10 Facts You May or May Not Know About the Hornets' First 10 Years in NOLA
This month I've committed to reviewing the past 10 years of Hornets basketball, since they are the years in which the team has called the city of New Orleans home (though two of those years really were spent in fantasy land exile in Oklahoma City).
These past 10 years have been interesting, to say the least.
There have been moments that no one could have possibly predicted. And there have been moments that have made it easy to be a fan of the team.
Wherever you fall within that lens, it's possible there is much that you do not know about this team's history in the city of New Orleans.
Think of this as a bit of a trivia session for your knowledge of the New Orleans Hornets.
Hornets Have Made Playoffs in Five of 10 Years in New Orleans
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Of the 10 seasons that the Hornets have played in New Orleans (or at least called it home), the team has made the playoffs five of those times.
Making the playoffs 50 percent of the time is no better than average for a league where just over half (16 of 30) of the teams make the playoffs.
But considering two of those seasons, the team was no better than a refuge unit playing all but six of its "home games" in Oklahoma City, that number is certainly respectable.
Of course the first two of those five appearances came when the team was still in the Eastern Conference and also came with holdovers from the Charlotte days. Those teams were led by Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn.
The final three were courtesy of Chris Paul and David West, with a strong helping hand coming from the interior presence of Tyson Chandler (though not the final appearance in 2010-11) and sharp shooting of Peja Stojakovic.
The unfortunate part is that only once did the team advance past the first round (in 2008 when it lost in Game 7 to San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals).
Hornets Have Had Five Head Coaches in Those 10 Seasons
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Five head coaches in 10 seasons is not exactly something to brag about if you're the New Orleans Hornets.
Granted, one of those (Paul Silas), was the holdover coach from the Charlotte days. He was inexplicably fired after his first season in New Orleans, despite the team making the playoffs in its first season in a new city.
Tim Floyd came from the Bulls and before that Iowa State. His team also made the playoffs his first season, but he was quickly shelved in favor of Byron Scott.
Scott has had the longest tenure of any head coach in New Orleans. He took over in the 2004-05 season and nearly made it through the 2009-10 season. But a team that had lost interest and focus led to his firing, as general manager Jeff Bower chose to take his place just nine games into the 2009-10 season.
Bower had the shortest tenure, lasting only through the end of the 2010 season. He was fired both as coach and general manager after the wild 2010 season ended.
Dell Demps was hired as general manager, and he led the search, which nearly led to a Tom Thibodeau hiring, before settling (in the absolute best sense of the word) for Monty Williams.
Williams has been in New Orleans just two years thus far. But he recently signed a contract extension which will keep him in New Orleans at least through 2016.
With the young talent at his disposal, it's unlikely that Williams will be going anywhere anytime soon. He will likely go on to become the franchise's longest tenured head coach, when all is said and done.
Hornets Only Team in League to Have Special Unis for City-Based Holiday
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I am taking some liberties here.
Many teams in the league go green on St. Patrick's Day. But even in Boston, it is difficult to say that St. Patrick's Day is unique to that city. Many other NBA cities have large Irish populations. The Bulls and Knicks are just two of the teams that have been known to go green for St. Patty's Day.
Other teams have participated in the Hispanic celebration by wearing Los [insert team name] during the NBA's designated time for such activities.
Other teams have worn other variations of their uniforms for certain causes or holidays. But none originate from a holiday as unique to a city as Mardi Gras is to New Orleans or at least the Gulf Coast region.
The Hornets' Mardi Gras digs feature the purple, green and yellow that are marks of the Mardi Gras tradition.
Opinions will vary on the aesthetic pleasure that the unis bring the eye, but no one can question the originality and uniqueness.
Two Top Five Picks in 10 Years
There are two possible viewpoints on this particular topic.
One, it could be said that the Hornets have had bad luck by only picking twice in the top five, despite having five non-playoff seasons in 10 years.
Or one could view this as a somewhat encouraging note as it reflects the team's ability to stay relatively competitive even in tough circumstances (most notably the team's two-year relocation to Oklahoma City).
More important than even that though are the players that the Hornets have been able to take with those top five picks.
In 2005, the team took Wake Forest point guard Chris Paul with the fourth pick in the NBA draft. That worked out pretty well for six seasons.
