Top 10 Moments in New Orleans Hornets Franchise History

Will OsgoodAnalyst IAugust 21, 2012

Top 10 Moments in New Orleans Hornets Franchise History

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    The New Orleans Hornets are celebrating their 10th anniversary as a franchise in the Crescent City in 2012. Though the team has not played all its home games in the city since formally moving from Charlotte, it has been a fun 10 years nonetheless. 

    By no means has that time been all smiles. Hurricane Katrina forced the team out of the city for almost two full seasons. But the franchise hasn't come close to dominating the doldrums of the NBA like the Charlotte Bobcats or Los Angeles Clippers have for most of the past decade. 

    There have been a number of great moments. Let's limit ourselves here to 10, if for no other reason than to honor the 10 years the team has formally called New Orleans its city. 

Eric Gordon Caps First Game with Team by Nailing GW vs. Phx

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    It was a bit ironic that Eric Gordon signed an offer sheet this summer with Phoenix given his finest moment with the Hornets was his opening game game-winner against those Suns

    Nonetheless, Gordon's appearance on this list is justified. For a game at least, the Hornets looked like a team capable of doing more with less than any NBA 'expert' thought possible.

    Though Gordon did not play again for over three months, the team used the game for momentum to defeat the Celtics the next night out in the team's home opener. 

    The shot itself was pretty simple. It was a just a simple isolation where Gordon sized up the defender, used the threat of the dribble drive and let go of his silky smooth jump shot to take the lead. 

    The team did have to hold down the fort defensively for four seconds, but Gordon's shot was the best memory of the entire 2011-12 season for Hornets fans. 

Hornets Take 3-2 Lead over Spurs in Western Conference Semis

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    No one would have ever expected the 2007-08 version of the New Orleans Hornets to host a playoffs series against the San Antonio Spurs. Yet they did. 

    Certainly no one would have expected them to take advantage of home-court advantage early in the series. Yet they did. 

    Then in game five, the team did the unthinkable again. It not only won, but handled one of the league's team of the decades 101-79 to take a hugely important 3-2 series win. 

    The Hive was rocking, and the team more than responded in the rout. It is by far one of the best moments the Hornets and its fans have experienced in their 10 years in the city. 

Baron Davis Leads Hornets to Easy Win over Jazz in First Game in New Orleans

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    The NBA's return to New Orleans didn't come as quickly as it should have. But for all the real NBA fans in the area, the wait was worth it. 

    After leaving New Orleans for Salt Lake City, Utah, the Jazz returned to be the first opponent of New Orleans' new team. And they got steamrolled in the process. 

    Maybe it was the sheer emotion, or Utah's age, but New Orleans had much more energy and played with more efficiency all game long. 

    The Hornets shot nearly 44 percent from the field, 60 percent from three-point range and turned the ball over just 12 times. 

    Baron Davis led the team with 21 points and 10 assists as the team won by 25 points, 100-75. 

    But this game was bigger than winning. This game was about basketball coming back to the city. In turn, the team proved at least for one night the city deserved its team. 

Hornets Win 2012 NBA Draft Lottery

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    It's not everyday your franchise gets to hit the 'restart' button just one year removed from being a really good playoff team. In fact, many franchises would say "no thank you" to such an offer. 

    But in the New Orleans Hornets' case it was absolutely necessary given that the two best players in the team's history in New Orleans had left after said year, and the team went a paltry 21-45. 

    With the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft  the team, of course, took Kentucky forward Anthony Davis, who just helped Team USA take the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in London. 

    The team was also blessed to acquire the No. 10 pick in the Chris Paul deal and used it to take the point guard of the future, Austin Rivers. 

    It may not be the top moment of the first 10 years in New Orleans, but it definitely gives hope to fans who have stuck through this team in the thick and thin. 

Chris Paul Nails Fadeaway 3 to Defeat Pacers in 2009

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    In a game that went back and forth, and back again, fans in the Hive on January 19, 2009 were buzzing as regulation almost faded into oblivion. 

    Overtime seemed imminent, though the Hornets still had possession in the frontcourt, and one of the NBA's most clutch players ever. 

    As shown in the video, Chris Paul got the ball at the 3-point line, took two dribbles to his right and just off a beautiful fadeway as the buzzer rang. The ball seemed to hang in the air forever, until it came through the net as the Hornets won the game 103-100. 

    There may have been more important victories in New Orleans Hornets' history, but no last-second shot that went in favor of the Hornets was more memorable. 

