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NBA Draft 2012: Hornets, a New Era Dawns in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JUNE 29:  From left, Rita Benson LeBlanc, Anthony Davis, team owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle, Austin Rivers and Ryan LeBlanc of the New Orleans Hornets pose for a photo at the New Orleans Arena on June 29, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Louis GertlerContributor IIJune 30, 2012

Usually at this time of year, all the talk in New Orleans is about the Saints upcoming season.

Fans chanting "Who Dat" work themselves up into a frenzy for an expected playoff run.

Although local fans are still undeniably excited for the Saints this year, the parade of horribles that has occurred this offseason has definitely tamped down some of the usual glee.

Instead, all the excitement in town for the last couple of weeks is coming from a very unlikely source: the Hornets.

Let's look at the unbelievable string of positive events that have occurred for this franchise over the last several months.

The New Orleans Arena lease was extended until 2024. The franchise was purchased by local Saints owner Tom Benson. The Hornets won the draft lottery and thus, the right to draft potential superstar Anthony Davis. The Hornets drafted both Davis and controversial, but exciting Duke guard Austin Rivers.

For the first time since Chris Paul led the Hornets' playoff run to game seven of the 2008 Western Conference Semi-Finals, the city is (no pun intended) buzzing about the local NBA franchise.

The sale to Benson and the long lease extension have vanquished the specter of relocation that has haunted the franchise since Katrina. These developments have also quieted the national talking-heads who have been ridiculously calling for the contraction of the franchise, despite the fact that over 10,000 season tickets were sold last year for a team with an exiting superstar and no owner.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JUNE 29:  Austin Rivers #25 and Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Hornets talk with the media at the New Orleans Arena on June 29, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Davis was the first overall pick, and Rivers the 10th overall pick in
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Finally, after ten years, the Hornets truly feel like New Orleans' team for good.

The prospects on the court are equally as bright.

Think about it. With budding superstar Eric Gordon, the Hornets may now have the requisite "Big 3" capable of making a deep run in the playoffs in a couple of years. Maybe even (gulp!) win a championship. 

Of course, there are a lot of "ifs" at this early stage.

Can Davis live up to almost impossibly high expectations? Will Rivers be a "shoot-first" ball-hog or will he learn to distribute selflessly in addition to scoring?  Can the Hornets find a serviceable center? Can Rivers and Gordon successfully co-exist on the same court? What toll will injuries play in the future?

No one knows the answers to these important questions. But one thing is clear: a new era has dawned in New Orleans, and it's going to be very exciting.

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