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Cold Dish

By on December 19, 2009

The Unstoppable Man

Well played, Hornets. Well played.

Unstoppable (Adjective): 1) Incapable of being stopped.

Chris Paul could not be stopped tonight. He had 30 points, 19 assists, and 9 rebounds. He was 7-7 in the third quarter. He was inside, he was outside, he was in the lane (finally, yes, we can all exhale a bit to see him dominating from there for the first time since his ankle injury), at the line. There was a stretch of the third to fourth quarters in which he had 22 out of the Hornets 24 points. There was a point when the Nuggets made a mini-run to close the gap, and Chris Paul checked back into the game, and his very presence, solely by being on the floor, was magic.

And there it was, in the building tonight, the Thing We Don’t Talk About. The players knew it. The fans knew it. And then in the fourth quarter I noticed something. Namely that Darius Songaila and Emeka Okafor weren’t on the floor, which was a little unusual. And that Devin Brown was, which was also a little unusual (but unsurprising considering neither Collison nor Thornton had a good showing tonight). The Hornets went with a crunch time lineup of Paul/West/Posey/Stojakovic/Brown. I think it is not coincidental that those five guys were all there last April, and were playing inspired and scrappy ball tonight. I think they wanted to close this out. And I think they deserved to.

If you’ve ever seen the movie The Sting, it’s about two con men who get revenge on a big mob boss by running an elaborate con and cheating him out of a quarter million dollars. But, the one character warns the other, taking the boss’s money isn’t going to be enough– it’s not going to change the past. And at the end, the other guy turns to the first guy and says, “You’re right. It’s not enough…. But it’s close.”

So yesterday afternoon I was joking around that, instead of my regular snarky one-liners on Twitter during the game, I would comment upon Cavs/Magic Game 4 entirely in haiku. Well, this didn’t quite pan out the way I expected, since one of my domains got hit by a spammer from Sweden who generated 150,000 spam comments and caused my entire account, including this blog, to be suspended by my host. If you came here last night, you might have noticed the fact that the site was, you know, missing. Sorry about that. It’s fixed now. But it caused me to be on the phone with tech support and as a result I missed most of the game.

Skill. I haz it.True to my word, though, I hopped on Twitter with around 3 minutes left in the fourth quarter and did live game commentary through the rest of regulation and overtime entirely in haiku. I decided to put all my haikus together, just for fun:

1.
Dougie loves LeBron
but that pesky man named Skip
oh he’s just a friend

2.
Superman at line
strangely strong under pressure
hit one to close out!

3.
Rafer is so clutch
oh wait forget I said that
jack another one

4.
GET THE DAMN REBOUND
IT’S OUT OFF OF DELONTE
lucky break Magic

5.
Not too much time left
live or die by the jumper
time to live or die

6.
Come on Feel the Noise
watcha gonna do Magic
inbound play is key

7.
Swish goes the clutch shot
so this makes Rashard Lewis
King of what Kingdom???

8.
M-FING BULLSHIT
he tripped over his own feet
travesty ends not

9.
“What it comes down to”
“is Cavs are inferior”
“wasting our time” – M

10.
Fatigue a factor?
how bout monstrous ass screwings
by men in gray shirts?

11.
DUNK THAT SHIT DUH-WIGHT
the only way to live now
is fight through this hard!

12.
Holy MF shit
was that shot from in orbit?
make your own fate now

13.
They don’t need no crowns
these Magic know how to make
their own destiny

14.
“I’ll tell you how big”
“that play was,” says Doug– wait Doug
how big was what now?

15.
Clutcheriffic Dwight
tune it out with the music
that plays in your head

16.
Chosen One watches
as a taller star is made
in these late moments

17.
In an apartment
somewhere in corporate land
two puppets are sad

So last night after the Lakers defeated the Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, I fell asleep for like 2 hours. When I woke up, contacts sticking to my eyes, this is the first thing I saw:

Oh, you know, just had this red leather vest lying around and thought, "Wouldn't that look sweet with my madras shirt?"

Oh, you know, just had this red leather vest lying around the house and thought, "Wouldn't that look sweet with my madras shirt?"

