by Alejandro de los Rios
Can you even believe that just three years ago, the Hornets won just 18 games? Byron Scott remembers. That was his first year coaching this team and only he, David West and Chris "Birdman" Anderson remain from that squad.
"It's a long process," Scott said. "These guys gotta be very proud of what they've done this season."
I believe the old adage is that you learn more about yourself when you lose than when you win. West learned that even with a coach capable of winning a franchise-record 56 games, sometimes that's not enough.
"You got the coach but you need the players," he said. "Most teams have to go through a year like that before they can get to this point."
The fact is, this team, though unique in its own way, isn't necessarily one of a kind. Jannero Pargo and Tyson Chandler were part of some Chicago Bulls teams a couple of years ago that also made the playoffs with little expectations. But, Pargo said, there's one main difference.
"In Chicago, we were very happy to make the playoffs," he said. "Here, making it is not good enough. We know we have the talent to push it further."
Talent, yes. The fact is, tonight's win came against a moribund Clippers team that had no drive, desire or reason to play and the Hornets were still down two at the half. When asked to gauge his team's readiness for the playoffs, Scott was direct.
"We still have some work to do on defense," he said. "Hopefully we'll get to play [the first playoff game] on Sunday and get some rest and work on some things. It's a little bit of everything defensively."
Coach Scott said he saw no problem with his team's offense tonight, but that his defense started slow again. It wasn't until the third quarter, when the Hornets forced the clippers into six turnovers and 35.3% shooting that the Southwest Division Championship was secured.