The second stint of New Orleans basketball has been reasonably good overall. But the charm in this team, associated with this city, is that even in the bad, it’s really not THAT bad.
In the words of Marc Broussard,
"When it's good, it's good.
And when it's bad it, ain't that bad."
Weren’t we all tickled just a little bit at the fact that Jeff Bower took over the reigns as head coach mid-season? And don’t deny that even with his highness Chris Paul leaving, you weren't just a tiny bit elated to hear that the league had vetoed a trade between the league owned Hornets and the almighty Lakers. #ThanksDanGilbert? But now that we’ve just crossed the starting line into the true golden age of Nola hoops, it’s time to take a quick peek back, simply to ensure we as fans can truly enjoy what lies ahead.
Living pre-dated/vicariously through my father, and other friends and family who had a chance to enjoy the magic of the Pistol Pete-led New Orleans Jazz, as a child in the Crescent City, a professional basketball team void never really struck me until the possibility of having one to claim was imminent. And so, it was poetically beautiful when the New Orleans "Hornets'" first contest was against none other than the now Utah "Jazz"… out of the beehive state. That’s an overly discussed topic to hopefully not be discussed at a later date, no need to beat a dead horse.
New Orleans basketball, as I know it, has run concurrently with a significant portion of my life. In 2002-03, I was beginning my career as a New Orleans high school student, which just so happened to be when the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) had their inaugural season.
Season 1 as the New Orleans Hornets was full of excitement with legendary NBA player-turned-head coach Paul Silas at the helm, due in part that another reason for gaiety (as if we didn’t have enough already) was now in town. Led by Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn, the team earned a playoff spot, but had an early round one exit at the hands of the the Philadelphia 76ers. Season two wasn’t that bad either, though they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs yet again.
Then came the decline.
Three years of missing the playoffs, and combining to win 95 of 246 games was brutal even considering that those were mostly the "Katrina" years in which many casual fans had other things to be concerned about, especially since home base was temporarily in Oklahoma City. Out of sight, out of mind.
But during that time, Nola had a scrappy young gun named Chris Paul enter into the fold. The former Demon Deacon offered some semblance of hope, when in the 2007-08 season the bees were able to knock out Dirk and the Mavs in round one, and force the Spurs to 7 games in the conference semi-finals in CP3’s first post-season year, cementing himself as one of the premiere point guards in the game. Paul, West, Chandler and company made it to the playoff the following year, losing to Denver in 5 games.
But it wasn’t all THAT bad, for a hot minute.
Then came even more of the decline.
Byron Scott and Jeff Bower went far from halvsies on head coaching duties in the 2009-10 season, a carnival-esque situation straight off of Canal and Carrollton in late February, resulting in the team missing the playoffs and leading Bower to hire a new coach for the following year. And dammit did Monty Williams have promise. He was able to finagle a gang of mostly sub-par players, excluding CP3, into a playoff squad.
Then we watched them lose in the first round. Again. For the second time in three years.
What followed were three non-playoff seasons, averaging just over 27 wins during the course. It’s always darkest before the dawn though, right? The mythical gambling deities that have had governing oversight of a city based on unlawful activities, ill-willed non-conformity, and backdoor dealings, bestowed upon our little haven of hedonism the great single-browed hope in the form of a ping-pong ball. We again had similar hope to that which Chris Paul offered. Only now, we have the real deal.
To reiterate, the golden age of Big Easy basketball is upon us, and that should come as no surprise. More so than when Pistol Pete led the league in scoring, overaging over 31 points per game, including a 68 point downpour versus the New York Knickerbockers. More so than when a young Baron Davis and a veteran Jamal Mashburn were able to deliver a 1, 2 punch of athletic ability. More so than when Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic and David West offered up 4 out of the best 5 man rotation the city had ever put on the floor.
Anthony Davis is already an absolute monster, and at merely 22 years of age, I’d expect us to have quite an exhibit coming our way for the next 5 years after Dealin' Dell Demps was able to secure his future with the team by way of a maximum contract. Let 'em have it.
With a strong core group of players, an experienced winner at head coach in Alvin Gentry, and an owner who is (seemingly) fully invested in a successful future for the franchise, we should expect prosperity to come. So, sit back, enjoy the show, buy some season tickets, pay too much for a tub of popcorn, and help keep the momentum on an up-tick.
Because, when it’s good, it’s good.