Podkast: Lakers-Hornets preview with Hornets247.com

The only thing better than regular-season ear candy? Playoff edition ear candy!

It's the first podkast of 2011 focusing on the NBA's second season. For a look at the New Orleans Hornets, the Lakers' first-round opponent, we spent some time talking with Michael McNamara of Hornets247.com (True Hoop network). Among the talking points:

- The overwhelming majority of pundits aren't giving New Orleans a snowball's chance in hell of winning this series. Ditto the Laker Nation, from the feedback I'm seeing. And as we learn later in our conversation, even Hornets fans aren't especially optimistic about their odds against the two-time defending champs. But as far as making a legit series out of an inevitable first-round exit, McNamara said the naysayers may help:

"I think they can make games (of it), partly because they're gonna be fired up. The Hornets have played their best when they've had a chip on their shoulder all year. ... You see the way the Hornets started out 8-0. They were the last undefeated team in the NBA. And then once they started getting some national attention, they fell off."

McNamara predicts coach Monty Williams, a fiery "nobody believes in us" type himself, will show the Hornets every dismissive article he can find to pour gasoline on a prideful fire. Could this approach lead to the world shocked? Not likely, but it could create the surprisingly challenging series McNamara personally expects.

- By Chris Paul standards, he's having a down season and entered the playoffs looking mortal. McNamara considers the issues twofold. The Hornets' roster has been seriously overhauled, and new faces always make a point guard's organizational responsibilities that much tougher. Plus, without the jettisoned Tyson Chandler and the recently injured David West, the picks set for CP3 haven't been as strong, which doesn't allow him the same ability to operate.

- McNamara talks about the impact ex-Laker Trevor Ariza could have making Kobe Bryant work for points. Or, more succinctly, Ariza's impact if allowed leeway from the refs.

- McNamara says he thinks Jarrett Jack will be paired often with Paul, and the more burn JJ gets, the better he tends to perform. Jack, one of my favorite role players, has enjoyed success against the Lakers, so it's worth keeping an eye on him as a potential "X-factor."

- Brian and I are relieved to learn DJ Mbenga is still a fan of the automatic heat check whenever he happens to hit a basket beyond point-blank range. "He'll make a four-foot hook in the lane and he just thinks it's on. He thinks it's game over. He's got the hot hand. ... I think he thinks he's playing a game of NBA Jam," jokes McNamara.

- How is the situation with the Sacramento Kings affecting Hornets fans, they of the mutual relocation concerns?