New Orleans Hornets Must Win Now or They Risk Hope Fading

By:
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).

28 comments
Steve Kauffman
Steve Kauffman

Discaimer-.I am the attorney/agent for your Head Coach and also two of his assistants. I rep coaches and management on other clubs as well. Sometimes it's hard too root because of the nature of my job. However I just want to compliment you on the passion you show in this piece. I also feel you may be right! Can't say I'm sure because after 35 +years of working in professional sports you learn that you really never know what's coming..New Orleans is a special city, one of the few great American cities. btw I was born in Philadelphia and live in Los Angeles. But I truly care so much about your city! Rooting for you guys

MaxALM
MaxALM

Do we have a draft pick this year? Or was that what we gave up for Bayless/Jack?

42
42

No first rounder for that reason. Protection clause will not kick in.

504ever
504ever

Doesn't mean we can't get one. Remember when we gave up next year's 2nd round pick to get a this year's 2nd round pick? Maybe we can even buy a pick from a salary cap stapped team.

42
42

Agreed. Just stating the present state.

NOEngineer
NOEngineer

In order to compete against tall teams without West, we need to field a tall team. Gray and Mbenga at the 5, Okafor the primary 4 with help from Landry and Smith, and Landry sliding down to the 3 to get him more minutes. Ariza can slide down to the 2 if his defense is needed. I think Landry can defend better against smaller players than he can against bigs. We don't need another guard when CP3 is on the floor. The Gray/Okafor lineup looked good in the few minutes it was tried. I'd like to see more of it.

cro_CP3
cro_CP3

I'm disappointed at y'all...I mean we are fans of this team right? And yes it's a tough situation without DWest and yes I know the reality yadda yadda...But guys, we must be optimistic, it's a ONE LOSS TO MEMPHIS and we won vs the Blazers the other day, what I'm trying to say is, that we proven that we can win when the pressure is there and that we can win without DWest, I'm not saying we don't need him, but the guys stepped up, especially Landry and CP3 will eventually score tonight against the Pacers, you know he is playing against his student, Darren Collison and I believe he will have some tricks in his sleeve to abuse him and hopefully NOLA will win, also guys no matter what, we must cheer for our team, (at least here in Croatia they do it like that), I know you cheer and all that but I don't like this depressive article right in the middle of a playoff race/fight...Imagine if CP3 reads it, or anyone of the players, he will be like damn, these guys are just giving up, quote: 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. WE can still be a dark horse (I'm not saying getting out of the 1st round but making a decent 1st round matchup to Dallas/San Antonio, Lakers ehh no), remember, we got a superstar point guard Chris Paul CP3, who is back to his full speed since the Memphis game before the concussion, I'm sorry y'all but I just don't wanna talk the future RIGHT NOW when the guys are fighting out there on the court every night...

Nithenz
Nithenz

Craotia?? Ohh, thats what the cro_ means =P Zagrb? I'm Argentinian, but my sweetie is Croatian, she's traveling next week to visit her family after a 2 1/2 years here. She will LOL when i tell her about this, I think im the only Hornet fan here in Argentina, and may as well found the only Croatian one. =P Bok!

Joe Gerrity
Joe Gerrity

My blood runs thick with optimism, which is why I can look at this horrible situation that the team finds itself in (owned by the league, leading scorer out, CP3's contract winding down, etc) and not just say- gut the roster and start over. That's the conclusion that most people come to. When I say that our dark horse status was shattered, I mean that we are no longer long shot title contenders, that it wasn't unthinkable before that injury that we could actually get to the finals with D-West. You yourself say that we can't get out of the first round anymore. I also hope you don't think that I'm giving up on the team as a whole. This season is finished. We can still go to games, and watch our team give it their all, but it isn't going anywhere. If the point of a season is to win a title (which I believe it is right now), then it died. What I'm tried to get across is that next season is not dead, as long as the guys who are taking the floor every night right now can compete. If they can close out 3-3 or 4-2, and win a couple of playoff games, it will go a long way toward reassuring both the fans and CP3 that entering next season with essentially the current roster is a perfectly good thing. If they can't do those things, then it means they aren't good enough to compete for the first half of next year (until West comes back) without a major upgrade. The CP3 thing is very real, whether or not we acknowledge it, and the solution is winning. I guess really I'm just digging my toes in to brace myself for what I know is going to be a crazy summer. Oh, and I love the Hornets. Truly, I do.

