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Marcus Thornton

Marcus Thornton

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What's this?Please select....Baseball TicketsNBA TicketsNFL TicketsNASCAR TicketsWWE TicketsGolf TicketsTennis Tickets Hornets draft PG Collison, SG ThorntonPosted | Comment | Recommend E-mail | Save | Print | By Brett Martel, AP Sports WriterWESTWEGO, La.

— The New Orleans Hornets needed at least one player who could give All-Star Chris Paul a break, but wanted another who could score in bunches.They hope they found both after using their first-round pick in Thursday night's NBA draft on UCLA point guard Darren Collison, then making a trade during the second round for the rights to LSU shooting guard Marcus Thornton."We know what we got with both players and they both have unique skills, talents and abilities," Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said.

"They'll be able to add new things and blend with the players that we currently have.

...

Tonight, we strengthened our backcourt."In using its 21st overall pick on Collison, the Hornets sought to bring in a mature four-year college player who can immediately step in as Paul's primary backup."We got a point guard with some experience ...

a proven winner," head coach Byron Scott said, noting that UCLA reached the NCAA Final Four in three of Collison's four years with the Bruins.Bounced from the first-round of the playoffs this past season, the Hornets focused their pre-draft workouts on prospects who could quickly fit in as backups for either Paul or All-Star power forward David West.A first-team All Pac-10 player last season, the 6-foot Collison averaged 14.4 points and 4.7 assists to go with 57 steals.While Collison had a solid career, not everyone in the league was sold on him.

At least eight players who could end up playing point guard in the NBA were drafted before him.

Those included VCU's Eric Maynor, another player who worked out for the Hornets, but who was picked 20th by Utah.Still, Scott asserted that the Hornets "loved" what they saw during Collison's recent workout at their suburban New Orleans practice center and had an easy choice."The guy fell right into our laps, so we're really excited about it," Scott said.The 6-4 Thornton averaged 20.4 points during his senior season and was named the Southeastern Conference player of the year after helping LSU win the SEC regular season title and qualify for the NCAA tournament.However, he was not drafted until Miami took him 43rd overall.

The Hornets, who came into this draft without a second round choice, then traded their 2010 and 2012 second-round picks to the Heat in exchange for the LSU star and Louisiana native."He's got the ability to score," Bower said.

"He has a physical element to his game that we felt would be a help for us and his overall playing instincts were something we felt would be a good addition to our team."Scott, meanwhile, said he envisions Collison playing from 12 to 16 minutes per game as a rookie, adding, "If Chris could really go full out for 32 minutes, it would be ideal."Paul played an average of more than 38 minutes a game last season, more than Scott preferred.

During the final couple months of the season, while the Hornets were pushing to secure a Western Conference playoff spot, Paul often played more than 40 minutes a game and appeared worn out by the time the postseason began.Collison, who is from Los Angeles, attended the NBA's draft festivities in New York.

Reached by phone, he said he was eager to see what he could learn from practicing and playing with Paul, a two-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist."Every guard in this draft has been looking at Chris Paul and Deron Williams, and now I'll get to play behind Chris Paul every day, and learn from him every day," Collison said.

"I'm blessed."Collison also was a good fit, Scott said, because he is a strong defender who handles the ball well in transition."One of the things we wanted to do was get a guy that we know could push the tempo," Scott said.Before the draft, the Hornets had shown interest in bringing back free agent point guard Jannero Pargo, who was effective as Chris Paul's backup two seasons ago before he left to play in Europe.

Pargo recently visited New Orleans and said he wanted to return, but the Hornets' decision to draft of Collison made that less likely.Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

All rights reserved.

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http://www.usatoday.com/sports/basketball/nba/2009-06-25-370350774_x.htm
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