Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Writer
When thinking about the plight of the Hornets, the not-exactly-so-sudden fall probably sends folks into a tizzy.
You know, the sky is falling, the franchise is done, etc., etc., etc.
It goes something like this:
George Shinn wants to sell the team to Gary Chouest and it’s known.
After a period of no news, the Hornets issue a press release that Shinn and Chouest do, in fact, get along.
The Hornets hire Monty Williams to coach, fire Jeff Bower as general manager and hire Dell Demps as general manager.
Chris Paul floats one sentence at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding about how fun it would be to play in New York with the newly wed.
Paul denies that he wants to leave.
It turns out Chouest isn’t going to buy the team and suddenly the NBA steps in and purchases the Hornets.
The business council is then needed to help the Hornets meet the attendance benchmark so the team can’t opt out of its contract with the state.
And finally, months later, David West opts out of the final year of his contract and so does Aaron Gray.
All of which is to say it has been an interesting and newsworthy year for the Hornets.
And yet, contrary to what is seemingly popular opinion these days, I don’t believe the sky is falling, the franchise is done, etc., etc., etc.
In the short term, yes, it looks fairly dire.
The NBA owns a team that, while finding a core following in New Orleans, still has trouble competing for attention in a city full of festivals and events with the casual fans.
The organization is on a blitz to get to 10,000 season ticket holders, which will be made much harder if West and/or Paul end up leaving.
And I’m not sure I expect West to return to the Hornets and I can foresee Paul forcing his way out by next season’s trade deadline … if there is a trade deadline what with an extended lockout expected.
But get through that and there is reason to be optimistic for the long-term future of the Hornets.
When a new collective bargaining agreement has the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed, smaller markets are likely to have been helped some and that should beget a local owner.
You can’t replace CP3 but what you can do is take the parts you get for trading him and get players who fit Williams’ schemes and likely a future first-round pick.
You can’t necessarily replace West, but Carl Landry came very close to it when he filled in for West at the end of the season and in the playoffs. And with West opting out, it might give the Hornets more leverage and money to work with for Landry.
But the biggest reason why I think there will be long-term success in New Orleans for the Hornets is the two men running daily operations there now.
Demps and Williams are men to feel comfortable with.
Demps has shown, though some would say he was directed, fiscal responsibility while also putting the Hornets in a position to get to the playoffs this past season. His move to trade the No. 45 pick for cash was panned by some folks, but it’s not a bad move.
Williams, meanwhile, has the respect of his players and is a bright young coach. He’s a leader and a guy who teaches what wins – defense. Williams got both Emeka Okafor and West to play some of the best defense of their careers this past season.
Their leadership is the kind that can lead the Hornets, or at least their fans, from the depths into a team that wins games and makes the playoffs year in and year out.
Maybe I’m an optimist here but think of it this way – as a friend recently said to me, few people thought the Saints would ever return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
They did and won a Super Bowl.
In other words, his message was the Hornets might just be alright. Time will tell.