NEW ORLEANS (AP) -Two new players. Three straight losses.
Not the results the Hornets were hoping for when they traded for swingman Bonzi Wells and guard Mike James.
Still, coach Byron Scott wasn't ready to blame a shake-up in reserve personnel for his team's current slide.
``Everybody understands it's going to take a little while for those two guys to adjust, but it doesn't change the way we play,'' Scott said. ``The main thing is coming out with much more effort and intensity. ... I haven't seen it the last three games to be honest with you. I've seen us kind of going through the motions.''
Heading into last Thursday's NBA trading deadline, the Hornets were fresh off an impressive victory over Dallas that spoiled Jason Kidd's Mavericks debut. The win put New Orleans 22 games above .500 and atop the powerful Western Conference.
Looking to strengthen their bench for the stretch drive, the Hornets acquired Wells and James in a deal that sent popular reserve guard Bobby Jackson to Houston.
The Hornets have lost every game since.
Wells and James were unable to play during the first game after the trade, a 20-point loss at home against Houston. The new Hornets suited up the next night but played sparingly in a nine-point loss at San Antonio. Wells had two points on 1-for-7 shooting, while James shot 2-of-3 for five points.
On Wednesday night, New Orleans blew a 15-point lead and lost to Washington on DeShawn Stevenson's buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Wells was 2-of-6 for five points, while James was 3-of-5 for seven points.
Initially, the trade has worked out better for Houston. Jackson scored 14 points in his first appearance for the Rockets on Sunday night, helping them extend their winning streak to 12 games. Although Jackson had only played once for Houston heading into Tuesday night's action, the Rockets won their first three games after the trade.
Jackson was well-liked by Hornets regulars, but Scott said the veteran guard's departure would be a ``lame excuse'' for the lack of passion his team has shown on the court recently.
The Hornets also had short stretches of poor play before the trade. They lost three straight games about a month ago before snapping out of it in a double-overtime victory at Phoenix.
``We lost three games in a row and we're still 37-18,'' Hornets guard Chris Paul said. ``It's still been a great year and I think that's why guys around here can't get too down. ... I don't think it's something to read into. We just lost and when you play in this league it's going to happen.''
Perhaps the Hornets could be excused for losing to Houston and San Antonio. But a Washington team missing two top players?
``Probably the most disheartening thing was they didn't have Gilbert Arenas, they didn't have Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison was something like (3-for-16). That's a team we should have beaten,'' Hornets forward David West said.
However, West maintained it was far too early to evaluate the trade for Wells and James.
``They haven't been a major part of what we've been doing. That has no bearing on the fact we've lost these three games,'' West said. ``They haven't been on the floor in crucial situations. It's been the guys who've been here.''
Wells may not play on Wednesday night when the Hornets again hope to snap a three-game losing streak against Phoenix. He sat out Tuesday's practice with a sore Achilles tendon.
Like the Hornets, the Suns have stumbled since making a midseason trade, having sent Shawn Marion to Miami for Shaquille O'Neal. Something will have to give when they tip-off at New Orleans Arena.
``Offensively, they're struggling a little bit. Maybe they're adjusting to Shaq, and we're struggling, obviously,'' Scott said. ``So it's going to be one of those games, hopefully, where you've got two teams that feel their backs are against the wall and they both come out fighting.''

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