Nithenz
Nithenz

Nice, heard Split is awesome. She was going to do a Cordoba-Roma-Split-Zagreb, but changed to Roma-Trieste, but for sure she'll go to Split in her time there, i know she loves that place.

cro_CP3
cro_CP3

I'm an big optimist and a big fan of NOLA, I know you love the Hornets, can't argue that... Nithenz, great to hear, I' m from Split btw...

Dontae
Dontae

There is cause for concern but I don't see hope fading away. They're still ahead of the Rockets 3 games in the loss column. I don't see the Rockets winning the rest of their games. I think the Hornets will win enough games to stay at least, in the 8th seed and possibly move up. We will need it because it looks like the Lakers might just end up being number one in the West.

504ever
504ever

I think to weakness of this article is this part: "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. " I am not sure any of these three things will happen. (How many teams will inload a Wallace for garbage like Charlotte did this year?) Even if they all happen, "legitimate contenders next year" in the powerful Western Conference seems unlikely. The issue for me is the Hornets have 2nd string players starting (think anyone at shooting guard, Landry [temporarily], and probably Ariza), 3rd string players on the 2nd string (think Gray, Smith, Anderson, Pondexter), and a back up point guard who is a shoot first player on a unit that needs a pass first point guard. On the positive, every trade the Hornets made since the new management team took over has brought in more, or much more, talent than we lost, and they have saved millions off of future salary cap figures. So what trades can management make next? And who on the Hornets is tradeworthy enough to bring in a significant piece for the 1st string or big for the 2nd string? Jack? If so does that mean they draft a point guard in the 1st round? And finally, how much improvement can the Hornets get through off season player development of Pondexter, Bellinelli, Smith? And all of the above assumes we retain West and Landry, which may not be so easy.

Joe Gerrity
Joe Gerrity

If you're saying that the plan l laid out is unlikely, then I will be the first to agree. I'm not sure that any of those three things will happen either, but they are all quite reasonable goals for the organization, and it's not out of the question that all three could happen. Player salary is almost certainly going to be reduced in the next CBA, so tons of guys who are overpaid now are going to be even more overpaid. Teams always give up. Every year that I can remember there have been players with marginal contracts available for a future first rounder and some cash (an example). Some teams always do poorly and start to rebuild. Some owners will want to reduce salary. Happens every year. As for West re-signing. I think it makes a lot of sense for both sides if he will take a deal like the max extension they can offer now. For the Hornets it says- Hey world, we aren't trading Paul. For West it says long term security after an uncertain injury, and an entire career with one team. I think everyone win there, but that's just my opinion. West might want to opt in, rehab, and play for a bigger deal. And if they want to be competitive next year, they have to re-sign Landry or find another scoring power forward. Zach Randolph? Way too expensive. It's Landry. He's the guy if they want to go the route I described. What's best about it, is that it's not even risky. There aren't any really dumb long term overpriced deals involved. Still unlikely, though.

Eric
Eric

completely agree...we cant afford a repeat of the 08-09 playoff debacle..we have to put up a fight and at least make things interesting in the first round but we got to make the playoffs first...that is priority #1 right now

paul
paul

it's just me, but the ONE thing this team needs is a powerfully fearsome three point shooter. Until this happens, the opposition really knows how to play the Hornets. We don't have superstar bigs, so we cannot dominate inside. So we need to open it up a little. We need to stop the cheating they do inside. Paul will feel better. Our bigs have better opportunities to move under or to the basket. Right now, Belli is inconsistent, as his time shows (or as Monty plays him).

Joe Gerrity
Joe Gerrity

I agree. A three point bomber who can play defense is 100% essential for Chris Paul to operate at maximum efficiency. It's really too bad that Trevor can't hit the long ball, because he's a great fit otherwise.

