5 Moments of the 2011-12 Season New Orleans Hornets Fans Would Love to Forget
2012 has not been too kind to the New Orleans Hornets. After a surprising run in 2011, the Hornets took a major step backwards in 2012, their record falling to 21-45 on the lockout-condensed regular season.
Many excuses could be made for the poor record. Luckily the Hornets have a coach in Monty Williams who refuses to make any excuse for not winning basketball games.
But he would agree that had many of the events listed here not taken place, the Hornets 2012 campaign would have ended with more celebration and hope for the future.
Here are five moments from the past season we'd all like to forget, but as true fans must remember so that the sweet times can be that much sweeter.
Chris Paul Traded to the Lakers, Then Not, Then Traded to the Clippers
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The on-again, off-again nature of the Chris Paul trade whirlwinds in December 2011 was a black eye not only for the New Orleans Hornets but for the entire NBA. In fact, the historical takeaway for David Stern is that he overstepped his place.
And it really introduced speculation in other areas of his reign as commissioner. Stern made everyone question the legitimacy of his rule of the NBA world.
As for the Hornets, his disallowing the Lakers trade took away the great work of general manager Dell Demps who managed to bring in a haul from the Rockets which included Luis Scola and Kevin Martin—two players who together would have almost guaranteed the Hornets’ return to the 2012 NBA playoffs.
Those two would have fit Monty Williams’ system very well and guaranteed the Hornets finish much higher than 29th overall in offensive points per game, which is how they ended up in 2012.
Along with Goran Dragic, those two would have eliminated much of the pain that came from shipping out New Orleans favorite Chris Paul. But it also would have kept the Hornets in the NBA version of purgatory—that is selecting in the middle of the NBA draft.
While much of the pain from this season would have been eliminated for Hornets fans had the Paul-to-the-Lakers deal gone through, the future would have been much less promising. So in some small way the oddity around this event has a huge silver lining for Hornets fans.
Eric Gordon Hurt in First Game of Season
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The New Orleans Hornets were not expected to win a ton in 2012 after trading away their franchise player, who also happened to be one of the best players in the game.
But hope for the future was high with the arrival of Eric Gordon, one of the most promising young guards in the game. And it was Gordon who willed the Hornets to an 85-84 opening game win in Phoenix as he scored 20 points, including the game-winner with 4.2 seconds to play.
But in that game he injured his knee so badly that he ended up missing three months of action. In that time, the Hornets went on to win just 12 games while losing 40. Immediately upon Gordon's return, the Hornets beat Denver and had by far their best month of the season in April.
If the Hornets keep Gordon in 2012 and beyond—and he can manage to stay healthy—the future looks bright for the Eric Gordon-led New Orleans Hornets.
The Month of January
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While the New Orleans Hornets had poor results in every month save April, January was by far the least kind month to Monty Williams' squad.
The Hornets won just two games in the month, while losing 16 times. Even worse was the nature of those losses.
On January 23, the team lost to San Antonio at home by two points. Earlier in the month they lost at Houston by two points in overtime.
On January 2, they lost to Utah by just four points in Salt Lake City. Many of the other games were brutally close, yet the Hornets couldn't make enough shots at the end or get key defensive stops.
Fans and coaches marveled at the way the team continued to compete and fight despite their lack of success. This Hornets team was one limited in offensive talent yet never used that as an excuse for their inability to win basketball games.
Credit their coach, Monty Williams, for keeping them in games and maintaining their confidence. There's little doubt that the experience of January will benefit this team in 2013 and beyond.
Tough Loss at Los Angeles on Final Day of March
The Hornets lost a heart-breaker on the same afternoon that the NCAA Final Four was being played back home at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
The New Orleans Hornets did everything right on the day of the Final Four.
They were playing an early afternoon game in Los Angeles against one of their primary nemesis, the Los Angeles Lakers. Few teams have caused the Hornets more pain or strife as Los Angeles has.
On the day New Orleans was featured not only nationally but internationally due its hosting of the Final Four, the Hornets had an opportunity to make a statement some 1,900 miles away.
Monty Williams' squad managed to keep the game tight going to halftime. They kept the game low scoring, which was always to their advantage. Most importantly they held Kobe Bryant scoreless through three quarters and without a field goal until around seven minutes to go in the fourth and final quarter.
Yet Bryant managed to rip the hearts out of the Hornets' psyche as he has done so many times before. Though he only managed 11 points for the game, it was his final three-point hit (and the only one he had on the day) that gave the Lakers the lead with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
For a team smelling the upset after leading by six at the end of the third quarter, it was that much more difficult to take. For a fan who lives just north of Los Angeles yet is a Laker hater and Hornet fan, it was enough to make me sick.
It wasn't the only heartbreaking loss the Hornets had in their disappointing season, but it's the one I'll remember most. And I wish I could forget it.
Hornets Finish Season Strong, All but Eliminating a Lottery Victory
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With the return of his health, Eric Gordon returned to the court at the end of March and was the main reason New Orleans finished the month of April two games above .500 despite playing the majority of its games against playoff teams.
Of course the goal is always to win. And with a healthy Eric Gordon it's hard to imagine the Hornets would have finished with such a pedestrian record. But it's of little value to discuss the merits of winning in April when the team is already out of playoff contention.
In other words, sitting Eric Gordon down for the remainder of the season along with any other bruised and battered veteran may have guaranteed more heartbreaking losses. No team or coach wants heartbreaking losses. Count me in that group.
But there is benefit in losing when you're in contention for the No. 1 overall pick. Of course it's possible that losing at all cost may not have worked anyway, given that the Charlotte Bobcats were the worst team in NBA history.
But had they won a few less games in April the Hornets could have possessed a few more ping pong balls in the NBA Lottery, to be held May 30 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
As a result of their winning ways, the Hornets possess only a 13.7 percent chance to win the lottery and are destined to miss out on the only "for sure" star in the draft (Kentucky's Anthony Davis).
Thus, it is unlikely the Hornets are going to benefit significantly from possessing two lottery picks in a draft Monty Williams himself says is not deep.