What Kind of New Will This New Year Be?

Published: December 31, 2012
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The New Year will bring a New New Orleans Hornets in so many ways.

A year ago

  • the team was still in the process of being sold to an owner committed to keeping the team in New Orleans
  • the team had just sent away its foundation player in All-Everything Chris Paul
  • the team had just lost All-Star David West
  • alleged star Eric Gordon was missing games due to an ill-defined knee injury
  • the NBA was just coming out of a lockout
  • the New Orleans fan base, though supporting the team in an unprecedented fashion, was growing weary
  • the games were difficult enough for many Hornets fans to watch at home to cause the team trouble

Now, a year later

  • the team has solid local ownership with a billion dollar bankroll and state and corporate support
  • the team has acquired a potential franchise-changing player in Anthony Davis
  • the team traded for the 2011-2012 NBA Most Improved Player, Ryan Anderson
  • Eric Gordon is finally playing after a series of ill-defined knee injuries
  • the salary and draft situation for the Hornets this coming off-season is favorable
  • the Hornets have a new TV deal that has greatly increased its market breadth, market penetration, and broadcast quality
  • the New Orleans Arena is in store for major renovations in the coming two off-seasons

However, it’s not exactly a basket of puppies going forward. Progress requires sacrifice. Everything has a cost. Currently

  • the Hornets name itself appears to be in jeopardy of being replaced by Pelicans
  • the investing in the future is having dire consequences on the court in the present with losses mounting and the fan base’s patience with Eric Gordon wearing thin in some cases
  • the stability of the franchise is not where it needs to be as they are still
    • awaiting a practice facility
    • moving office space
    • consolidating operations with the Saints
    • working out new revenue streams such as naming rights, programming for the LED boards, and other sponsorship deals
    • rebuilding (or stopping the erosion of) the ticket base

    and more

The critical pieces of the puzzle are in place, but the majority of the work needed to bring this franchise into respectability lies ahead. Perhaps this foundation-building will continue beyond 2013 (the Arena renovations certainly will). It all needs to get done, along with winning, before this respect will come.

Time will tell, but 2012 may turn out to actually be a more important year for the franchise than 1988. The year of the team’s first game is a tough one to take down, but the process of getting that team was spread from 1985 through then. 2012 saw a very compressed schedule of franchise-changing events. In fact, these could be viewed as franchise-starting events, which, as it turns out, largely cleared away the rubble of the past.

2013 is a (mostly) fresh start. The nickname is all but gone, and when it goes, the franchise will bear only academic connections to the Charlotte Hornets that left their home just over 10 years ago, and only slightly more to the `patchwork’ team in Oklahoma City. The Coach and GM hearken from days of Shinn ownership, but only in the final days. They have since been affirmed. Jason Smith, the only player left from those days, has received a new contract. Every key piece has the Benson stamp on it or will soon. The rebrand seems all-but-complete. The TV deal is revamped. The beverage contract is redone. And more.

But there is more to be done. And then all the parts of this `new’ franchise have actually start functioning as intended.

2013 will not be a year of success. It will not be a year of fun. It will be a year of strengthening. It will be a year of hard work. It will be a year of reinstituting “normal” in a franchise that has not known for any significant stretch in over a decade in a city that as not seen more than five full seasons of basketball in a row since 1979. It will be a year marked with construction, both literal and figurative.

It will be worth it.


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