Last summer, I wrote a post called "New Orleans' Rise" or something like that. It was a pretty interesting offseason. For the first time in a while, the Hornets were under a pretty big spotlight. They'd threatened to go farther than ever before in franchise history, they had a legitimate superstar on the roster, and they were involved with one of the highest profile free agents of the summer. (In many ways, they were a less successful version of this summer's Magic).
Of course, 2008-2009 happened to happen right after that. And poof! went all the adulation and respect. I don't mean it in one of those self-righteous "oh look, they're disrespecting us, we're under the radar, thanks for motivating us" type of posts. I hate those. I mean it just in a general observation sense. As in, hey look, this is happening.
The Hornets are firmly under the radar right now, for what it's worth. 60 point losses tend to do that. But it's not just the mediocrity that the media is (rightly) choosing to ignore. Last week's ESPN's MVP projections thingy went thusly: LBJ, Kobe, Wade, which is to be expected I guess. Others receiving votes? D. Howard, K. Durant, Derrick Rose. Derrick Rose. Good one, guys.
It's not that the Hornets aren't getting respect. They still do have a ton of national games and everything. More than respect, it's that there are no expectations. I'm not sure there would be a great deal of surprise if the Hornets struggled to another 7th or 8th finish, with Peja injured again, and limited bench production. It wouldn't be the most stunning thing either if they finished 3rd or 2nd with the Okafor-Diogu duo clicking. And I think that lack of expectation affects the way they're perceived or reported on. With the contenders, there's some point of reference. Can the Celtics return to the finals? Did the Spurs add enough youth to return to their 2000's dominance? Will the Lakers repeat? Will the Magic both get there and win it this time? With the Hornets, what's there to refer to? The 2007-2008 team is well in the past. The 2008-2009 team was marred by injuries, and quite frankly, sucked. There simply isn't much to go on, and it contributes to the whole under-the-radar feel.
As a fan, I'd much rather be in this spot than one with a ton of expectations. But I'm not sure if this factors into players' mindsets or performance at all. Thoughts?