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Jeff Bower Deserves More Credit For Hornets Decision Making

In Portland, they could hear the snickering all the way from New Orleans.

Former Hornets general manager Jeff Bower was one of three finalists to be the next GM of the Trail Blazers.

You remember Bower. He’s the guy who allegedly ran the Hornets franchise into the ground.

When the Portland Oregonian reported Bower’s candidacy, those posting on message boards had a field day ripping Bower.

My take: the evidence says that Jeff Bower is, in fact, a good basketball man.

In 2007-2008, the Hornets won a franchise record 56 games and the Southwest Division title. Bower was the architect of that club.

A believer in David West, Bower signed West to a contract extension. He also traded P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith to Chicago for maligned center Tyson Chandler. The year the Hornets won those 56 games (and a first round playoff series), Chandler scored 9.5 points and grabbed 12.4 rebounds per game.

In other words, Tyson Chandler had a career year.

Later, Bower was scorched for dealing Chandler to Charlotte for Emeka Okafor. Bower’s plight was simple; cash strapped owner George Shinn could not go over the luxury tax threshold. So, New Orleans was willing to take Okafor’s contract in order to gain immediately tax relief.

Months earlier, Bower thought he had Chandler traded to Oklahoma City for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox. But the trade was nullified when Chandler failed his physical.

Bower also signed Peja Stojakovic to a 5-year, $64 million contract. Peja’s deal wasn’t seen as an albatross when his three-point shooting helped eliminate Dallas and push the San Antonio Spurs to Game 7 in the Western Conference semifinals.

In 2009, Bower landed two outstanding rookie guards in the draft: UCLA’s Darren Collison with pick 21 and, later on draft night, traded for second rounder Marcus Thornton.

When the Hornets got off to a 3-6 start in 2009-2010, he fired Byron Scott and took over as head coach. The Hornets finished that season 37-45, despite superstar Chris Paul missing 37 of 82 games due to injury.

Jeff Bower had a plan.

He knew Chris Paul would eventually leave the Hornets. And he apparently had the audacity to engage in trade talks with other teams. Maybe Bower got wind of an alleged toast by Chris Paul at a certain wedding in New York, the one where Paul allegedly said he would one day be part of his own big three with Amare' Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.

With a backcourt of Collison and Thornton and host of talented young players and draft picks acquired in a potential Chris Paul trade, Bower was hoping to rebuild quickly. He never got that chance.

The Hornets fired Bower and immediately began a campaign to keep Chris Paul in New Orleans, long-term.

We all know how that turned out.

I don’t blame Paul for wanting out. It was time for both he and David West to move on and for the Hornets to rebuild.

When Bower was canned, Hornets president Hugh Weber said Bower “will be wildly successful at whatever level he chooses.”

If he succeeds again in the NBA, Jeff Bower’s many non-fans will be wildly surprised.

I won’t be.