Clearly this was some sleep-induced hallucination. Surely no one would be wacky enough to show up at an NBA press conference dressed as the really tall other half of Starsky and Hutch.

And yet Lamar Odom did. We shouldn’t be surprised. After all, we’re talking about a guy who showed up at a game last year wearing this:

lakesuit

It's a hoodie! It's a suit! It's a Lakesuit!

Like, wait, hold up. Is that…. a Laker colored suit? A Lakesuit? Or is it a hoodie? Or is it… a suit and a hoodie?

Lamar Odom strolled into the Lakers’ locker room some 25 minutes late. Lakers coach Phil Jackson had just finishing addressing the media during his pregame press session when he saw Odom and blurted out:

“Oh, my God,” Jackson said, laughing. “No wonder it took you a long time to get here.”

Jackson laughed at Odom’s outfit he was wearing. It was an all white suit. The sleeves on the coat were purple. The lapels were gold. “Are you in a marching band?” Jackson joked.

It was hard to describe what Odom was wearing. “This is indescribable,” Odom correctly said. “You can’t describe this.”

Pull up a seat, as we take a spin through the fashion world of one Lamar Odom…

[More]

I hate that it took a humiliating 58-point loss to get this to finally, finally happen. It sucks. It does  not make everything right, and seeing these words on ESPN is not worth what we’ve gone through as Hornets fans in the last month.

But reading this from Marc Stein makes me feel oddly vindicated and satisfied in a way that I would not expect I could feel this morning:

“It’s not just that the Hornets folded so meekly and early at home, which is sufficiently unforgivable.

Or that they also lost games to the Nuggets by 29, 15 and 21 points.

It’s that the Hornets unashamedly quit so quickly in Game 4 after fans in New Orleans showed up this season with greater regularity than the team could have ever dreamed, shaming misinformed know-it-alls like me who kept telling you that local residents couldn’t possibly invest their time and money into something as trivial as rooting for the local basketball team after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

The Hornets consistently played at near-capacity in a building that holds 17,188, selling out well over half of their games. It seems that we were all wrong about the post-Katrina viability of NBA basketball in the Crescent City.

Not nearly as wrong, though, as foisting the unspeakable score line of Nuggets 121, Hornets 63 on a ridiculously loyal fan base in their farewell ’til next season.”

I know we already knew this. But I didn’t realize how good it would feel to have a major media outlet finally write the truth about New Orleans and the Hornets. Accompanied by the words “we were all wrong.” And I thank Mr. Stein for saying it.

I’m feeling so warm and fuzzy I think I have to take him off the $#*t List.

As for how I feel about the Hornets, better to ask me again in a month. Because– and I am not saying I don’t love this team, and I am not saying I’m cancelling my season tickets or never blogging again or anything like that– I agree with Marc Stein. I hope they know that when they said “F this!” to the game on Monday, they did that to me. They did that to us.

I don’t have anything else to say about it, except that I hope they know.

“Myself, I’d trust him to the end of the Earth.”
“Oh yes, and how far’s that?”
“About twelve minutes away. Come on, I need a drink.”
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

JR is my hero!

JR is my hero!

Yep. That went well.

And so here I am writing a recap, of sorts, of a game that tied the record for the worst loss in playoff history. In which we learn that the Hornets as presently constructed are treading water (like, badly, and desparately, the way you do right before you give up and drown), and JR Smith hits a three in my face.

You know, there were moments when I thought they would make a game of it. But I think the run the Hornets gave up right out of halftime when they could have– and should have– cut it to 16 or 18 was when we looked at each other and said it wasn’t their night. The funny thing was that, before everyone left, it was really one of the loudest, most vicious crowds I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of in New Orleans. But, you know. Before everyone left.

Well, I had already made up my mind that I was having a good time last night, and the Hornets’ abysmal play wasn’t going to stop me. We slid over and down to the 5th row, left of center court, to enjoy ourselves a little scrub basketball as the way-richer-than-us see it.

