Five Mantras for the frustrated Hornets fan

Published: March 3, 2011

If you look across the NBA landscape, it is hard to find a team that has frustrated its fan base more than the New Orleans Hornets have this year. The summer started off with the CP3 drama, an assistant who didn’t want to be our Head Coach, an ownership sale that just refused to go through, and the trade of a talented, young First Team All-Rookie point guard.

With all the turmoil, the Hornets started off red hot and raised expectations immensely, as Hornets fans talked themselves into the possibility that this team was a true contender for the NBA title. Acquiring a legitimate backup point guard only got fans more excited, and the 11-1 record had the Hornets sitting on top of the NBA standings. Unexpectedly, a fall from grace occurred and the Hornets lost 13 of their next 20, with some offensive performances that were downright shameful.

The roller coaster went back up just as the New Year began, as the Hornets won 13 of their next 15, including 10 in a row. But just as talk of contending came back, the injury bug stepped in and robbed the Hornets of their February. That brutal month saw the Hornets starters only play together for one game, and the result was a 4-8 record. (They are 4-12 overall in their last 16 games).

Cleveland fans have had a rough year, but they saw it coming. They haven’t had one stretch of games (much less two) where they could have fooled themselves into thinking they were a contender. Same goes for fans of other bottom feeders and borderline playoff teams. Denver fans experienced turmoil with their superstar, as did Utah, but they have purged themselves and are now able to look forward with few expectations for this year.

Nobody has had to endure what Hornets fans have had to go through this year. Did you notice I didn’t even mention the tiny bit of news about the Hornets being purchased by the league? How about the fact that I didn’t even bring up the fact that the Hornets traded their other young bright prospect, who just happened to be a local boy?

But maybe fans will be rewarded for this frustration. Maybe it is just a test to see if we keep the faith, to see if we stay with our team through thick and thin. Keep telling yourself that, along with these five mantras that will keep you sane in the face of unspeakable frozen chicken taboo.

Mantra #1- His knee will be fine, His knee will be fine

All signs point to the fact that Chris Paul should be healthier next year, and this injury just takes time to get better. He will probably never be 100% of what he was physically, but 90% plus a better stroke from distance and an increased IQ could make the difference negligible. But that is next year. Heck, there might not even be a next year. What about THIS year?

Calm down, my friends and repeat the mantra. Remember, it was months ago (not months from now) that CP3 was playing at an MVP level, leading the Hornets to victories in the final five minutes, and shutting down guys like Jose Calderon. Physically he should be able to do it again, but he has to pick and choose his spots. He doesn’t appear to have the stamina to go hard night in and night out for 82 games, but the good news is that the playoffs are a whole different beast. The pace slows down, half court basketball is king, and there are no more back-to-backs.

The last point is key, as Chris Paul morphs into a very average point guard without rest. This season he averages 16PPG (45% FG) and just 7.3 APG on no rest. Compare that with 19.3 PPG (52% FG) and 9.8 APG on 3 days rest or 11.2 APG on 2 days rest. Come playoff time, there are no back-to-backs and series are stretched out. Combine that with the fact that the pace slows down and there is a good chance that even though his knee won’t get better, it will be fine for playoff season.

Mantra #2- We Finally Have a Bench

Anybody want to guess who our second leading scorer off the bench was in the 07-08 playoffs? That’s right- JuJu with a whopping 4.3 PPG. Our big trade deadline acquisition, Bonzi Wells scored just 3.7 PPG on 38% shooting, while Melvin Ely, Ryan Bowen, and Hilton Armstrong all wrestled for the minutes behind West and Chandler. Yet, the Hornets were a shot or two away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals.

This bench is far superior, and although the Hornets are only likely to go 8 deep once the playoffs start, the combo of Landry, Jack, and Belinelli have the chance to be the elite bench in the Western Conference playoffs. Look no further than Tuesday against Toronto to see what they are capable of- 47 points on 60% shooting from those three off the pine.

