Hornets are Road Superstars

We are seeing something supernova about the Hornets and the amount of respect they are getting when they go on the road.  Look at the last three West Coast road games against California teams mired in a bad season, when none of these franchises had managed to sell out just ten measly home games so far.  All three sold out their Hornets games.  Granted the Kings effort was greatly abetted by the ceremony to retire Vlade Divac’s jersey, but the lowly Clippers had a capacity crowd and when the team played in Oracle Arena to face a severely depleted Warriors franchise, the sellout gave Golden State their 10th of the season, despite winning 11 of 16 at home recently.

Fans cheer for their teams loudly, but they are there just as much to see CP3 do amazing things on the hardwood.  In every game, oohhs and aahhhs surfaced when Paul worked over their hometown hoops heroes with a dazzling drive, a ridiculous assist, a gritty steal, or just another dagger as his shot finds the bottom of the bucket.  David West earned respect from all those fans at the games for playing on a gimpy ankle, draining shots and playing active D on one leg.  

The players on these bad teams were charged up by their sellout crowds, too.  It gave their game some extra juice to measure their game against all the hype that CP3 attracts with his new shoes and mini-TV show on nba.com, and to have a strong home rooting section, scattered with just enough fans wearing Hornets gear, amped up the level of the game.  National pundits can see how injured the Hornets are at this moment, but did they manage to catch the fierce play of DX toughing it out for 40 and 9, setting a great pick on the final play that caught up a pair of Kings so Rasual Butler could drain the game winning 3?  Did they appreciate Chris Paul twisting the knife into the Clippers, whose fans thought they could catch another rare big-time upset from their underachieving team?

Overall, it seems like the worst teams still love to play the playoff bound teams at the end of the season, and the number of upsets where the lottery driven David slays the Goliaths of the NBA has become routine down the stretch.  OKC beats the Spurs… twice, and crushes Dallas so bad the owner calls out his Mavs.  T-Wolves hang a rare home loss on Utah.  Agent Zero and the hapless Wiz summon angry playoff memories vs the Cavs.  The list goes on & on, and I thought it was relevant to mention the rarity of these particular bad teams selling out their arenas late in their lost seasons, just to watch these Hornets of ours put on their show, and how the energy of these crowds raised the stakes of those three games on this West Coast swing.

I also wonder if we can note that the Hornets have drawn markedly better on the road this season?  When CP3 has a top 5 selling jersey and draws the kind of accolades (Player of the Month twice, steals recordholder, etc.) that give him superstar recognition, his team is must see basketball when they come to a town near you.  I don’t know how much extra revenue playing on the road before big crowds helps the bottom line, but it can’t hurt — maybe it helps pay a little bit of a midlevel exemption for a free agent over the course of a season, so a guy like Posey becomes more affordable.

It’s great that fans in New Orleans have stepped up for the team, but it’s increasingly clear that the team is well on the way to becoming a marquee road team.  Further proof that while the Hornets are hungry for a championship, they are now officially on “the hunted” list where even the sorry teams late in the season want to beat you just because of who the Hornets are.

It’s a big learning curve, and I think our record in close games, in closing out 4th quarters when the team has the lead, in learning that teams get psyched to play them and fans want to catch the Hornets in action and pull for a monumental upset, as happened in Oakland on Friday — all that goes into the making of a championship team.  

So where are the Hornets as a roadside attraction?  Are they in the Top Ten in the league as a road draw?  

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