I am not sure what came over me. I certainly didn’t care about the score. I was too shellshocked to even think about the game. And you know, if you can’t laugh, what else are you gonna do? So as JR Smith stood, large as life, right in front of me, and threw the ball into the basket for the 53-point lead, I did something I’ve never done before and leaned over the empty seat in front of me and hollered:

“YOU’RE A REAL F***ING HERO, JR!”

Everyone laughed. So I just rolled with it. “SHOOT IT, JR! YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO! JR FOR THE 55 POINT LEAD! YEAH!” He runs backward down the court,  gives this confused look to the crowd like “WTF girl is yelling at me?”, looks back at the play, looks again.

The Hornets do whatever they do (Oh, hey, I’ve got the play by play right in front of me. Antonio Daniels bad pass, apparently, is what they do), and here ol’ JR is coming back. “SHOOT IT, JR! YEAH, JACK THE THREE! DO IT!” He steps backward over the line, with his back right to us, and drills the three.

Me: “YEAH JR! YOU’RE AWESOME!”

mW: Um, I think he just hit a three in your grill.

Me: Wait, you think he heard me?

mW: We’re the only people here. He heard you.

Me: Seriously? AHAHAHAHA!

Looking at the play by play, I’m pretty sure it’s this stretch I’m talking about:

5:35 J.R. Smith makes layup (Jason Hart assists) 108-55
5:24 108-55 Antonio Daniels bad pass
5:09 J.R. Smith makes 23-foot three point jumper (Linas Kleiza assists) 111-55

At one point, he was dribbling out on top of the fleur de bee logo, playing keepaway with Antonio Daniels. “SHOOT IT, JR! SHOOT THE HALF COURT SHOT! JR FROM HALF COURT! YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO! PLAYER OF THE F***ING GAME RIGHT THERE!”

So I guess this is a note to whoever Denver faces next– get a girl to sit courtside and relentlessly and profanely heckle JR Smith. He will shoot. This may or may not end up working well for your team. But it will be funny.

I don’t want any Denver fans coming in here and saying I’m bitter– if I was that bitter, I would have left. If, in the future, anyone challenges my fan devotion, you all know I am allowed to point to this game and say, “I stayed through the 58 point blowout. I win.” And come on, JR is too easy to pick on. This is a guy who jacked a 3 with 24 seconds left in a 55 point blowout, after all.

I said yesterday that I wasn’t worried anymore. And you know what? It feels kind of weird to admit this, but I had a lot of fun at this game. I certainly got my money’s worth. (And learned that if I could afford to sit in those seats all the time, and there were actual people around me, I would be thrown out.) I think that’s what it’s all about. We can worry about the future of this team after the playoffs. This article, however, is a must-read. If you really want to know how I feel, my answer is, “Everything this guy said.” And to those who want to blow up the team THIS SECOND, remember three, no four, things:

1) The team whose 58-point-blowout-loss record we tied came back and won the next game of the series.

2) I think the Lakers recovered fine from their Finals beatdown.

3) Your lesson is right on the court in front of you. The Nuggets were embarrassed with the whole sweep and “We quit” thing last year. They didn’t trade the entire team. They made one move. One move that was the right move.

4) You’re not the GM. That’s for a reason.

That said…

Hint to the front office: Chris Bosh. Trade everyone you have to to make it happen. No, really, everyone. Extend his contract, fill out the roster with young picks, and watch the fun happen with your two 24-year-old All Stars for the next 3 years. I genuinely like our guys, but… I just want Chris Paul to win a championship for us. Not some other team. Us. That is seriously my #1 concern right now.

Thanks,

Me.

I found covering just one of Chauncey's eyes to be effective

Y'all. I think it bugs Chaunce when you cover one of its eyes. Not both. Just one. I made him miss 2 free throws that way.

The season teeters on the edge of a game.

The season hangs on questions– how banged up is Chris Paul? James Posey? Tyson Chandler? What will happen if Peja and DWest finally get rolling? Can our rims give us some anti-Nugget lucky love? Is this team capable of toughing it out for one more game? How big is the heart inside our little hero?

