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Hornets work out nine prospects, including Zeller, Jones

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Associated Press
6/4/2012 3:04:33 PM
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WESTWEGO, La. -- Terrence Jones likes the idea of playing in New Orleans with Kentucky teammate and consensus top overall NBA draft choice Anthony Davis.

There's a chance that could happen.

Jones was one of nine prospects the Hornets invited to their suburban training centre on Monday for the first pre-draft workouts since they learned in the NBA lottery that they would be picking first and 10th overall.

"I already have a relationship with him, being teammates and winning a national championship together," Jones said of Davis. "It would just be a great thing to continue on our next careers together."

The 6-foot-9 Jones worked out with four other fount court players: 7-foot Tyler Zeller and 6-11 John Henson of North Carolina, along with Illinois 7-1 centre Meyers Leonard and Mississippi State 6-11 forward Arnett Moultrie.

The guards working out for coach Monty Williams and general manager Dell Demps were Duke's Austin Rivers, Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb, Washington's Terrence Ross and Maryland's Terrell Stoglin.

Demps said there are probably fewer than 10 other players he wants to see in person, and that the club probably will schedule more workouts in about two weeks, after next week's NBA draft combine and another similar event for European players.

Williams has coveted an abundance of length in the front court ever since seeing how the Los Angeles Lakers' combination of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum frustrated the Hornets' in the 2011 playoffs. New Orleans has 6-10 Emeka Okafor, 7-foot Jason Smith and 6-10 Gustavo Ayon under contract for next season. Davis is 6-11, and the Hornets could easily envision adding another big player.

"It's a real possibility," Williams said. "That's why we brought those guys in, because there's so many bigs that can go in the top 10, so we've got to take a look at all of them."

The big men in this draft might be better off as the only first-round choice of another team, rather than playing in Davis' shadow. Yet those who worked out for New Orleans seemed confident in the vision the Hornets had for them.

Moultrie said the Hornets told him they were looking for "the best available" player at pick No. 10.

"If I fall in their lap, I feel like I'm the best available," Moultrie said. "I wouldn't mind playing with Anthony Davis. We have two different games and I think we complement each other very well."

Even with Davis' impending arrival, Williams said the Hornets still consider restricted free agent shooting guard Eric Gordon their best player -- and the player around which they intend to build.

Gordon was among the spectators at Monday's workout, at times sitting and talking with Demps as well as Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. Loomis is expected to serve in an advisory role to Saints owner Tom Benson, who has agreed to buy the Hornets, on major matters concerning the NBA club.

Demps cannot talk about a new contract with Gordon until July, but both Demps and Williams appreciated that Gordon was showing an interest in the Hornets' future.

"He has always intimated to me that this is the place where he wants to be," Willaims said. "We talked this weekend and he said he wanted to come down here and work out and see the guys and see the coaches. That's who he has been since he has been here."

Still, the Hornets are interested in adding more depth at guard with the 10th pick. For now, the Hornets have point guards Jarrett Jack and Greivis Vasquez, as well as reserve shooting guard Xavier Henry, under contract for next season.

Rivers, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, has known Williams since he was a small child.

"I love Monty, and not just because I've known him my whole life," Rivers said. "He's the guy that it doesn't matter who you are or what your relationship is, when you step in those lines, he's going to coach you like anybody else. ... I think he's a great coach."

Rivers said the Hornets' pre-draft workout was his first, and that there were other teams that might be a good fit for him, but added, "I'm here for a reason, because I feel like I fit with this team well."

And unlike a year ago, when the club's ownership future was uncertain and Chris Paul and Davis West were on their way out of town, the Hornets are brimming with optimism again.

"I like this team. I like this area and I think it's on the rise," Rivers said. "I really feel like it's going in a positive direction. They have two top-10 picks in a really stocked draft."

Tyler Zeller (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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