Ruth’s Chris Event with GM Jeff Bower

Published: April 1, 2009

Hornets season ticket holders were given the opportunity to attend a Hornets event at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in New Orleans on Tuesday, where GM Jeff Bower spoke and answered questions. Jason Calmes was in attendance and kindly took notes. Here they be.

Top 5 Big points:

  • 97% season ticket renewal
  • Peja back Friday?
  • Keeping pick
  • Talks have been ongoing with Pargo
  • DirecTV should have Hornets next season

We got there on time and stayed the full two hours.  The food was great and we got out of there for about $100.  We both had salad, house for her, Caesar for me, rare filets with shrimp, creamed spinach, and fruit and cream and chocolate mousse for dessert.  We sat with nice ladies from 113, one of whom was my sophomore Spanish teacher, so that was a nice treat (I liked her; I wasn’t much for Spanish; minored in Latin in college).

There were about 50 people there total by my estimation.

Bill Bailey greeted us and introduced Jeff Bower.

He spoke for a while before taking questions.  His speech was good.  It was sincere and informative.  He was honest.  I was impressed, and I’m hard to impress.  I don’t doubt he may have the skills to fool my bullshit detector, but I think we got unvarnished information.  The rest of the crowd murmured in assent most of the night and people shared recollections as he was speaking (tastefully), so I think others concur.

My editorials in double parentheses (())

The points in his speech:

  • 97% renewal of season tickets.  ((I’m assuming they count seats, not holders or money.  That’s about 325 seats not renewed.  Recession on recess in NOLA?))
  • We’re in the best position we’ve been in all year.  When the crowd called him out on this, his basically said the injury situation was led to opportunity and we’ll be stronger during the playoffs for it.
  • Our starters will be back.  Peja Friday?  Tyson by playoffs.  Also, Posey will be evaluated after 3 games and will probably play after that.
  • The Hornets losses to non-playoff teams is typical in league.  ((He only mentioned West teams, but he cited specifics and I bought it.  Mentioned Lakers were exceptional in this category)).
  • The “Bond” on the team is what sets the Hornets apart from other title contenders.  Character of players is important to maintain this.
  • Don’t lose sight of the improvement the Hornets have made over the last couple of years.  A few less wins after the highest W total in Hornets history during a season with some lengthy and key injuries is nothing to be ashamed of.  Expectations are rightfully higher on all fronts.
  • CP3 is “The Ultimate Closer”
  • The gold shirt night is still an important and alive part of the franchise.  The fan up banner raising upward on the lift with Hugo ((and Orff’s Carmina Burana)) he referred to as a defining moment in the course of New Orleans becoming a basketball city.  ((This really popped the crowd;  everyone buzzed about it; it was a special time indeed))
  • He joked about listening to . . . used to listen to talk radio.  Listens to Journey and Bon Jovi ((two favorites of mine; I’ve seen both live))
  • He hears and feels our pain.  ((cited losses and frustration with play at times from all fronts)).  He sees everyone’s passion as positive ((agreed)).
  • They like the draft class and plan on keeping the pick ((this was not plural, and he only referred to round 1, so I don’t know what that means regarding the second pick if we still have it)).

 Answers to guests questions:

  • He would do the OKC trade again if he had it to do over and would do it today.  Stressed trying to help team win.  ((This caused the crowd to grumble, but he was clearly not trying to just please us all night if he said this; i take it as a sign of honesty throughout)).
  • Tyson’s toe hasn’t caused him to miss a game in 2 years and they don’t expect it to start mattering anytime soon.  ((referring to grounds for rescinding Tyson trade))
  • They have been watching the D-League, but haven’t found anyone that is a keeper where they are looking to upgrade.  They had a decision to make in January about bringing in Courtney Sims in and letting Marks go but decided against it ((clearly)).
  • (( Answered by Chief Operations Officer Hugh Weber )) DirecTV is expected to carry the Hornets next season.  Charter doesn’t have the money so them getting the games is not expected ((bankruptcy, nationwide issues, Paul Allen getting hammered on all fronts)).  Charter lost 18000 to Dish Network by not carrying the games.  The Cox-DirecTV thing is tied up with a dispute over Cox’s exclusive rights to carry San Diego Padres games.  There is a lawsuit going on, so probably these things will be resolved together in the if you want this you will take this too.  Expanding TV coverage is their number one priority this off season.  Ratings are up 214% ((the math guy in me wonders if this is the increase or what it has increased to)).  Ratings for national games are 9% than the average nationally televised game.
  • No detail was given on Tyson’s ankle.
  • It’s possible for Pargo to return.  The problem in the deal is money, as was the problem with him and ever other NBA team.  They have been in touch over his time away.  He’s playing with a sports hernia and will need surgery.  The Hornets offered him more money and more years than any other team.  There is some false information out there about a bad relationship or how he was treated.  He had the offer from the Hornets for 32 days.
  • They took Mike James to get Bonzi because they wanted Bonzi for the playoffs.  They make that trade knowing that they’d have more mover to make.
  • He hesitated saying the Stephen Jackson would be a good fit for us.  Then he said we’d have to give up Tyson or D to get him.
  • He liked the CP3-AD combo on the floor in terms of matching up against the Spurs.
  • Peja may come off the bench when he returns and then build his minutes game to game.  It’s possible he could come off the bench from now on but he’ll get his minutes.
  • ((I asked what do you say to a free agent you want in New Orleans to keep him from going to LA, Cleveland, Boston, etc.)): He sold the bond and character he talked about before.  He talked about how the hornets players, staff, team, etc. have a role in the city and that adds a sense of purpose to the players.  Passion purpose pride in all aspects of the franchise.  Good people on the team and organization.  He said he has a soft spot for Peja since he came to the team for these reasons ((and cash)) when he couldn’t even tell him where he’d be playing.  Spur’s Finley debated for weeks about taking a minimum deal here over more money in San Antonio for these reasons.
  • ((a sort of follow up)) Shinn really takes helping the city seriously and is involved with the franchise and this is a big plus for the team.
  • He and everyone will not be happy with not getting out of the first round of the playoffs.
  • We can beat the Lakers.  They struggle against good point guards and we have the best.
  • He knows Posey has had ups and downs.  He’s here for the playoffs and we’ll all see why he’s here in the playoffs, especially if we play the Lakers.

End of session.

JB was rolling around gladhanding the folks while they were settling up their bills.  The lady at our table said she just had to ask what brings David West out of his shell.  She said she’d been at some charity events (top hats, charitabowl, she named) with him and he was just so quiet.
JB’s response was very personable, but could be summed up as “kids and animals.”  And he reads a lot.  He said he’s the most well read person in the team, organization by far.
So me, with my animal loving heart and ace journalistic mind asked:  Dogs or cats?
JB paused and said “Well . . . elephants.”

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