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Paul, new-look Hornets begin quest for playoff invite

Nov 1, 2006 - 3:27 PM New Orleans (38-44) at Boston (33-49) 7:30 pm EST

BOSTON (Ticker) -- Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets were quite a surprise last season. This year, they do not want to surprise everyone by not getting into the playoffs.

Paul and the revamped Hornets begin the 2006-07 season and quest for a trip to the postseason against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

The unanimous winner of the Rookie of the Year Award, Paul led all first-year players in points (16.1), assists (7.8), steals (2.2) and double-doubles (21) while finishing third in rebounds (5.1). His impact was so beneficial that the Hornets were right there in the playoff race before withering down the stretch, losing 21 of their final 30 games.

During the offseason, the Hornets addressed their two biggest concerns: outside shooting and interior defense.

The team signed arguably the best shooter in the league in Peja Stojakovic and also inked long-range threat Bobby Jackson while also trading veteran forward P.J. Brown and maligned guard J.R. Smith to Chicago for center Tyson Chandler.

In the first round of the draft, the Hornets selected forward Cedric Simmons of North Carolina State and center Hilton Armstrong from Connecticut, solidifying a young, athletic frontcourt designed to turn away shots and rebound.

The Celtics were not as busy as the Hornets during the summer but did acquire Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and a future pick from Portland for the seventh overall selection, Raef Lafrentz and Dan Dickau in the draft. They also made a trade with the Phoenix Suns for the 21st pick, Rajon Rondo.

Due to the death of Boston icon and former president Red Auerbach at age 89 on Saturday, the Celtic players will wear a special patch on their jerseys in Auerbach's memory for the entire campaign.

The Hornets, who went 2-5 during the preseason, dropped both regular-season contests to the Celtics last year. Boston posted a 3-5 record in exhibition play.

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