The Right Direction

How long have we all been asking about where this team is going? Since the end of last season, with our embarrassing playoff exit against the Nuggets, most of us were left scratching our heads and freaking out because our team underachieved. What was going to happen to Scott? We realized how bad the contracts were and how constrained the team was with the salary situation. We just got slapped in the face with reality.

Probably about a month goes by into free agency and we’re still worried about what it going to happen. Will Tyson get traded? Will we get any players in free agency? Will Scott and Bower return for another go-round? Well Tyson got traded for Emeka Okafor, which I still approve of, and we signed Ike Diogu in free agency. Not to mention we drafted Darren Collison and stole Marcus Thornton from the Heat. So it appeared that we might be okay to start the season, but there was still some skepticism about the lineup. Sual’Bop was gone in a salary dump so that left Mo Pete to start at shooting guard which all of us hated. We were glad to see Julian finally crack the starting lineup and put Peja in a better suited 6th man role. So, we were feeling quite optimistic.

Then reality slapped us once again. Julian is an awful basketball player. Mo Pete is just plain awful. Diogu was done for the season. Bobby Brown was getting waaaaayy too many minutes. Byron was not working as this team’s coach; always going with very bad veterans over promising rookies. Nothing was working or going our way. So, in come Bower and Floyd to coach the team.

Things went well, but still not up to any expectations or fulfillment of our desires. Chris Paul was injured for what seemed like eternity, twice. Peja was out also. Okafor wasn’t playing many minutes, and time after time we saw James Posey and Songaila manning the front court. Then, on top of everything, George Shinn is diagnosed with cancer, and thus the world of the Hornets is sent into a downward spiral of chaos. But there was still hope.

Darren Collison proved to be a more than adequate point guard running the show. Learning on the job, while also showing a real skill set of a great player. He was all over it. Marcus Thornton came in with him. Our scrappy scoring machine who even won dunk of the night after a vicious slam on Gerald Wallace. Thornton proved to be one of the best scorers and craftiest players in the game and certainly set an excellent foundation to build off of. Two awesome rookies is always something to be excited about.

The season ended, we missed the playoffs, and the spiraling to the abyss continued. Everyone wanted Bower gone at some point. We were sick of everything and immediately we were Googling lists of 2010 NBA free agents and overloading the ESPN NBA Trade Machine to try to find a solution to fix the roster. Everything from salary dumps, to trading CP3, to landing LBJ, was hypothesized. No one was content with what we had in any part of the team or organization. Then, we got a bit of good news.

George Shinn was selling the team to minority owner Gary Chouest. This was wonderful news. Chouest would undoubtedly keep the team in the city while also having deeper pockets (allegedly) to spend more money on players to win, even if it meant going over the luxury tax threshold. Unfortunately, the transfer process hit a snag, once again sending all of us into that spiral that I’ve been talking about.

Then the coaching search commenced. The process was drawn out for what seemed like an eternity. Everyone from Mike Fratello to Avery Johnson was interviewed and in the end it came down to just two. Tom Thibodeau of the Celtics and Monty Williams of the Trail Blazers. We would be fine with either, but pretty much everyone wanted Thibodeau over Williams because he was more proven. The Hornets wanted him too, but he didn’t want the Hornets, so he held out for that interview with the Bulls and took his dream job, leaving us to take the young gun known as Montgomery Williams. That was a good move. It was endorsed by Chris Paul, so it had to be a good move.

Then came the draft and endless speculation about free agency and trades. First, Collison trades starting popping up, perhaps putting him with a bad contract to get average players. Then some David West idea, however those were significantly less. Then the real deal, CP3 rumors. That was the worst. Scratch that, the second worst thing we had heard so far. The worst part was that Bower would not deny that Chris Paul could be had. So, endless speculation came about Chris Paul being traded, reports coming out how he wanted out. Everything imaginable. He was almost dealt to the Trail Blazers, and thankfully the trade fell through because it helped quantify what it’s like to trade an elite, star player; the trade off would never be even. Draft night comes, and we started with just one pick, number 11. We took Cole Aldrich, but he wasn’t truly ours. He and Mo Pete were sent off to the OKC for picks 21 and 26, and that was an AWESOME move. We picked up Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter. I was ecstatic with the picks, especially Pondexter, but others (you know who you are) were not thrilled with Brackins. Immediately, people googled his name and stats and saw that he wasn’t very efficient and this and that and blah blah blah. The pick was made, like it or love it. Brackins has a ton of potential, and Quincy Pondexter is the future of the position for our team, no doubt. I viewed (and still view) the trade as one that dumped a salary in order to get two talents for the price of one, big win for us, and a nice move by Bower.

Then it came. The giant beast which we all feared. -GULP- Free agency. Well what did the Hornets do? Nothing. They brought in Luther Head, a solid addition, then… fired Jeff Bower? What? In the middle of the biggest freaking free agency ever? The Luther Head thing didn’t work out because he “failed” a physical, raising questions for at least two days then people stopped caring because it’s just Luther Head. But what now? Who was going to run this joint? The front office must be nuts if they fire their big guy at such a time, right? Possibly, but what they did was act quickly. We all cried for Kevin Pritchard, myself included, and it might have happened, but that would have been the easy way out. This guy got good players and made great deals, but did he have any experience with a championship team that he helped build? Nope, but he was the flashy pick, and the Hornets stayed away.

While all of this was happening reports were swirling that Chouest and Shinn weren’t even on speaking terms because they were “millions apart on negotiations”, quickly and efficiently though, this mess was cleaned up. Both owners issued statements saying that they have been talking frequently and working diligently with one another in every move from coaching interviews to player scouting. So things settled down on that topic, but the decision was still looming on who would be the GM. Then today the announcement was made, Dell Demps director of pro personnel of the San Antonio Spurs was hired. A guy that knows what about building championship teams. Such an awesome move. The Hornets again go with the edgy pick, they even beat out Phoenix to get him.

So let’s look at things as we stand. The front office is once again in order and all of the staff is set with fresh new minds and ideas. We have two promising rookies and a good team coming back with more experience and health. We have a new coach ready to show the NBA what he can do. We have a promising transfer of ownership that WILL happen eventually (those kinds of things take time). We didn’t splurge or overpay for mediocre players. Not to mention we have the greatest point guard in all the land in Chris Paul. Now we are locked and loaded to make moves, and suddenly that spiral to the abyss doesn’t seem to exist anymore. The light at the end of the tunnel is here and only beginning because through the darkness, the Hornets have moved in the right direction.

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