NEW ORLEANS — Beating the Orlando Magic Wednesday night would make for a great holiday present for New Orleans power forward Ryan Anderson.
Of course, that would be likewise for coach Monty Williams and the rest of the Hornets (5-22), who have lost their past 11 games, including Saturday night at home to the Indiana Pacers in which they blew a 17-point halftime lead.
Anderson was obtained from the Magic during the offseason via a sign-and-trade. It’s his first trip back to play against his old team, as if he needed extra motivation, with the losing streak. The teams played in preseason, but that was in Mexico City.
Anderson’s trade was part of a total remake of the Magic, who jettisoned star center Dwight Howard.
“It’s a different team, different staff and all, but that’s just going to make the whole process easier,” Anderson said. “I was part of the team that opened (the Amway Center), so it’s going to be exciting going back and seeing it. But obviously I want to play well and beat their butts. They traded me.”
Orlando is coached by Jacque Vaughn, who like Williams, is a protégé of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Williams said he sees some similarities with the Magic but said Vaughn didn’t just copy what the Spurs do.
“(Popovich’s philosophy) is to play hard, defend and check your ego at the door,” Williams said. “That much is the same (with the Magic).”
Orlando is sixth in the NBA in points allowed per game (94.2) and is holding opponents to 43.6 percent shooting, which ranks eighth in the league.
Orlando has held opponents to fewer than 40 points during the second half five times this season. The Hornets have struggled in the third quarter in particular, scoring just seven points in the quarter in the loss to Indiana.
Also against the Pacers, the Hornets’ bench scored just 18 points.
The Magic’s bench, headed by sharpshooting guard J.J. Redick and E’Twaun Moore, has averaged 32.7 points this season.
“(The Magic) are a young team, but they have experience,” Williams said. “Jameer Nelson (ninth season) is an experienced point guard, and Arron Afflalo is a proven scorer at (big guard), and (former LSU standout Glen) Davis is a proven (power forward).”
Davis has a sprained left shoulder and is not expected to play.
Hornets power forward Jason Smith is still out with a sprained right shoulder. Williams said Smith likely will return this week — the Hornets host the Raptors on Friday and travel to Charlotte on Saturday — but said he doesn’t know which game it will be.
The Hornets also received positive news Monday as guard Eric Gordon participated in a full-contact practice with the team.
“He looked pretty good, attacking the basket, defending,” Williams said. “We’ll see how he feels (today), but it was pretty encouraging.”
Gordon said his ailing right knee, which he rehabbed for more than six weeks in Los Angeles, felt good.
“It was full contact, and I was able to participate in everything,” he said. “It feels good. I think it’s all about the conditioning part now.”
Gordon has said he expects to return by the end of December.
“We’re in that range, but I don’t know what game it will be,” he said.
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