By Alejandro de los Rios
With the Knicks in town tonight to get walloped over by the Hornets (unless something completely unexpected happens), I've decided that it might be time to start looking ahead. And what better way to look forward than by looking back? The question on my mind today is why there's been so little love for the Hornets this season.
I mentioned before I don't know much about basketball when it comes to numbers, players and history I have an average scope
but it's not like I don't know anything. However, the watch party at Bruno's reminded me that there's a veritable gaggle of people on the internet who do know and, as someone must've once said: if you don't know about something, ask somebody.
Well, I asked a lot of bodies, many of national recognition and, to my surprise, a good number of them responded. That along with the fact that the Western Conference is likely to go down to the last day deems that this is going to take multiple posts (hopefully with shorter titles).
Our esteemed panel: Dan Shanoff, formerly of ESPN's Page 2 and currently of DanShanoff.com; Bethlehem Shoals of Free Darko; Roland Beech, founder of 82Games.com; Kinnon Yee writer for Hoops Addict; Brett Edwards of AOL Fanhouse and the Association blog; Matt McHale from Basketbawlful; and Rohan from At The Hive. Follow me after the jump for the questions and answers:
I posed this as a two part question: 1) Why is it that the Hornets have flown under the radar for much of the season? and 2) Despite the Hornets record, are people still picking the Spurs, Jazz, Lakers and Suns to take the West?
Todays' Buzzwords: Expectations, Exposure and Experience (emphasis added).
Check out some of the responses to Question 1:
"In a word: Expectations. (ed. note: HA!) Even with last season's promising moments, I don't think anyone expected them to compete in the ultra-tough West -- and I'm talking about for the playoffs at all, let alone the top seed" Dan Shanoff
"I think it's because no one expected the Hornets to be relevant, and besides Chris Paul, casual NBA fans have no idea what this team is about. Also, the national media exposure (or lack thereof) plays a part here, as they're rarely on national television and they've only become a story recently." Brett Edwards
"For the casual fan, it would have to be the complete and total lack of national broadcast exposure." Bethlehem Shoals
"Without a chance to watch this team play, fans haven't been able to see how great the team has been playing and are more inclined to favor a team like Los Angeles or Phoenix which they watch on an almost weekly basis on ABC or TNT. In addition, I'm not sure the Hornets media and the fans have come out in the numbers that people have expected of a Championship contender." Kinnon Yee
"There were modest preseason expectations and predictions around the Hornets and with the West being as crazy as it is with so many more 'exciting' storylines, they're the quiet team in the bunch." Roland Beech
"They won only 39 games last season, and I think many experts and fans thought they'd cool off after the hot start and drop back to the middle of the pack (if not out of the playoff picture altogether). There simply is no precedent for this particular group of players forming a "best of the West" team." Matt McHale
And for Question 2:
"The Hornets appear to have all the classic look of the "great-regular-season-team-with-no-postseason-experience," who will run into a more playoff-tested team and get drummed out of the playoffs -- if not in round one, then eventually" Shanoff
"The main reason nobody picks New Orleans out of the West is the so-called "experience" factor. Truth is, almost every Hornet on the roster has had considerable playoff experience (Peja and Wells with Sacramento, Peterson with Toronto, Pargo with Chicago, West with New Orleans)." Rohan
"Well, assuming they don't fall into the [Spurs, Jazz, Lakers and Suns] category, it's probably the Hornets' lack of experience. Not an age thing (Bynum, anyone?), but as a unit they just aren't battle-tested in the same way." Shoals
"New Orleans is possibly third behind [Los Angeles and Phoenix], but I believe that's only due to their inexperience. We've seen Toronto, despite all their success last year, unable to get beyond the first round of the playoffs, and perhaps New Orleans may encounter the same wall once playoff time hits." Yee
"Imagine you're a newspaper editor and you need a reporter to cover the biggest story of the year. Do you pick the young gun on the rise, or do you pick the guy who's been doing it for years and maybe has some journalism awards under his belt? See, the "experts" want to be right. It's a much safer bet to pick the teams who have done it before, or who have a history of success. It means you have a greater chance of being right." McHale
"I think teams like the Lakers, Spurs, and Suns will continued to be favored over New Orleans until the Hornets prove they can win in the post-season." Edwards
"Yes I think most pundits are not taking the Hornets as a real title contender yet, unfair though that may be." Beech
Dissenting Pundit of the Day: Basketbawlful's Matt McHale for being the only blogger not to use one of the Buzzwords in either of his answers. Jerk.
The Bottom Line: The 2007-08 Hornets could be this year's version of the 2001-02 Nets, a team that made it all the way to the NBA Finals after missing the playoffs the previous year. That was a team with a newly acquired dominant point guard (Jason Kidd) and emerging low-post presence (Kenyon Martin) but little playoff experience, expectations or national exposure.
"Did the team surprise everyone including the people of New Orleans?" Yee asks. "Possibly."
I'll got a step further and say definitely.
This is good and bad. Good because, despite being a top team in the West, the Hornets can still play the underdog card. Bad because teams winning their conference a year removed from making the playoffs isn't common (if memory serves, only 3 teams have done it including the 01-02 Nets). Other factors?
"You don't get that 'any of these guys could beat you on any given night' feeling looking down their roster," Shoals pointed out.
Whether it's because this is a team of new faces (only 7 players on the current roster were with the team last year, and just two players left from the 05-06 season) or going back to that lack of national exposure, the general consensus is that the Hornets need a deep playoff run before people start paying them mind throughout the length of a season.
So what does this all mean for the playoffs? Well, the resounding answer from our pundits was "No Idea."
"It would be easier to throw a bottle in the ocean and guess what deserted island it's going to wash up on. I've never seen a conference playoff race with this close with this many good teams," McHale said. "The seeding is going to change every day for the rest of the season."
That's why I'll be back when the seedings are set and our panelists can weigh in with more informed opinions. For now, feel free to spout any of yours in the comments.
(And that, children, is what you call a cliffhanger.)