Waiting to Exhale

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Published: February 18, 2009

Dr. John has a phrase that he uses to describe the feeling you get when you are forced to comprehend something almost unimaginably bad.  Traumaticalized is his word, and that’s the way it felt in New Orleans today as a sports fan, with the announcement that Deuce McAllister was cut by the Saints and Tyson Chandler was traded to OK City for 2 guys, a rookie who got hurt before he could even become a rookie in the NBA, and a dry Lucky Dog.  Deuce’s termination falls under the “saw it coming for a long time” category, and Deuce and the Saints handled it with class and sorrow befitting the greatest running back in club history.  It’s obvious that with Deuce unable to pass a NFL physical, his time under that big contract was taken to the limits of feasibility.  We got that rare chance today to say goodbye to a favorite son, even though the clamps of pro sports business forced us to face this sad moment earlier than we all wanted.

There’s even a chance that if Deuce wants to rehab at the Saints facility, he might decide to set his sights for a new contract to stay with the club.  I can avoid most of the pain from this until Deuce dons the gear for a team not clad in our bayou Black & Gold.  

The Tyson trade, although widely rumored, hits Hornets fans in the solar plexus, near the heart of the team.  It makes no sense to us because we saw what Tyson could do for this team, and worse, we’ve seen the pathetic rebounding efforts and lack of athleticism in the paint when Tyson was hurt.  It’s like the last 12 games Chandler was hurt (granted, most of those games with either DX or CP also hurt) we gave an open audition to the remaining big men on the team, and they flailed spectacularly.  Well, Sean Marks showed a glimmer of hope, but seriously, if the season comes down to depending upon Sean Marks….

Ultimately, that’s the rub in all of this.  Fans lose a genuine favorite player in Tyson because of a lack of production from all our bigs, because the economy stinks, because Chris Paul can make make schlubs sitting on the OKC bench into more productive guys, because David West will have to play with an All-Star chip-on-his-shoulder the rest of the season, because we can’t sit here with the worst rebounding team in the NBA and keep our heads in the sand about that stat.

For us fans, the truly sucky thing is that it really felt that Tyson Chandler got New Orleans.  He was instrumental in building some homes for teachers in the community through his rebounding charity.  When his beautiful house and all the trees on the property were devastated last year by the Southern California wildfires, the very next morning Chandler was sharing his fortune with a local schoolteacher.  His blog revealed a down-to-earth guy with a great family, and in every way: in the community, league wide, and especially on the court when he was running the floor alongside Chris Paul for their patented ferocious Crescent City Connection, TC was the guy we wanted to root for in our hoops city.  We were proud to see his talents blossom here in New Orleans.

The worst part of the trade is that now Tyson goes to Oklahoma, to join another core of young players on the rise, and after this season the Hornets will have to go hat in hand scouring the courts for an athletic big center who can defend the paint and keep up with Chris Paul, like we had in our hands with Tyson Chandler!  If the Grizzlies move somewhere, then OK City will become our division rivals, to make the best sports division even more competitive.  At minimum, we’ve handed over at salary cap gunpoint a solid young center as a building block to another Western Conference team.  I’m mad we didn’t yank at least a draft pick from the Thunder, and don’t tell me about a guy with a broken foot in Greece and how  he’s the next Andrew Bynum… I’m not in the mood for it… remember James Lang, anybody?

I hate the trade.  It worries me to see us lose such a big part of the team, but I’m not ready to declare the season a bust.  The two guys from OKC are decent players, who are upgrades on our expanding roster of bench bigs.  Since we no longer have a true starting caliber NBA center, the Hornets might be able to run a little more & now that our guys have to understand that rebounding is the key to starting every fast break, maybe they’ll hit the glass with more gusto.  We still have Chris Paul running the show, and if you were a big guy looking to sign someplace you’d definitely have your agent bug the Hornets for the chance to play with him in New Orleans. Who knows, maybe even Chris Wilcox will have a sudden epiphany to hustle now that he’s on a playoff team.

However, what worries me the most is the psyche of our fans. I didn’t get my season ticket this year to see cap space coming down the stretch, either.  Nonetheless, while I might wince when we play Superman, the large creature known as Yao, Shaq and Timmy and really wince like I was poked in the eye when the ball gets deep in the paint, those teams mostly don’t have an answer for Chris Paul and really is their big guy that much better than our All-Star, David West?

If you’ve ever been tackled in football and fallen directly on the ball, it really makes you gasp like a fish outta water.  A rather traumaticalized feeling, but in most cases you don’t fumble the ball.  Fans, don’t fumble away your love for hoops here in New Orleans because of a trade we are all emotional about now.  We still have some exceptional talent on the roster, and we are all in this race toward the stretch run to the playoffs.  No matter what happens from the fallout from losing Tyson for less than what I’d pay for the rights to Al Johnson’s “Carnival Time” song, we still lay claim to a pretty exciting brand of NBA basketball here.  

Take a deep breath.  As another fan suggests, toast as many of your Mardi Gras beverages to Tyson as you can, and wish him well… until he plays our Hornets.  Let’s be sure not to give the national pundits, who are always beating the doomsaying drums about us and our NBA team, a glimmer of weakness.  Let management know we don’t like the trade, then let’s move on and see if our team responds to the challenge because for all of us, from the GM to Coach Scott, from the guys who need to rebound to our shooters and superstars, and especially to our fans suffering today from a double whammy, this is gut-check time.  Maybe y’all have heard the saying, “Broken hearts are for losers….”  Don’t be that guy, fans!

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