NEW ORLEANS — Defense returned Wednesday night to the Arena on Girod.
The fans did not.
And for Jac Sperling that’s not exactly a rousing start to what he has been tasked with doing - flipping the Hornets.
Sperling spent much of the game sitting next to team president Hugh Weber. Presumably, he wasn’t playing Word Feud, Angry Birds or Facebooking pictures for his friends back home in Minnesota to see.
The team, at least, gave him a reason to believe the product on the floor will give him something to work with.
After losing six of the past eight games, the Hornets polished off the Pistons 93-74 with a little bit of offense but a lot of defense.
Detroit (7-15) shot only 37.5 percent and scored fewer than 20 points in three of the game’s four quarters. The 74 points is the third-lowest this season allowed by New Orleans (14-7). And the 34 first-half points was a season-low allowed by the team in the opening 24 minutes.
Meanwhile, New Orleans shot 50 percent, turned the ball over only 10 times and outscored Detroit in the paint 42-28.
Everything about this game overturned trends that aided in the recent downturn on the court.
Yet, the story Wednesday in the New Orleans Arena had very little to do with what was happening on the court.
It had everything to do with what was going on around it.
Grabbing only 10,823 fans isn’t going to make anyone feel any better about the Hornets’ situation in New Orleans now that the franchise is on firmer ground with the NBA in line to buy it. That is, pending approval from the league’s Board of Governors next week, which is largely expected to happen.
Asked if he anticipated a call from new owner David Stern, also the NBA’s commissioner, New Orleans forward David West said he didn’t know.
But he did now that things weren’t going to change for him.
“We’re going to stick to what we’re doing,” West said. “Approach this thing as professionals understanding there is a change somewhere in the works. When all that shakes out, we just have to be prepared for it.”
West wouldn’t call the news a distraction – the Hornets’ play against the Pistons most certainly backs that belief up – but he did say the it would be “naïve to assume we’re not aware of what’s going on.”
Added point guard Chris Paul, “I’ve learned in this league to control what I can control . And all that is is how I perform on the court and what the team does.”
There was a push on the internet, specifically through Twitter, after the news struck Monday that the NBA would buy the franchise for fans to attend games in droves to cover the get-out-of-jail clause, that pesky 14,735 attendance benchmark.
The AP reported that right now, the attendance is at 14,803 (including Wednesday night’s game). Thirteen games remain before the Jan. 31, 2011 deadline and that includes such rousing contests as the Kings, Warriors and Nets.
Yet, West is going to leave what goes on on the floor to be his plea for fans.
“I’m not one to tell people how to spend their money,” West said. “I look at it a little deeper than come put your butt in the seats. Obviously we love the people that come to support us. We’ve got city support. We know that.”
So, yes, for Sperling, this isn’t exactly the easiest spot to be in.
But at least he has the product on the floor to tout.
The rest is up to the fans.