Stop me if you've heard this before: The Hornets surprise the NBA and roar to near the top of the standings while people in New Orleans yawn and fail to fill the seats at the New Orleans Arena.
If you didn't stop me, you should have your memory checked. Three seasons ago, the Hornets were second in the Western Conference and in the bottom third in attendance. Tonight, the Hornets continued their franchise-best start with a 89-73 win in front of just 10,866 people.
Granted, this was a Wednesday night game against a 6-12 Bobcat team without a bonafide star. But this isn't a one-time deal. The Hornets are averaging just over 14,000 fans per game, which is about 83% capacity (good for 19th in the NBA). We may be just under a quarter of the way through the season, but if the Hornets have to wait until the All-Star Break before their first sellout, there's something seriously wrong.
It seems so long ago but there was once a time when the Hornets' future in New Orleans was uncertain. It was so bad that the Hornets had a provision in their lease that included attendance figures and they could opt-out of their contract if those figures weren't met. Thankfully for Big Easy basketball fans, those figures were exceeded resoundingly after the Hornets finished 2nd in the Conference during the 2007-2008 season.
And yet all it took was a few mediocre seasons to lose the groundswell of support behind this franchise. Maybe its the uncertainty with Chris Paul's future here (a legitimate concern) or the uncertainty with the ownership situation (less legitimate). Maybe New Orleanians don't believe this team is the real deal (people should reconsider that thought) or maybe they just think that early NBA games don't count (ask CP3 if he puts any less effort in November/December than he does in March/April).
Whatever the case, the Hornets have a serious issue when it comes to attendance early in what is already a historic season (we'll say it again: this is the Hornets best start ever). Not like it matters to the players. While they'll be the first to praise fans when the Hive is full and rocking, you won't hear a peep from them when there aren't enough fans in the building to fill the lower bowl. And that's the way it should be.
The Hornets will keep on winning, whether you're there to see them or not.