So I have been able to resist speaking my mind on the 2008 NBA playoffs up until now.
Mostly because of my undeniable dedication to the Hornets, and me not wanting to become close minded and think that every foul called against us was a bad one and every no call was ridiculous. And let me also say that the officiating in this year's playoffs has been on point and accurate. But on this morning following Game 6 of the Western Conference Semi Finals I feel compeled to retrace the Hornets journey.
Following a dismal debut in the highly competitive Western Conference in the 04-05 season the Hornets were rewarded with a lottery pick that ended up being utilized to draft Chris Paul fourth over all in the draft. The CP3 era officially began in New Orleans on June 28, 2005 but little did anyone know that in a matter of almost exactly two months, the city of New Orleans and the Hornets would never be quite the same. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southern Louisiana and changed everything. http://youtube.com/watch?v=3Mblyh5Nuew (slideshow I made about the storm).
I was living in Atlanta following Hurricane Katrina and I remember reading that the NBA had decided to have the Hornets play their home games in Oklahoma City as a result of the damage done to New Orleans. I was concerned because I had recently read that Oklahoma City was making a strong push to have an NBA franchise relocate to the city and having a team displaced indefinitely just seemed to make the circumstances ideal for an eminent move.
I moved back to New Orleans almost one year following the storm and had been following the Hornets while I was living in Atlanta throughout the 2005-2006 season. I was dissapointed and excited at the same time when I heard that there were six games that would be played in New Orleans for the 2006-2007 season. I secured my tickets and enjoyed the games but it didn't seem like the players felt at home in, well, their home. Following the conclusion of the regular season I was convinced that the team was going to leave and that an economically devastated city could not support a Hornets team along with the Saints franchise. This people of this city have long been proclaiming that this is a Football City. And that basketball can't make it here. All of this was coming on the heels of the New Orleans Saints having an emotionally uplifting return to the Superdome.
Over that off-season reports started surfacing about the team's ownership wanting to remain in New Orleans and the personell changes that were taking place within the team and the organization as a whole. Mostly it was just that the pieces were coming together. George Shinn was doing what he had to do from an ownership perspective, Jeff Bower (imo..themost underated General Manager in the league) provided the foundation that Byron Scott needed to implement the fundamentals he had aquired by both playing and coaching for winning teams. So the stage was set. The right time, place and situation had presented itself.
The season started off slow. The team wasn't all that exciting to watch. The CP3 phenomenon had not yet errupted and the home games averaged about 10,000 fans in attendance. But a couple of months into the season something clicked. Chris Paul began to emerge as the leader of the team and started to create shots for his teammates by his quickness and ball handling skills. David West improved his jump shot and his post game. Tyson Chandler matured on the defensive end of the court and Peja Stojakovic found that sweet stroke from beyond the arc like he had displayed in Sacramento. As the team began to rise above the rest of the west, the city and the country began to take notice. Although many had determined that the Hornets could not ride this momentum over the course of the next 50 games, they believed. And so did the city. What was once touted as a football city began to show signs of Teal & Gold where it was once Black & Gold. The city responded by meeting the attendance benchmarks set forth in the teams agreement to remain in New Orleans and the team responded by winning more than 50 games and taking the Southwest Division crown.
Chris Paul made a run at MVP. Byron Scott won coach of the year. The Hornets won the division. And yet, every analyst picked Dallas to defeat New Orleans in the first round. The lack of inexperience was cited as the main reason the Mavs would win. But the Hornets responded by taking the series in 5 convincing games. Luck they said, is what got them past Dallas and there is no way they can beat the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.
Well here we are 5 games in and the Hornets lead the series 3 games to 2. Defense and the home crowd factor have been the reason both teams have defended home court. It looks like New Orleans will take the series in 7 and face Kobe Bryant and the Lakers for the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers will be the heavy favorite and they will have home court advantage could very well win the series in 5 games. But.
The New Orleans Hornets have done the impossbile. Gone from rags to riches in arguably the most competitive conference in all of professional sports. A coach of the year, a potential MVP and a cast of All-Star caliber players. We weren't even in the playoff talk at the beginning of the season and now we have the opportunity to make history.
Seeing as how Dallas was supposed to win. We are playing with house money. Nothing to lose because this is just the beginning. This city and this team will never be the same. Welcome to New Orleans, Where Amazing Happens!
Basketball City ~ New Orleans, LA