L_REAZY
L_REAZY

HARSH REALITY: Though I can see the Hornets beating Indiana tomorrow night, I can also see Phoenix, Houston, and Memphis getting revenge on New Orleans dropping the team out of possible playoff contention. Right now Houston has 36 losses. Well the Hornets could drop those three games I mentioned and have 36 as well. The only thing that possibly keeps Houston out of the playoffs is the fact that they have a tough schedule ahead, but they are playing a lot better than the Hornets are as of late, and might be able to overcome that challenge with the weapons that they have. BOTTOM LINE: Chris Paul has to average 25ppg, 10apg, & 2spg in order for the Hornets to make it to the playoffs, because no one other than Landry is a reliable shot-maker on this team. BY THE WAY: Should the Hornets go after Thaddeus Young this offseason, and then trade Trevor Ariza to a contender for a more reliable player? L_REAZY

42
42

Our magic number is 3.

RobertM320
RobertM320

Never mind, I just checked. We do have the division record tiebreaker locked up. Now, if Portland or Memphis would just lose a game or two....we could get that matchup with the Mavs we all want.

42
42

Yeah, tie-breakers can be complex. It all depends on how many teams are involved and whether they are in the same division. Like I said, I ignore them until it gets 'simple'. At any rate, if we win Wednesday, it's all becomes far less important. If we lose, we are still in the hunt.

RobertM320
RobertM320

42, what I don't get is, how do we have the tiebreaker with Houston locked up? If we lose tomorrow night, we'll have split the series 2-2. Have we clinched a better division record, which I think is the next tiebreaker after head to head?

RobertM320
RobertM320

42, I'm confused by everyone saying the magic number is 3. (I do understand how magic numbers work) But we have 33 losses, the Rockets have 36. Magic number is the total number of combined NO wins and HTN losses that would clinch. Well, if we win 3 and finish 46-36, and the Rockets win out, we'd be tied. Shouldn't the magic number be FOUR? Four wins would guarantee us no worse than 47-35, and HTN could be no better than 46-36. Yet, everyone, from you, to Bob and Gil, etc, say its 3. Explain, please.

42
42

The so-called magic number for team 1 vs team 2 (order is important) is related to wins of team 1 and the losses of team 2. I calculate the magic number like you do, ignoring tie-breakers, as that's usually very complex and there isn't much payoff. Now, the situation is simpler, and we have the tie-breaker over the Rockets locked up, making a tie go our way, reducing the magic number by 1, provided the Rockets alone are driving our playoff situation (they are). If you want more, say so and I'll make up a post in the offseason (we need topics for when there is no bball, yeah?)

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

At the core of this piece lies the hard truth- there will be several potential tipping points in the next year or two and they ALL have to go the Hornets way for our future to remain bright. 1.) CBA must get settled- Small market teams must wrestle away multiple items from both large market teams AND players in the new deal (Franchise tag, revenue sharing, hard cap, etc) 2.) A new owner must buy the Hornets with the sole intent on keeping them in New Orleans. Also must be willing to lose some money short term, with the long term in sight. 3.) West must either opt-in or re-sign 4.) Hornets must maintain leverage with CP3 through Franchise tag option (or an equivalent) 5.) CP3 must FULLY heal from his injury 6.) One more quasi All-Star and one big must be added 7.) West must come back 100% As Shaka Smart (coach of VCU) said regarding his teams improbable run- If you look at all of those objectives as a whole, it seems very daunting, but all you have to do is win one at a time. The new CBA is IMPERATIVE. Small market teams need to stand strong and come out as the big winners. If that happens, Chouest and others will pony up for this team and everything else is possible from there. Those first two items hold the entire key. A good showing in the playoffs would just be the icing on the cake, but the future of this franchise will all be settled in negotiations between millionaires and billionaires- not on th ecourt, unfortunately.

42
42

Yup. A very smart person agreed with a comment I made to him. Discussing the future of the Hornets, I said, "I know we can do this if we are allowed to." He said, "Yes, exactly. The real question is if you will be allowed to." Or something like that.

Ian H.
Ian H.

The Landry playing out his mind scenario is the thing that worries me the most, especially if cp3 keeps playing like Brevin Knight. Landry is the only guy that can flat out score any night against any team n if he goes crazy in the playoffs he may put himself in that 7-9 million a year range for a team with cap room that doesn't mind overpaying for his services.

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