Paul knows success is still attainable in New Orleans

By Wesley O.

When Baron Davis was traded midseason to the Warriors during the ’04-05 season, many Hornets fans were upset, but not at all surprised. If you remember that season, or have unsuccessfully tried to block it from your memory, you know that things did not go according to plan as the team quickly plummeted to the bottom of the standings as the aging roster was hit with injuries and overall inconsistency. After a 1-19 start, the Hornets began unloading what was once a consistent playoff-contending roster led by the point guard Davis. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, and Davis wanted to be anywhere but stuck in the middle of a complete rebuilding project in New Orleans.

And so the Hornets traded the two-time All-Star and received virtually nothing in return. For two and a half years, Davis was the star of the show in New Orleans and dazzled thousands of Hornets fans every night, but now he was gone. How would the team fill a void of this magnitude? Enter Chris Paul.

Five years after being selected fourth overall in the 2005 Draft, Paul has led New Orleans to two playoff appearances while earning a Rookie Of The Year honor in 2006, two All-Star game appearances, and is considered to be one of, if not the best point guard in the entire league by fans and players alike. But aside from dominating on the court, Paul took the time off the court to help and rebuild the city was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina just before his rookie season in ’05.

He saw the deserted neighborhoods. He saw the thousands of families who had lost their homes or a loved one. He saw an opportunity not just to rally a team around him, but an entire region, determined to regain it’s once proud way of life and achieve a level of success it had never experienced before, winning an NBA championship. Nothing would make the city more proud than seeing it’s beloved Hornets win that title, and Chris Paul still knows that to be the case today. 

Unlike Davis, Paul has the opportunity to be a true champion, and not only just on the court. Davis experienced the frustration of five straight playoff defeat defeats in both Charlotte and New Orleans, and he knew the team wasn’t going to get any further than they already had, so he left. Paul has only experienced two disappointing seasons following a magical playoff run in 2008, but the opportunity to compete for a title in New Orleans is still there so long as he is leading the team.

Instead of avoiding adversity, he must overcome it. If it were not for a few bad moves in free agency the past couple of years, the Hornets would not be in the current salary cap situation that it’s in. If it were not for a string of key injuries during the final stretch of the ’08-09 season, the Hornets almost certainly would have been in better shape heading into the playoffs that year. If it were not for a meniscus tear in Paul’s knee last season, the Hornets might have stayed in the playoff race. Sometimes bad luck happens, and Paul should know more than anybody that this team can compete with anybody when it’s fully healthy.

Regardless of the lack

of star-power on the roster right now outside of Paul, the Hornets have a great corp. of young up-and-coming players that can make an impact, still have a solid low-post compliment to Paul in David West, have just brought in a new young head coach and general manager that are both eager to put their own mark on a successful ball club, and will have about $21 million to spend next offseason. The future still looks bright in New Orleans, and Paul can either stick around and help things develop until the team is in position to sign quality players and compete for a title, or he can follow the footsteps of the former great leader of this franchise and find his opportunity with another team. The truth is this team isn’t rebuilding, it’s re-tooling. In order to rebuild you have to had lost a major contributer(s) and/or have fallen into the virtual NBA basement. The Hornets have done neither of those things, they just need the proper guidance from the coaching position as well as consistent role players to support Paul and the main cast.

Either way, the Hornets will still be in a great position the next few years. Regardless if Paul leaves or not, we will still appreciate and respect the things he has done off the court as well as the way he has dominated the game on it throughout his young career in New Orleans. He is a role model to many and has never taken his superstar status for granted. As a fan of his, I want him to be successful and to win a championship no matter what team he is playing for. But as a true Hornets fan, nothing would be more satisfying than to see him win it for this franchise. Even as I write this journal entry, I still believe he will do this someday for us. He knows just how wonderful the feeling of success is in New Orleans, he’s briefly experienced it before, and the Hornets team of Hugh Weber, Monty Williams and Dell Demps will remind him of that come Monday afternoon. 

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