Thursday, March 25, 2010

This man knows how to draw a crowd

Posted By on Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 3:13 AM

Photograph by Jonathan Bachman

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click to enlarge Bron Bron

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The New Orleans Hornets have averaged 14,945 fans a game this season and that's likely an inflated number considering how season ticket holders are counted whether they show up or not. Wednesday night against the Cavaliers, however, they got the Lebron boost and sold out every seat in the house as Cleveland beat the Hornets 105-92.

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The Hornets want to remain focused on the present. Head coach Jeff Bower has said time and again that he intends to coach his team through the season as if they still had a shot at the playoffs (mathematically, they do, but being 10 games out at this point in the season makes it all but impossible) but even then he can't escape the fact that his hands are tied. Chris Paul is still not 100%, many Hornets players are entering the last year of their contracts and rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton are still developing.

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The fact is that the Hornets' present isn't all that appealing. Sure, this is a team that's shown it can play among and even beat the best in the league (as they did on Monday against the Mavericks), but they can't do it with any consistency and they have a startling ability to let close games slip away in a matter of moments (against Cleveland they went from being down four to down 16 in just over four minutes in the third quarter)..

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New Orleans' future is mired with uncertainty with this franchise but that's no reason to be pessimistic. Collison and Thornton combined for 37 points and David West - who could or could not be a part of the Hornets future, depending on who you ask - added 20 points and 10 rebounds. And while New Orleans, as a team, seemed to fall apart in the second half, the fact is that they didn't really deserve to keep the game as close as it was in the first two quarters.

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Lebron James scored 38 points, Antawn Jamison notched a double-double and Delonte West added 15 point off the bench for Cleveland. Many times Paul found himself covering James because his team didn't have much in the way of defensive options. Playing a small lineup for much of the game, the Hornets are "still experimenting" in Bower's words and you get the sense that, even though this team says it's focused on the now, they're taking some time to step back and look at the grand scheme.

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Right now, the Hornets' grand scheme involves taking a hard look at what players will help them in the future. Surely Collison and Thornton make up a core of players along with Paul, Okafor and West. But with an excess of young guards and a dearth of front-line depth, trade rumors will abound. Right now it's clear that the Hornets are too inconsistent to consider themselves playoffs threats. Injuries have played a party but more often than not New Orleans has just failed to find the right mix of energy, talent and desire to pull off wins consistently. As much as Bower may deny it, the Hornets brass is paying attention to who's going to be with this team moving forward.

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That may mean the Hornets will continue to get outclassed by superior teams in front fans that packed the house to see an opposing player, but it could also point to brighter times ahead. Surely, Hornets fans can't wait for next season to start.

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