Cautiously Tiptoeing Through a Field of Optimism

Published: November 9, 2010

The most recent data shows that 98 percent of romantic relationships end at some point, and most of them end badly. The odd thing is that an even higher percent of those relationships start off so well. How can this be? When something starts off well, it seems logical to assume that things will only get better. As much as we want to believe this in life, the truth is that words like “good” and “better” are only subjective and in the end it all falls back on the eye of the beholder.

After a 6-0 start, it is hard not to get carried away as a Hornets fan. As much can be said after the first two dates of a relationship that go absolutely perfect. You focus on all the positives, you compare the current subject with subjects from the past and realize their superiority, and you project forward all the positive things that are still to come. Even when you do notice possible negatives, you justify them or say that they can be changed. But why is it that we only give the negative articles this attribute of change? Isn’t it possible that the positive things about a prospective partner (or NBA team) can change as well? Or at least be viewed differently in future months?

The goal of this article is not to be a Debbie Downer, it is to look at everything we have seen so far realistically and objectively. There are plenty of fluffy Hornets pieces all over the web right now, and nobody would blame you if you spent your time reading one of those articles.  Go back to the first two sentences of this piece, though. Why does that happen? Why do relationships that start so great sometimes end up so horribly? It’s because people feel blindsided. They have one idea of a person and reality shows them another side that catches them off guard. They ignore the pitfalls and focus on the positives, and say things like “I feel like I never knew him/her at all!”  But whose fault is that when you ignore what is right there in front of your face or you just accept it for now because you believe it will change in the future?

I show this correlation because I feel like Hornets fans are in danger of being victimized by their own unrealistic expectations based on a small sample size and a tendency to look away from potential pitfalls because the record is 6-0. As evidence I will point people towards outcries by some Hornets fans that New Orleans was ranked 4th in some power polls this week- behind the Miami Heat. The chants of “no respect” and “but we beat them” went up on this message board and several others, almost predictably.

However it was only two weeks ago that even the most diehard Hornets optimists were saying that the 5th seed in the West was a possibility. Have six games really raised expectations this much? Six games that honestly could have each gone either way and would all be losses if CP3, West, or Okafor were not playing? (I point that out because you know all three of these guys will not play 82 games this season)

So now the Hornets sit here at 6-0 and many of the same ideologies are present as I have discussed before in this article:

“They still haven’t jelled yet- just wait until they get to play together more!”

“Okafor is finally coming around and he is only going to get better!”

“Bayless has been horrible, but once he learns the offense, he will be a great backup PG.”

I can go on and on, and my point is not that none of these are correct statements. Some of them might be; heck, all of them might be when it is all said and done. But where is the other side of the story? When do we get to talking about the possibility of inflated numbers due to facing teams with horrible front court defenders? We can talk about West shooting 57%, but we also have to acknowledge that he won’t be facing Antonio McDyess, Drew Gooden, Shelden Williams, Luis Scola, and Chris Bosh every night. Those are five of the worst defensive PF’s in the league, and West luckily avoided a matchup with Kenyon Martin who always gives him fits.

Can we talk about Emeka Okafor and his possible evolution into a top 8 center? Sure, as long as you are willing to talk about the fact that if you take out the Miami game when he faced the immortal Joel Anthonty and Big Z, Emeka is averaging 9.6 PPG and 7.4 RPG in games where he hasn’t exactly been facing physical, intimidating big men.

We can talk about Peja’s expiring deal and how that will bring us additional pieces in February or by letting him expire, the Hornets will become free agent players in 2011- but the sad truth is that neither of those things are necessarily true. Peja’s expiring simply does not have the value that big expirings have had in past years due to so many TPE’s and the fact that many big contracts are running out this year as well. As for the summer, if the Hornets pick up options on Belinelli and Smith as expected, and extend West, there simply won’t be any space left to get a quality player.

I am going to stop here, because I hope that the rest of you can facilitate the conversation moving forward. The goal is not to tear this team apart, but to be proactive in recognizing the potential weaknesses of this team, so that we don’t feel blindsided down the road. When that happens, people start getting angry and looking for scapegoats, because they don’t want to admit that a lot of these issues were right in front of them all along. Conversely, if you have healthy and realistic expectations for people in your life (or an NBA team), then you are much more likely to appreciate them, both in good times and bad.