There was a moment just before the final buzzer sounded when I’d forgotten the Hornets just lost.
If you follow me on Twitter, you probably watched me completely spaz out and go crazy when Darren Collison and Lil Buckets checked into the game with six and a half minutes left. And did they ever hit the game with a splash. Thornton had 8 pts and 1 rebound in 6:34, going 2-3 from three. Collison went 6-3 with a steal, running the fast break more times than I think we saw all game. Both rookies hit all their free throws. And they were zipping all over the place, cutting to the basket.
I’ve been mostly Thornton-Thornton-Thornton till now, I know, but there is just a joy and energy that Collison brings that I really enjoyed last night. You can just see it in the bounce of his feet. When he got slammed under the basket by a flagrant foul, he popped right up, clapped his hands, and grinned. And if Byron Scott thinks Bobby Brown brings speed to the lineup? Collison’s speed blows his out of the water. These guys were hungry. It was so contagious even Songaila and Posey seemed to perk up a bit. Hilton was inspired to do at least two things right.
Will people pay to watch a losing team? That’s the question, isn’t it? Clearly one of the answers is you pay to watch Chris Paul, because he’s a future great. But last night I found another answer. I watched Darren Collison steal the ball and zip up court, and Marcus Thornton cut all over the place. And I thought, “I would pay money to watch these kids make mistakes and lose.” If you couldn’t see the difference between those six minutes and watching 4 or 5 guys nearing the end of their careers going through the motions and looking depressed as they realize they might not regain their old form, then you must be blind.
Do I have sympathy? Yes. I do. People get older. I’m getting older too, and the reality is that most of us hate it. My 50-win predictions for this team were based on Posey/Peja/Peterson maintaining some kind of consistency with their career stats. We could probably handle a drop-off from one. But not all three. And you know– this may come as a huge shock so be prepared for it– I don’t include Devin Brown in that bunch. Not today, anyway. Because I think he really tried last night, put in an impossible situation, and he hit his shots. And I love all of these guys. I wasn’t upset when we traded Rasual Butler, because between the Three Ps, the Hornets looked to have that role covered. How do you predict things like this?
But the bottom line is, if Byron Scott really means it when he says he wants the team to run more, if the Hornets take a deep honest look at themselves and finally accept that some players have deteriorated, if the team wants to put a product on the floor that’s exciting for the fans, the last six minutes of Lakers/Hornets is what we need to see. I want to see Chris Paul balling with young kids who are creative, who can keep up with him.
Look, you don’t play the rookies because you think they’re going to be some magical solution, some great mysterious hope that can be plugged in to fix the problems with this team. They won’t. You play them because, even though you may lose with them, you’re already losing without them. The fans who pay the money to sit in the seats deserve to see something fun. They deserve to see something that gives them hope for the future. They deserve to see hustle and heart. Beginnings not endings. The local kid getting his chance and making his dream come true under the bright lights.
If you’re not giving us a championship this year, give us something we can love. That’s all I ask.
Oh, and pssstt. Byron. You looking for answers? Here’s a freebie: Thornton is your starting 2.