.. and their inability to get anything to stick.
I recently went onto the New Orleans Hornets board and created a post (that popped into my head) asking everyoen to name their fave 5 Hornets. I based it off of the Barkley idea that he does on the TNT show .. and I quickly wondered how I was going to name just five players. But then I got to thinking .. after Muggsy Bogues and P.J. Brown (my obvious 1 and 2 selections) .. I had no one else to put in. Whether it be a place to call home .. a player to call the franchise .. or even a coach .. I realized my Hornets inability to ever get past above average has nothing to do with the talent assembled (Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Baron Davis, Eddie Jones, etc.) .. it's always been the inability to build on their success.
Take for instance when the Hornets upset the Boston Celtics in the 1st round of the 1993 playoffs shored by the contributions of the big 3 .. Muggsy Bogues, Alonzo Mourning, and Larry Johnson. All three were very, very young at that point and there's no reason to believe that that core could have been anything but successful for long, long periods of time. They had the right pieces in place .. but due to contract disputes with Mourning .. he was shipped off to Miami and then Johnson was later shipped to the Knicks for Anthony Mason. Out of all of this .. Glen Rice emerged as a star in his days with the Hornets (and my fave 5 list) as he had his absolute best years with the Hornets organization. In 1996-97 .. the team, led by a group that included Bogues, Rice, Vlade Divac, Mason and Hornets mainstay Dell Curry managed to reel off 54 victories .. the most in franchise history. Due to injuries with Bogues, though, the Hornets were swept out of the first round by the surging New York Knicks. They seemed to have peaked by then .. and in a frustrating start to the 98-99 season .. the Hornets fired coach Dave Cowens .. replaced him with Paul Silas .. and shipped Rice to the Lakers for Eddie Jones. This created a rallying cry for the Hornets as they streaked to the end of the year (also playing with the death of Bobby Phills that season) and streaked to the finish line only to fall a game short of the postseason.
Now the one constant in all of the change in Charlotte was the fans. They were absolutely incredible. The teal colors were a revolutionary color in the NBA .. they had high selling jerseys .. constantly sold out their home arena and were the hottest ticket in town. Even in the beginning years when they really struggled .. the people of Charlotte always came out to support them and the Hornets were always amongst the leaders in attendance. But in true form .. the Hornets were again able to make something great turn sour. When owner George Shinn demanded a new arena the city of Charlotte would not budge .. and attendance dropped radically the last couple of seasons. In the Hornets last year in Charlotte .. 2001-02 .. a very good team that consisted of Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, David Wesley, Jamaal Magloire, and so on went largely unnoticed as it almost became laughable at the amount of people that would (not) show up to Hornets home games. By then .. it was already inevitable they were leaving. (SIDENOTE: I lived in Ponchatoula, Louisiana at this time and was hoping the Hornets would come and play in New Orleans instead of Louisville, Kentucky. When word leaked that they were officially moving to New Orleans I could care less how many people did or didn't show up in Charlotte. I was stoked).
Now that their history in New Orleans is more recent .. the injuries by Mashburn and the horrible attitude and the ability to quit that was shown by Baron Davis .. the team looked to be at a standstill. They were obviously in playoff contention .. but with the addition of the Bobcats into the NBA .. the Hornets were going to be moved to the Western confrence. Welcome, Hornets. Injuries to second year pro David West, all star center Jamaal Magloire, all star guard Baron Davis, all star forward Jamal Mashburn, so on and so forth forced the Hornets to put out a lineup that consisted of: Dan Dickau, J.R. Smith, George Lynch, Lee Nailon, Chris Andersen, Chris Jacobsen, Jackson Vroman, Bostjan Nachbar, etc. Needless to say .. Mashburn: traded. Davis: traded. David Wesley: traded. Darrell Armstrong: traded. In the offseason Magloire would be traded and I had no idea what the team was going to do. Then Chris Paul fell into their laps. Shortly after .. hurricane katrina hit New Orleans.
I didn't know what to think of the Hornets having to play games in Oklahoma City. I knew the town would come out and support them for a few games .. but a season? Maybe two? Let's say that my expectations weren't very high. Coming off of an 18 win season that saw them fall last in attendance in New Orleans and with no reason to get hopeful about that season .. I firgured the craze would die and the Hornets would be a displaced mediocre team .. not a good situation: (see 2005 New Orleans Saints in San Antonio .. or for your benefit .. don't see). But David West emerged as a clutch, awesome player, Chris Paul exceeded all expectations and showed promise in a point guard that I had never seen before .. and P.J. Brown held down the fort .. creating a team didn't seem likely to make the playoffs .. but that was still in the hunt. December 18, 2005, will be one of the most memorable nights of my basketball fan life. When that Oklahoma City crowd rallied the Hornets to a victory over division foe the San Antonio Spurs. The victory gave me hope .. gave teh team promise .. and shined light on how effective a home court Oklahoma City was.
A couple of years later, with Desmond Mason leaving in free agency, J.R. Smith and P.J. Brown being traded for Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic being added on .. the team that played its last game in Oklahoma City bared one player who was with the team when it last played in New Orleans: David West. The organization eventually went back to New Orleans for the 2007-2008 season which has been a love/hate relationship concerning me and that crowd. I thought it was a horrible decision to leave Oklahoma City and I knew from the start that the crowd would fail. After all .. it's not as if they were anything special to begin with. My fears would come true when in the 2nd home game of the season .. 8,000 people showed up to watch the Hornets beat the Portland Trailblazers. The crowd has since filled a bandwagon and has looked nothing short of fantastic these past few weeks .. but I can't help but wonder when this team doesn't win as often .. will they still show?
Now one thing has remained stable in this organization constantly in flux and transition .. that being the owner: George Shinn. Whether it be his wanting to have a cold wallet .. wanting to have a new arena .. or wanting to be an a$$ .. he has always ruined what looked like a great thing for the Hornets. People say I'm pessimistic and always ask me why I always worry when it looks like the Hornets have a bright future. Because the Hornets have repeatedly had "bright futures". From the big 3 days of Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, and Muggsy Bogues in front of those awesome Charlotte crowds. Whether it was leaving Charlotte for New Orleans .. and then turning down Oklahoma City to return to New Orleans (which to me was just a public relations move) .. the Hornets have always found a way to squander great things. So when I look at Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler, David West, and company .. it's hard for me to look past this season or next season. Because George Shinn always finds a way to screw it up. Hopefully I will be wrong. Hopefully this team will do great things (and this is the BEST potential Hornets team ever) and we can finally provide a stable, successful, and consistant Hornets team out on the court every single year. It's something the organization has been unable to do for twenty years.