Who are the Hornets?

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Published: April 15, 2009

I wondered this aloud recently (game thread) and it is still bugging me (pun intended). I wanted to field some opinions from other fans.

What are the New Orleans Hornets all about? What is our identity as a team? In the Western Conference race, it has become abundantly clear that we are one of the few winning teams this year without a distinct playing style. An on-court identity if you like. I don’t mean running the pick and roll with Chris and DX, but the more intangible “we know who we are” kind of thing.

I am comparing the Hornets to last year, where they were a gritty, sneaky, scrappy, not-often-pretty-and-watch-your-pockets type team. We couldn’t run with the fastest or bang with the biggest or out-skill the Lakers, but the fire and tenacity and cleverness on the court not only won games but was something the team and the fans seemed to take pride in.

Now, a lot of that attitude is Chris Paul. As a pure baller, his skills are unmatched, but because of his size on the court he is often overmatched. Skills can bridge that gap only so far. The rest – why CP is clearly the best PG in the league – is his smarts, his will, his tenaciity and his little bit of nasty. He pleads with Byron to stay in games. He barks and claps. As floor general, the rest of the guys take his lead. We weren’t close to having the most tech fouls last year, but we were a chippy, fighting team. Underdogs. We had something to prove.

This year, we seem to have lost that attitude. In all honesty I blame a lot on the injuries. It is hard to play in that aggressive way when half your team is banged up. A skills and drills team like the Lakers can handle it – plug another guy in and run with the same discipline. A lockdown team like the Rockets have become can handle it – they are big enough to make it hard on the defensive end whether starting Luis Scola or Chuck Hayes. The Blazers seem to have found some toughness to complement their young talent, and are ridiculously deep.

But injuries to a team that thrives on the little things that frustrate opponents and psych them out? When that confidence goes they’re in real trouble. Don’t trust the ankle to set a crushing screen. Don’t trust the thigh to dive on a loose ball. Don’t trust the back to post a mismatch… Some of the fire was there with tough wins while CP and DX were out. The team had enough to prove. But it hasn’t stuck for the season.

In any case, I don’t know who the Hornets are this year. When they’re on the floor, they can play ball with the best, but where do you turn if the shots won’t fall or you’re down by a handful to a lesser team on the road. I think the best turn to who they know they are as a team. What they stand for. I wonder where the Hornets turn? It can’t always be CP3.

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