    In fact, the NBA still uses the shot for some of its media advertisements. It was that great of a shot. 

Chris Paul Drafted by Hornets No. 4 Overall in 2005

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    At the time most NBA draft experts were in shock the Atlanta Hawks, who needed a point guard, passed on the electrifying sophomore point guard from Wake Forest. 

    Over the years it proved to be one of Billy King's biggest mistakes as Hawks' GM. 

    But as they say, "one man's trash is another man's treasure". In the case of the Hornets, that saying never rang truer than when they were able to take their franchise player in 2005. 

    At the time Paul was most known for scoring 61 points in a high school game a few short days after his grandfather had passed at the age of 61, as well as making Wake Forest one of the finest teams in the country for two consecutive seasons. 

    Paul quickly proved that even at pick No. 4, he was the steal of the draft. It didn't take Paul long to establish himself as one of the league's best point guards and players overall. 

    Though the New Orleans marriage only lasted six years, and ended somewhat ugly, it was incomprehensibly beautiful while it lasted. 

Hornets Dominate Lakers in 2007-08 Regular Season

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    It could be because I lived in Southern California at the same time the Lakers were dominating the NBA. It could be the fact the Hornets did not have the same media presence as the Lakers (which is probably the understatement of the year). 

    With either of those factors at play, it's clear this is a biased pick. Still the very fact the Hornets went into Staples Center and dismantled the dynasty was sweet for anyone who considers themselves a Hornets fan, myself included. 

    On November 6, the team won 118-104 behind 10 three-point hits and 36 points from Peja Stojakovic, many of which were set up by Chris Paul who set a Hornets record by dishing out 21 assists that night. 

    That particular game may have been the best game in Hornets franchise history, at least up to that point. 

New Orleans Hornets Begin 2010-11 Campaign 8-0

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    Monty Williams' tenure as New Orleans Hornets head coach got off to a blazing start as the team started the season 8-0. 

    The start included two wins over Milwaukee as well as wins over contenders Miami, Portland and San Antonio.

    The start alone signified the Hornets had made the right decision in choosing Monty Williams as their head coach and Dell Demps as their general manager. 

    Of course Chris Paul, David West and other key veterans were keys to the quick start. But the team was winning in large part to Williams' obsessive commitment to efficient play at the defensive end of the court—something the team struggled to master under Byron Scott. 

Tom Benson Buys the Team

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    As the New Orleans Hornets were owned for nearly two seasons by the NBA, it was a dark cloud for the franchise, the city and the NBA. Of course the darkest cloud hit when the team was not allowed to trade Chris Paul to the Lakers for "basketball reasons" in December. 

    Shortly after, the Hornets got a mulligan and actually were aided by the NBA's decision, but the stupidity of any team being owned by the league was proven in that historically awkward moment. 

    Mercifully Tom Benson stepped in to buy the New Orleans Hornets on April 13 for a mere $338 million, pocket change for a man whose pockets are as large as Benson's. 

    If Benson has proven anything owning the city's other team, the Saints, it's that he wants to win and will do almost anything to reach that end. 

    In a short time as Hornets owner, he has proven to have brought the same approach to the city's basketball franchise. 

    For that reason, and the final one here, the future looks incredibly bright. 

Monty Williams Signs Four-Year Extension to Stay with Team Through 2016

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    Perhaps adding this to the list is cheating, but as you've probably noticed the order has been relatively random. Except that these last two are meant to prove really what the whole slide show has been intended to prove: the Hornets' future is brighter than its past has been. 

    Sure the team has had some really nice, exciting moments in its first 10 seasons in New Orleans. But nothing that has taken place thus far in New Orleans has been the epitome of what this franchise capable of producing. 

    Sunday the team announced a four-year extension which will keep Williams in New Orleans as the team's head coach until at least 2016. 

    Because of Monty Williams' patient-yet-demanding style, the Hornets' young players figure to improve dramatically game-to-game, month-to-month and season-to-season. 

    With Monty Williams at the helm, it is not unreasonable to think this team could surprise some people and make the playoffs next year. It's unlikely yes, but not impossible. 

    Even if it does not, look for 2013-14 to be a breakout year for a team loaded with talent and prepared to add another integral piece in the coming year. With the talent the team already possesses, and the unbridled abilities of Williams to get the most out of his teams, look for the Hornets make some serious noise in the very near future.