New Orleans Hornets Must Win Now or They Risk Hope Fading

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Published: April 2, 2011

With six games left and the playoffs looming, the New Orleans just need to win games. It might sound way too simple to be the first sentence, but think for a second about how desperately the Hornets need to make the playoffs and put up a fight. They have to go out there every night as a team, and play as if the future of the franchise rests on their shoulders, because it does.

First off let’s look at potential playoff teams to get a picture of how badly the Hornets need to win for sake of the standings-

The Lakers appear to be are on a path to overtake San Antonio for the number one seed, which was just about unthinkable a month ago. Previously it would have bee sort of OK to just slide into the postseason as the 8 seed with rested starters. There was even a path the championship from there. Not anymore. As we saw last night, the Hornets just can’t  handle taller teams with out David West. The lake show is giant.

The real need to win here doesn’t have too much to do with this postseason, though. Not really at least. The Hornets needs to win games to assure fans that all hope is not lost because the past year has been incredibly trying from a fan’s perspective.

Just about a year ago Hornets fans heard some some of the best news in recent team history– Local BILLIONAIRE Gary Chouest was going to purchase the remainder of the team! That of course meant that instantly the Hornets problem of being cheap would no longer exist, they wouldn’t be moving, CP3 would stay, yada yada.

But then nothing happened.

Unless you count the oil spill, which sort of posed a problem to the offshore boat service industry in which Chouest’s billions were made. After that we didn’t hear anything about the sale for a while. Quite a while actually, but we can get to that later.

When Draft day came, the Hornets traded away their lottery pick just to unload Mo-P’s contract. Sure, they got the both the 21st and 26th picks back, but that deal was about the money. Make no mistake about it.

At the end of the regular season, there were whispers of Paul’s discontent. They grew progressively lounder until one day there was just a guy outside my bedroom window every morning who shouted at the top of his lungs, “CHRIS PAUL IS GOING TO NEW YORK!!! CHRIS PAUL IS GOING TO PORTLAND!!! CHRIS PAUL IS GOING TO ORLANDO!!!”, again and again and again. And again.

And again.

And again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again

In the middle of all that internet screaming, GM/Head Coach Jeff Bower was fired during summer league, resulting in a week during free agency in which the team didn’t have a GM. After a training camp filled with more CP3 speculation, fans watched the team lose every single game in the preseason.

Although things went well early on in the regular season, the fans were still feeling a little alienated after an offseason in which they had pretty much been kept in the dark about everything. Just as things were looking good, though, ish hit the fan. When the Hornets attendance problem became known, national speculation ensued about just where exactly the Hornets would move to. Vancouver, Seattle, Kansas City, St. Louis… All nice places. All were tied to the Hornets.

Then of course came the real bomb that shook the franchise- Chouest wasn’t buying the team, and Shinn couldn’t afford to run it anymore, so the Hornets were going to be operated by the NBA. Awesome. Because it’s sooooo plausible that the NBA would let it’s own team win the title. [Full disclosure- I don't believe this, but I do think it's a situation that's funny to think about. It would draw  just about every conspiracy theorist, most fans of opposing teams, and Marc Cuban out of the woodwork to examine and ridicule each and every play that happened along the way to look for "evidence" of fixing.]

Surprisingly, the NBA didn’t sell the team. Stern himself even spoke about the NBA’s desire to keep the team in New Orleans, which was nice to here. Then, the Hornets actually added salary ,albeit in a deal that sent off one of the most popular players. Regardless, It seemed that things were really turning around!

You know what happened next, of course. David West got hurt, shattering the team’s dark horse status, and with it the dreams of oh so many Hornets fans. The season died that day, and Hornets fans everywhere knew it.

So what does the future hold?

Even if one pretends that the CBA will be resolved in an timely fashion, and the season starts on time, the Chris Paul problem still is unresolved. Although winning has proven to be a temporary solution so far, a quick fix if you will, it could flourish into so much more this summer with the proper love and care (AKA Chouest).

As I’ve said before, he never had to lay off workers, and it appears that his company has made it out of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill largely unscathed. If that’s the case, and the new CBA gets resolved, then it stands to reason that Chouest would still be interested in buying the team. It’s my take that the NBA is banking on that as it’s number one strategy to keep the team in New Orleans.

The only way that the Hornets can possibly compete next year, is if the current lineup- Paul, Belli, Ariza, Landry, Okafor, can come together to finish the season strongly, and at the very least put up a fight in the first round. That would show Chris Paul that they are good enough to go into next season with a few minor upgrades and much more familiarity with each other, and stick around in the playoff race until West comes back.

The 2011-2012 mid-season addition of West, plus the ability to bring back some high salaried talent in a trade (Thanks Chouest) could very well be enough to make the Hornets legitimate contenders next year without sacrificing too much long term flexibility, especially if West signs a discounted extension this summer with the team (giving him long term security), and Landry can be re-signed at a reasonable price. That’s a real plan to keep Paul right there, at least as real as I can come up with.

But as I said before, The only way in which something like that can happen is if the team as currently comprised can hang with it’s Western Conference foes. If not, it’s going to be a long summer.

(edit- It would be nice if Landry didn’t play out of his mind in the postseason, but the Hornets still play well as a team. Then the Hornets won’t have to overpay him this summer. Also, sorry about the length. This has been on my chest a while).

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