Handwerger: Name change can't mask big off-season for Hornets

Handwerger: Name change can't mask big off-season for Hornets

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NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 13: Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Hornets dunks against J.J. Hickson #21 of the Portland Trail Blazers on February 13, 2013 at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 15, 2013 at 11:33 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 15 at 11:49 AM

OPINION/ANALYSIS

Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

New Orleans ended their home schedule Sunday evening, the last time the franchise would play in the NOrena as the Hornets.

But there wasn’t a jazz funeral for Hugo, as one staffer suggested.

In fact, there barely was any acknowledgment that the next time New Orleans’ professional basketball team played in the building, it would be as the Pelicans and not the Hornets.

And maybe that’s just as well.

This franchise is now about the future, not the past.

Hugo may well be the best NBA mascot – I’d certainly argue he’s one of the best in professional sports – but that’s not what this franchise is about anymore.

There’s one problem, however, in looking towards the future right now.

It’s a murky vision.

The past two seasons haven’t gone so well and there’s nothing in the tea leaves remotely showing that the 2013-14 season will be any better.

Yes, Anthony Davis improved as the season went along, showing that he could eventually be a guy who lives up to the No. 1 overall pick hype.

And yes, Greivis Vasquez proved that he could be a starting point guard in the NBA.

Yet, where do they go?

Even with a large amount of salary cap space, the current roster isn’t one that can compete for the playoffs.

They’ll have to figure out what to do with Eric Gordon this offseason. They need to know if he can be relied upon.

They need to find a true starting small forward who can give the team some scoring because rebounds aren’t enough.

But mostly, they need to figure out a way to play better defense. For a team whose coach insists it’s built on defense, it’s not so good in that department.

With one game to go, New Orleans’ opponents are hitting on 47 percent of their shots; only four teams are worse. And in connection to that statistic, opponents are making 37.4 percent of their 3-point attempts.

Coach Monty Williams’ next task is to find a way to improve this team with whatever talent he has at his disposal.

Because while a rebrand might get people excited, that will only last for a second.

The New Orleans Arena was half empty for much of the season. Another year like this one, where the team continually lost fourth-quarter leads, will only chase fans further away.

Davis needs help. Vasquez needs to improve on defense. And the roster needs to be beefed up.

This much is true.

The only question is can and will this happen during the offseason?

If not, the Pelicans will end up being no different than the Hornets and in that case, no jazz funeral would have been needed.

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