today’s pregame song is “Mr. Carter” by Lil’ Wayne featuring Jay-Z. I’m assuming you knew that Weezy is from New Orleans?