On Game 6

This is the first thing I'm writing since the start of the playoffs, and even now I am writing more as a fan than an analyst, journalist, or anything else someone might mistake me for. As soon as we were matched up with the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, I decided to throw rationality out of the window and go into the series as purely a fan of the team. I knew that almost everyone did not expect much out of this team, with the most optimistic outlooks only calling for a "gentleman's sweep" in favor of the defending champs. Even in our own Writer's Roundtable, not one of us mentioned the possibility of winning the series.

Going into a game with no expectations can make it that much more enjoyable when the unexpected occurs. I was with a good amount of fellow Hornets die-hards to witness the Hornets shock the basketball world and steal Game 1 form the Lakers. Even better, we saw a return to the Chris Paul who dominated the playoffs in 07-08. This was the player who had turned many of us into Hornets fans a few years ago, snapping right back into the national discussion. In the last four games, we have seen a team, who no one expected to win a game, take two from the two-time defending champs. We've seen a player, who many had written off as permanently damaged goods, emerge as the best player in the series and maybe in the playoffs thus far.

On a local level, I've seen interest increase exponentially for this team of overachievers and their fearless leader. This city has a particular thing for underdogs, and as far as bandwagon fans go, there might not be any better in the whole country. It may have been tough to get people to consistently show up in the first place, but once they are in the building, there may not be a rowdier bunch. No fan directions are needed in this town. Yesterday on local radio, I heard Marc Spears from Yahoo! say that while people say the playoff series in Oklahoma City was loud, Game 4 in NOLA was definitely louder. I was there, and from someone who has been in the Superdome and Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge for some pretty big games, the New Orleans Arena was LOUD. It was 18,000 fans coming together to show support for a team that they had all come to identify with. Facing a team with perhaps the most widespread fan base in the NBA, there was rarely any audible evidence of people cheering for the visitors. That game was epic. That experience was special, and it's something I won't soon forget.

Tonight, the Hornets' season could very well come to an end. The Lakers could continue to exploit their considerable mismatches and the Hornet offense could never get off the ground. If that happens no one should be too disappointed with how this season has turned out. Overcoming everyone's expectations and putting up a fight against the imposing Lakers would be a fitting end to a season filled with more ups and downs than any in recent memory. I do not have to go through the roller coaster ride of events that has taken place this year. You all know the story by now.

That said, I am not expecting this team to go quietly into the offseason.  Last night I watched two incredible basketball games, one in which a veteran team impossibly snatched a victory from almost certain defeat, and another in which a young superstar put on a impeccable performance as he earned his franchise their first playoff series victory. This year's  playoffs have been anything but predictable and have been thrilling in many of the series that we were supposed to have "figured out."  The stories, both real and fabricated, have been compelling. The performances have been epic. I will cheer my loudest tomorrow night, because no one knows in what way the story will play out. No expert or pundit can tell you if Chris Paul has another historic performance up his sleeve to force a Game 7 that would have been unthinkable at the onset of this series.

 

My advice to you is to go into this game with no expectations except watching a basketball game. A game played at its highest level with a few of its best players. Try not to envision a dramatic upset or a humbling defeat. My goal for this game is simply to enjoy it. Seeing what the people of Sacramento have gone through this year has really affected me. Knowing that the NBA ownership of the Hornets could result in a similar situation for my team has been in the back of my mind all year. Watching what was, at the time, considered to be the final game in Sacramento really hit home in ways I did not expect. I can't imagine that feeling, and hope that I never have to. For the time being, I will try to enjoy every second of Hornets basketball that this season has to offer, whether it be 48 minutes or another month. I will not think about free agents, or lockouts, or ownership groups. I will concentrate all my mind on cheering for a team that "came from nowhere," according to Reggie Miller, led by an all-world talent, going up against the New York Yankees of the basketball world.

If you are lucky enough to be attending the game tonight, I ask that you join me as being loud as possible and giving this team the support that they deserve. If you will be watching at home or elsewhere, keep in mind what this team has accomplished and appreciate a playoff performance for the history books. This year's playoffs have made me realize three things about myself:

There is no sport I'd rather be following than the NBA.

There is no team I'd rather support than the Hornets.

There is no player on the planet I'd rather watch than Chris Paul.

Geaux Hornets

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