New Orleans has not had this kind of firepower and versatility off the bench since CP3 came into the league. It was almost an assumption that the bench would squander any lead that the starters gave them, but now this team has the capability of maintaining leads or even increasing them when starters are out. Heck, against Toronto we even saw them get the Hornets back into the game after the starters played horribly.

Mantra #3- Monty and Dell are just Rookies, they will only get better

Any time a rookie player shows flashes, fans start to project that player forward and assume great things for him. They see the highlight dunks, the flashy passes, and the raw skill set and just assume that the rest will come with time. Fans overlook the occasional bonehead plays and bad shots, brushing them off as “rookie mistakes” that are to be expected.

Why aren’t we willing to do the same for coaches and executives in personnel? Are they expected to do everything right from their first day on the job? Do they have no learning curve whatsoever? Isn’t it possible that they will see the error of their ways and come through better on the other side?

I know that I have seen flashes from these two that show me that they are capable of great things moving forward. The culture of this organization as a whole has changed, the mentality of the players on the defensive end has changed, and both men have held themselves accountable for mistakes made this year. They have no illusions that they are finished products in their profession, and therefore they are willing to continue their growth. This year they revamped the defense; no doubt that next year there will have to be more of a focus on the offense.

With the glimpses we have all seen and the work ethic they obviously have, there is no reason not to expect that they continue to improve moving forward.

Mantra #4- The Hornets are here to stay

Hanging over everything in this mess of a season, is the uncertainty of where this team will play its home games in the not to distant future. Will the NBA find a local buyer? Are they just posturing to raise the price for an out of town sale? Is contraction a possibility? Until these questions get answered, Hornets fans are unable to truly enjoy the fruits of the teams’ labors. Even when the team was on top of the standings, fans were still concerned with this sale and with what it would mean for the future of D West, CP3, and others.

The NBA has no reason to sell right now, as the price is sure to go up after the union is crushed in the next CBA. But when it does come time to sell, will the owner be local? Will a certain man with his own personal treasure chouest enter back into the picture? Will he be able to look David West and Chris Paul in the eye and tell them that he is willing to do whatever it takes to build a long-tem winner?

I say yes. I could go on for another two or three paragraphs speculating as to why, but instead I will just chant the mantra…. The Hornets are here to stay…… The Hornets are here to stay……

Mantra #5- The Hornets are like Magellan, they’re so gellin’

Look at the box score from the last game of 2009-2010. Now look at last nights box score. How many guys are the same? David West, Emeka Okafor, and should we count Aaron Gray? Ok, sure, lets count Gray. That is 3. Wanna throw in CP3, even though he missed half the season? Fine, I’ll give you four. How about everyone else? Jack, Belinelli, Willie Green, Jason Smith, Q-Pon, David Anderson, Trevor Ariza. All new.

It took Emeka time to figure out how to play with West and CP3. Ariza had a rough two months before settling into his own for a stretch there. Jack looked awful for the first 40 games or so, and it took half of a season before coach realized that Marco and Willie would be better off switching roles. Landry’s game can fit in almost anywhere, so he might not take as long, but he still will have growing pains.

Point is that this team has a bunch of new faces and dominant NBA teams have traditionally been teams that have played together for a number of years. You can insert a new piece or two here and there and not miss a beat, but a complete overhaul is usually a recipe for disaster. The Hornets have done well in spurts this year, but nothing can substitute for time- and that is what this roster needs. Time together to grow, to figure each other out, to be able to communicate without being verbal, etc.

These next twenty games will give them a chance to do that, and we have seen the leaps that certain players have made in the past once they get more comfortable. But it is not only the players, the coaches also need adjustment time. They need to figure out rotations, comfort zones, and play calls that maximize the talents of the specific lineups on the court. If both the players and coaches keep working, it is possible that this team can hit their stride right as the playoffs begin.

And if they do, boy is that team scary. In fact, that might be one to save as our playoff mantra. Say it with me now… Boy, is this team scary….. Boy, is this team scary…… Boy, is this…..


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