I just realized, if they lose, this might be the last time we see these guys (for some of them, the last time in stripes). And if that’s the way it’s going to be, I’ll say goodnight to my seat in the back row. I’ll miss you, seat. And I’ll be yelling loudly anyway. Because this team, despite the ups and downs of this season, has given this city enough to deserve that, I think. We’re like the Chris Paul of cities– the little scrappy one. And I’ll stay till the last second ticks off the clock. And I’ll have fun– and really, most of the time, win or lose, I do– because if it’s not fun, I don’t know what the hell else it’s all for.

But if that’s not the way it’s going to happen, I’ll be ready. Let’s go. Let’s do this.

Let’s take the roof off that place. Defend New Orleans!!

Some anonymous people wait outside New Orleans Arena (courtesy of Storm Surge Photography)

Some anonymous, mysterious people wait outside New Orleans Arena (courtesy of Storm Surge Photography)

This fake ad played at the game on Saturday and got a lot of laughs out of the crowd:

Psshhh… other sites bring “analysis” and “game recaps” and other nonsense of that sort. You know if a silly video exists out there, I see it as my duty to the world to post it. Everybody’s got a talent…

War Stories

By on April 25, 2009

Eleven thousand words:

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Nuggetts Hornets Basketball

Nuggetts Hornets Basketball

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Nuggetts Hornets Basketball

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Dear Hornets,

If you’re going to lose this series, lose it with this much fight, and we will love you just the same.

Sincerely,

Us.

Take your pick.  When it comes to the New Orleans Hornets, almost every criticism has been leveled at our team this year.  They don’t score, they don’t play defense, they don’t rebound, they have no bench, they shoot 3s too much, no rotation on D, no ball movement on O, etc.  So what changed from a year ago, the #2 seed, and being one game from the Western Conference finals?

paullllllllNo one knows.  But I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do.  I’m not going to pull stats.  Plenty of blogs do that.  Plus, after a year of comparisons, I’m not convinced the answer can be found in numbers.  Instead, I”m going to work through a logical progression of what has changed.

First of all, and perhaps most understatedly, we lost assistant coach Darrell Walker to Detroit.  Yet one more thing Dumars fucked up for us.  The strange thing is, we didn’t replace him.  Was that a cost saving move?  I have to think the loss is significant, but I don’t have enough of an in to know what.  Any comments on that are welcome.

With that out of the way, let me say that one of the biggest problems I’ve noticed with the Hornets this year is the propensity to give up large runs.  14-0 here, 22-5 there.  They’re brutal.  Especially when you consider the 16-0 run we gave up in the second quarter of a fifteen point loss pretty much explains the loss itself.  Think about it, that blowout loss was really a tie-game with one bad stretch.  So why does it happen?  Ticktock6 said to me the other day that she thought we had much better offensive ball movement last year.  I think she’s right.  So what changed?  Our roster is almost the same.  Most of the coaches are the same.  Shouldn’t our flow on both ends of the floor be the same?  Well, here’s the breakdown of the difference, personnel-wise:

  • Losses: Jannero Pargo, Bonzi Wells, Chris Anderson, Mike James
  • Additions: Devin Brown, James Posey, Sean Marks, Antonio Daniels

You’ll note these are all bench players, despite Poseys significant minutes, but Bonzi got plenty of minutes last year, too.  So how does that make our team worse, when the starters, who get most of the minutes are all still here?  The only difference is that Rasual Butler is starting for Morris Peterson.  Ironically, Butler, who was relegated to the end of the bench last year, has not only usurped Peterson’s spot, but banished Mo to the end of the bench, as well.

People like to turn to stats.  They say Butler gets more blocks, plays better defense, and otherwise is similar statistically, so it’s a no brainer they say.  He’s legitimately kept the starting spot.  But if he’s the only difference, logic dictates that there is a difference caused by him.  Whether it’s not knowing where everyone else is on the floor, a different level of trust that’s there, or his comparative knowledge of the game, I don’t know.  But I can only come to one conclusion: Morris Peterson was a better starter last year than Rasual Butler is now.  No doubt Rasual is playing well, but I still love Butler as the first guy off the bench, like Bonzi would have done for Mo last year.  Peterson earned his minutes, and has Ws to show for it.  Butler, despite his several dramatic game-winning shots this year, I’m not convinced makes us better.

