Last Years Record: 56-26, 1st SW, 2nd round
Key Losses: Jannero Pargo, Bonzi Wells
Key Additions: James Posey, Devin Brown, Sean Marks (Oh, you said key? Posey)
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
Well, the Hornets went into the offseason stressing that they were confident with their core and were only looking to add key bench pieces. So they traded their low first round draft pick and (over)spent their free agent dollars on James Posey, who they gambled on bringing that championship aura. You can’t have a guy making $6 million to sit on the bench, so the team let Pargo go and put their money on Mike James having a bigger role this year. And, actually, the money was already on him, so why not? Any fans who wanted more offseason moves were just dreaming, because I think we knew Bower & Scott didn’t want to tweak a good thing too much. In fact the most significant move was extending Chris Paul’s contract, so he’ll be safely here for 4 more years.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
a) Team Chemistry. The players seem to genuinely like each other. More than that, they complement each other, especially on offense. Peja is great in his “I stand back and throw bombs” role because that’s all he’s asked to do. David West can be dangerous from a variety of spots on the floor. Mo Pete hits enough 3′s that you can’t quite leave him alone in his corner either. Tyson Chandler and Chris Paul perfected the pick and roll that many teams tried– but couldn’t quite manage– to take away from them last season. Byron Scott has deliberately put together this combination of players, and he wasn’t messing with it this offseason.
b) Chris Paul. The right man in the right city at the right time. He will not be stopped.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Still depth. Still up front. The Hornets added Posey and subtracted Pargo as the 6th man. They added some extra bit players who aren’t really going to be mega difference makers. I think the combo of Mike James/Devin Brown is capable of doing what Pargo did. I think if the D has been slightly upgraded to the point (this is where Posey comes in) where the bench can hold a lead like it’s their job to do, then that’s cautiously good. But not by enough of a margin to say that the Hornets don’t still have a depth problem. If Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong make big strides, and the rest of the bench is committed, they could pull this out and be better than last year. Injuries to Paul, West, or Chandler might not be able to be overcome, so we’re just going to have to cross our fingers. The team has also gotten a little older, but ask the Spurs and Celtics what’s wrong with that.
4. What are the goals for this team?
A dream date with the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals just eluded the Hornets last year. It’ll be what they’re gunning for this season.
5. Blah, blahblah blah blah blah attendance blah blahblahblah. Blah?
The Hornets have sold over 10,500 season tickets so far, and that’s not including half season or partial packages. For a comparison, last November/December it was not uncommon to have 10,500 people in the entire arena. And that was a good night.
The people of New Orleans are slow to warm up to outsiders, and would you trust a team that was barely yours to begin with before it bolted to Oklahoma for two seasons while your city drowned both literally and figuratively? The people who rehash these ignorant attendance articles really need to put their heads where New Orleanians’ heads are before they write that we’re too stupid to know a good thing when it’s in front of us. The people of New Orleans are not stupid, and they appreciate the grit it takes to rise up to heights of which most people believed you weren’t capable. I think there was a distinct turning point last season, and it wasn’t something you could measure– it was something you could almost feel. The Hornets won people over. I should know; I am one of them.
I say you can gauge excitement about a team by looking at how kids are reacting. Now, I fortunately happen to have firsthand evidence of this, since my “real” job involves kids. And I am telling you that kids in New Orleans LOVE Chris Paul. This crosses racial and socioeconomic boundaries. They worship him. Do not underestimate the impact of the whining, pleading, and begging of thousands of Chris Paul-enamored kids on parental willingness to spend the entertainment dollars on Hornets tickets. Especially because Chris Paul has been and continues to be clean cut, polite, and generally perfect from a marketing and PR perspective.
Finally I have to say the Hornets organization worked overtime last year to get people to show interest in the team, and it finally started to kick in around February. Does your team have block parties with dollar beers and brass bands before games? Did thousands of people show up for it on a Sunday afternoon in the pre-season? (Shit, New Orleanians will show up to watch plants grow, if there are dollar beers.) No? Then I guess we just be bringing the party down here in da NOLA.
To sum up? Attendance: do not want to focus on this year. Next, please.
Predicted Record: 58-24
Because we totally wimped out when it came to the scary 60 numbers. And because it’s not the weakness of the Hornets, it’s the strength of the West. Like last season, it’ll just be difficult for any team in the Western Conference to reach the 60 mark.
And finally, I would just like to say that this is my FIRST full season as a basketball fan, and I cannot be more excited.
Other Hornets previews on this fine Thursday morning: