10 Best Moments from the 2011-12 New Orleans Hornets Season
With the New Orleans Hornets going 21-45 and suffering so many devastating injuries there simply wasn't much to celebrate in 2012. The team struggled to score and lost a number of close games. In fact there were five moments that any Hornets fan would want to forget.
But there were some memorable moments. In fact, there were times Hornets fans were treated to great play. Much of the credit must go to Monty Williams and a team who showed great character and resilience.
Here are 10 moments that were flat-out great.
1. Eric Gordon Wins Season Opener All by Himself
Eric Gordon makes game-winning jump shot with under 5 seconds to play in Hornets debut.
With the Hornets down one in an ugly opening-season game on the road against the Suns, Gordon stole the show. EG did a little of everything—leading the team in scoring with 20 points while dishing out three assists and grabbing four rebounds.
But it was the magic touch he had in the game's final moments when he isolated against Jared Dudley, the Suns' best defender, and hit an 18-foot jumper from the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left in the basketball game.
He and the Hornets stole the show in a game they probably should not have won. Unfortunately, moments such as this were few and far between in 2012. Even worse, Gordon went on to miss three straight months after this game with an odd knee injury.
The one silver lining beyond the shot itself? If the Hornets can retain Gordon, New Orleans fans can expect many more moments like this over the course of the next few years.
2. Hornets Beat Eastern Conference Finalist Boston to Go to 2-0
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
At the time, beating the Boston Celtics by 19 points at home didn't seem like such a big deal. Of course it seemed rather unfathomable in late December that the Hornets would finish in the cellar of the western conference and the Celtics would end up playing Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Then again the Celtics are still the Celtics, so beating them is huge for any team, especially one with expectations as low as the Hornets to begin the lockout-induced 2012 NBA season.
Jarrett Jack led the Hornets' efforts with 21 big points and looked a lot like Chris Paul when he dished out nine assists. Carl Landry also looked to fill in for the departed David West by adding 21 points and 11 rebounds.
It was a team effort to start the Hornets home schedule. Unfortunately the Hornets would only win nine other times on their home court in 2012.
But with a little more luck and experience the Hornets have an opportunity to turn things around at home in 2013.
3. Hornets Crush a Healthy Orlando Magic Squad
The Hornets, led by Jarrett Jack, destroyed the perennial contender Orlando Magic.
The New Orleans Hornets beat better teams in 2012, but no win was as dominant as the effort put forth by Monty Williams's team against the perennial east contender Orlando Magic.
Dwight Howard tore the Hornets up statistically, but it was Carl Landry, Marco Belinelli, Jason Smith and Jarrett Jack who dominated play and led their team to victory. Behind those four veterans the Hornets coasted in the second half and never looked back.
The 93-67 victory was by far the Hornets' widest margin of victory in 2012 and one of the few games the Hornets were involved in all year not decided by 10 points or fewer.
With a healthy squad back on the grind in the 2013 season, the Hornets are more than capable of whooping up on teams a few more times.
4. Hornets Extend Win Streak to Three and Temporarily Silence "Linsanity"
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
"Linsanity" was at its peak when the New Orleans Hornets arrived at Madison Square Garden on February 17. The Knicks had yet to lose a game in which Jeremy Lin started a game at point guard.
The second-year guard from Harvard had dueled Kobe Bryant and Deron Williams and came out on top. He was scoring at unheard of rates, especially for a guy who was never drafted.
"Linsanity" was not only sweeping the streets of New York but was making headlines on national news shows on stations such as CNN and Fox News. "Linsanity" was a big deal.
That didn't seem to matter much to Monty Williams and his basketball team when they marched into the Garden and caused Lin to turn the ball over nine times. Few teams had any sort of success against Lin on the defensive end.
Williams's squad dictated where he went, who he passed it to and how much space he was allowed. Needless to say the Hornets executed the defensive game plan to perfection and did just enough offensively to leave New York City with a great 89-85 victory against the hottest team in the league at the time.
Trevor Ariza had his finest game of the season (25 points, eight rebounds, three steals, two blocks and an assist) for the Hornets. The win gave the Hornets a season-high (at the time) three-game winning streak and temporarily quieted "Linsanity".
5. Hornets Knock off Defending Champs at Home
Few victories were as satisfying as the Hornets' 97-92 victory over the defending champs and their division rivals.
Very few victories were as satisfying as the Hornets' victory over division rival and defending champs Dallas Mavericks. The 97-92 victory was highlighted by Chris Kaman's 20 points and one of Xavier Henry's best efforts of the 2012 season.
Then Jarrett Jack capped the Hornets' victory by scoring the team's final six points as they held on in a hard fought battle.
Very few of the Hornets' victories featured such a complete effort from the entirety of the team. Greivis Vasquez led the team with seven assists off the bench. Kaman added 13 rebounds to his 20 points, while Henry scored 15 points.
The team out-rebounded Dallas by 16, 50 to 34. They out-shot Dallas, but more importantly shot 45 percent. And the two teams tied each other in quarters two, three and four. Only the five-point first quarter lead provided any distance between the teams.
But to show how much the Hornets actually outplayed Dallas, look to the 11 three-point shots Dallas made to just three for New Orleans. Had those numbers been any less distorted it's possible New Orleans would have blown the Mavs out of the water on that early March evening.
6. Hornets Get a Satisfying Win Versus Old Pal CP3 and the Clippers
As Chris Paul came home and Chris Kaman matched up versus his former team for first time it was the Hornets who were victorious in this one.
Chris Paul only had one opportunity to face off against his former team in his old home during the 2012 season. He didn't quite take advantage of that opportunity. The Clippers came in having lost two in a row in consecutive days and with rumors swirling about head coach Vinny Del Negro's job security at high risk.
That said, the Clippers came out and dominated the action for much of the first half. But slowly and surely the Hornets found their way back in the game thanks to the inside scoring of former Clipper Chris Kaman and great defense on Paul and young superstar Blake Griffin.
Part of that defense included the memorable Jason Smith hip check which he was probably punished much too harshly for (and I root for the Clippers and Blake Griffin as much as I do the Hornets).
From that moment on the Hornets grabbed the momentum and never looked back, as they ended up cruising to a 97-90 victory.
The best part of the evening was the class Hornets fans showed toward Chris Paul and his beautiful response. That the Hornets won the game was an added bonus.
7. Eric Gordon Returns; Hornets Beat Denver Nuggets
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Greivis Vasquez had 10 assists. Chris Kaman grabbed 10 rebounds. Eric Gordon took care of the rest in his return from a three-month layoff.
He scored 15 points and hit two game-clinching free throws late in the fourth quarter to make the Hornets 2-0 in games he played in. Of course the numbers put up by his teammates showed they had grown used to playing and competing without him.
With him in the lineup the Hornets became a team who could beat almost anybody. That's how good Gordon is now and the difference he can be for the Hornets in the future.
The 94-92 victory should be proof enough that Gordon is a future all-star, and possibly an All-NBA performer. If the Hornets don't keep Gordon, they should receive quite a haul in exchange for him.
8. Hornets Earn Best Victory of Season at Home vs. Grizzlies
Tom Benson got to see what his future as an NBA owner could look like when he watched the Hornets crush the eventual No. 4 seed Memphis Grizzlies.
It was a relatively low-scoring effort. But the Hornets showed they can win with offense and defense as their new owner, Tom Benson, watched from his front-row seats. The 88-75 home victory on April 15 was the best victory the Hornets had all season, if you're talking in terms of the records of the teams they defeated.
The Grizzlies ended 2012 with a 41-25 record and earned the Western Conference's No. 4 playoff seed. They generally used a strong effort from their two big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and combined it with the electric scoring abilities of Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo.
On this night, Gay was the only one who did anything noteworthy (24 points on 9-17 shooting). No other Grizzly scored more than 11 points.
That's because the Hornets proved they are a great defensive team with also great scoring balance. EG had 18 points, Carl Landry had 16 off the bench, Jason Smith had 14 and Al-Farouq Aminu had 12 to lead the Hornets to victory.
Greivis Vasquez filled in nicely at point guard for the injured Jarrett Jack, dishing out nine assists while managing an important eight points.
That group, with the possible exception of Carl Landry, make up the likely core of the future, of course in addition to whichever two players the Hornets draft in the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft.
9. Final Home Game Win Against Houston
The Hornets captured a thrilling victory in their final home game of 2012.
Entering the April 19 contest at New Orleans the Houston Rockets maintained hopes of a playoff berth. And for much of the first half, that hope continued.
Then the Hornets came out and controlled much of the action for much of the second half. But Eric Gordon missed a potential game-winning shot with just a few seconds left, sending the game into overtime tied at 87.
After a couple of stalwart minutes in that overtime period, the Hornets upped their defensive intensity to get a few easy buckets and put away the pesky Houston Rockets 105-99.
For one of the few times of 2012, New Orleans placed a leader in each of the three main statistical categories—points, rebounds and assists. Eric Gordon led all scorers with 27 points. Carl Landry led rebounders with 10 boards. And Greivis Vasquez dished out nine assists.
But the takeaway from this final home game came in the form of the Hornets' radio announcers discussion during the game. Sean Kelly and Gerry Vaillancourt seemingly couldn't stop discussing the possibility of adding Kentucky's Anthony Davis to this team in the 2012-13 season.
Of course any and every Hornets fan would hope that pipe dream comes true. I even wrote an article about it a week ago.
Defeating the Rockets and the overall winning record in April didn't help their cause in this department. Nonetheless the future looks bright for this New Orleans Hornets franchise. Slide 10 will give more reasons for this.
10. The Future: Tom Benson and Two Lottery Picks
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Next to the craziness surrounding the NBA's butchering of the Chris Paul trade, the most embarrassing aspect of the Hornets' franchise had been simply the fact it did not have an owner.
Thankfully for all of us, David Stern was resolute in keeping the team together, and just as resolute to keep the team in the city of New Orleans. It is well documented that citizens of New Orleans and its surrounding areas have stepped up in their support of the team, having matched the team's goal for season tickets sales despite the insecurities surrounding the team and likely departure of the team's superstar player.
Now the team has an owner, Tom Benson, a great general manager, Dell Demps and great coach, Monty Williams. It can have a potential franchise player if Benson OKs a max contract for him (Eric Gordon).
And it promises to have two selections in the lottery of this year's draft. It's likely that both picks will come within the top 10. And there's roughly a 14 percent chance one of those picks will be the No. 1 overall selection.
The point is this: 2012 wasn't too friendly to Hornets fans, players or coaches. But with Benson buying the team and putting his mark on the franchise (hopefully more from a business perspective) and two selections in a draft many experts claim to be deep (though Monty says they are not) the future looks more than bright.
It looks like the Hornets have the potential to join a few other small market teams among the NBA elite.