Now the bench players above.  All kinds of bloggers have run stats saying Daniels is more efficient than Pargo.  I don’t believe it.  Take your stats and shove them.  Pargo was crazy.  Good crazy.  The man created chaos in the same way that Paul does, and that was a good thing.  I earlier called this the Chaos Effect.  It’s impossible to defend against, because there is no plan, just intuition.  Byron, however, doesn’t like that.  Whatever you called, it though, Pargo tore through defenses even when he wasn’t making shots, and was a constant threat to score off the bench.  That’s something we’re lacking this year.  Posey may yet prove his worth in the playoffs, but so far, I can’t say he’s won many more games for us than Bonzi.  Sadly Bonzi wanted big money, and didn’t get it.  People laugh at him because he ended up playing in China for peanuts, but he dominated there, and clearly still deserves to be in the League.  Wells was a beast once we started playing him, and I’ll always appreciate the contributions he made to our 2007-08 team.

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERThat brings us to Anderson for Marks.  Okay, Birdman didn’t play much last year, and I like Marks, but can anyone say we didn’t make a horrible move by letting him go? And Devin Brown?  I like his hustle.  But the fact that he plays over a former starter, when the man has never had the talent to consistently start in this League is crazy.  Oh, and one other thing.  A key part of our stretch run last year was Julian Wright, who this year, barely plays because Byron is too stubborn to give him the minutes to learn how to be a better player.  Huge mistake.

So yes, we are a worse team than last year.  But here’s the funny thing.  The ingredients are all still there.  Insert Mo back into the starting line-up, and you have the same five starters from last year.  Then, you roll out the back-up line-up of Daniels, Butler, Wright, Posey, and [insert big here].  It was the athletic mix of Wright, Bonzi, and Pargo that kept opposing teams off balance last year, and that was able to lock down effectively on defense.  I don’t see how this line-up can’t do both those things.  Instead, we’ll probably continue to see Butler start, with Devin Brown, Posey, and [insert big here] coming off the bench with Daniels, while Mo and Julian sit and wonder if there are teams out there they could actually be playing for.

If asked, I’d say, yes, I believe Byron has what it takes to be a championship coach when it comes to Xs and Os.  But if he can’t figure out who his best players are, then maybe he needs to step away from the game to gain some perspective, and we need a coach who can recognize talent.  After watching every Hornets game in the last two years in some way, shape, or form, as well as various games from around the League, I feel like I’m a pretty good judge of what we have.  We can still win this.  And by “this” I mean everything.   But to start with, we need to take two in Nola and then make this Round 1 series start fresh, before going on to win in 6 or 7.  But if the Hornets don’t do that, Byron should be looking over his shoulder; and, Bower, if he’s smart, should be the guy over that shoulder.

I’m not speaking quietly.  I’m flat out saying it.  If the Hornets don’t win this series, they need a new coach.  So please, Byron, show the world the Hornets we don’t need that.  I want to believe.

IT HAS COME TO MY ATTENTION

By on April 24, 2009

… that Game 3 is not yet sold out.

I heard this from a friend who was able to purchase a ticket in the front row of the upper bowl, center court, this morning. Ladies and gentlemen of New Orleans, this is B.S. of the highest order, and I will not stand for it. We sold out tons of games against scrubby teams this year. We had the highest attendance increase in the NBA. We put season ticket holders in the entire lower bowl. And people who claim to be fans are not going to this game?

“Oh, we’re afraid to go because the team might lose again! Wah, the NFL draft is tomorrow (Seriously? SERIOUSLY? I would have more fun watching my cat lick his butt for six hours). Wah, it’s Jazzfest! Wah, it’s at noon! Waaaahhhh!”

Bluto’s Speech

Now go forth and tell everyone you know that there is playoff basketball tomorrow at 12:00 noon. Tell them the chance to support NEW ORLEANS on national television (ESPN) is not to be missed. Neither is m*@#$%f*@king playoff basketball.

Before I lose my mind and do something drastic.