Then during this offseason, the team was awarded the No. 1 overall pick and took Kentucky forward Anthony Davis. Time will tell how that selection works out, but the franchise and its fans are quite hopeful.
Hornets Have Had Nine All-Stars in 10 Seasons
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Considering how only 12 players make the All-Star team from each conference, it is incredibly difficult for a player to make the league's glorified exhibition contest.
For the Hornets to be represented nine times in 10 years is nothing to sneeze at. Three of those years, the team actually had two representatives. One of those was in 2008 when New Orleans hosted the contest. Chris Paul and David West represented the home team quite well.
The duo repeated their feat a year later in the 2009 game. The other duo was made up of Baron Davis and Jamaal Magloire in the 2003-04 campaign.
Single appearances were made by Jamal Mashburn in the 2002-03 campaign and then Chris Paul in 2010 and 2011.
Hornets Earn 41 Official NBA Awards in 10 Seasons
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To name all 41 official NBA awards here would be ridiculous. But some additional facts can be learned here without boring the audience.
Of the 41 official NBA awards, Chris Paul's account for 27 of them. That is good for 66 percent of all of the Hornets' official awards.
These do not include All-Star game appearances. Rather these are player of the week/month, something that Paul has done approximately 15 times.
It also includes all-rookie team, rookie of the years, all-defensive team (and second team as well), all-NBA, etc. Paul has made each of those teams as well.
Marcus Thornton and Darren Collison also earned a few of the rookie honors in the 2009-10 season. And David West managed a player of the week in 2008-09.
Dating back to the 2002-04 version of the Hornets, Jamaal Magloire, Jamal Mashburn and Baron Davis also collected some all-NBA hardware and player of the month selections.
Average Attendance Never Dips Below 14,000
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Much can be said about the attendance issues that the team has had since its arrival in the Crescent City. The guys at hornets247.com wrote a tremendous piece on this back in January. That piece explains it all with more depth than I would even try to accomplish here.
The main point to be had from the attendance discussion is this: The New Orleans Hornets fanbase is slowly but surely growing, despite tremendous obstacles in the way.
Now that the team has guaranteed that it will stay in New Orleans forever (OK maybe not forever, but you get the point), fans will surely grow in their allegiance to the squad. Ticket sales will continue to stabilize.
With Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Ryan Anderson (and not to mention one of the finest coaches in the league), the future is bright for New Orleans.
This should become one of the most fun teams to watch in person on a nightly basis.
New Orleans will never become a basketball city, over football at least, but it can begin to identify more closely with the team that hits the hardwood on a nightly basis.
Hornets First Team to Be Taken over by NBA
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It is obvious that the New Orleans Hornets have not a pain-free or smooth existence as a franchise. As a franchise, its journey has been one of the rockiest in sports.
Among those bumps, being turned over to the NBA has to be one of the lowlights. George Shinn moved the team to New Orleans in 2002 in hopes that the move would revitalize a franchise struggling with its image in Charlotte (primarily because of Shinn).
What he, and let's be fair the NBA as well, forgot was that there is a smaller television market in New Orleans, and New Orleans had already failed as a basketball city once before.
With the team's move to Oklahoma City for two seasons and a devastated economy in New Orleans, the team lacked financial resources, no matter how well the team played.
The result was that Shinn could no longer hold onto the team, but because David Stern was stubbornly committed (in this case a good thing) to keeping the team in New Orleans long-term, the NBA stepped in and for the first time took ownership properties of the franchise.
It was not the first time that a league had done this though. Major League Baseball stepped in to take over the Montreal Expos before they moved to Washington, D.C., and the NHL briefly took over the Phoenix Coyotes franchise as well.
In no such case was a conflict of interest avoided. Clearly the Hornets' situation brought about the most uproar, though, when the team had a perfectly good trade lined up with the Lakers last offseason to send Chris Paul to Los Angeles in exchange for Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic from Houston.
Stern vetoed the trade for "basketball reasons," and the joke lives on to this day.
Thankfully Saints owner Tom Benson stepped in this past April to buy the team and save the team from any further embarrassment.
Team Is Third to Sign Mexican-Born Player
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The Hornets franchise became somewhat of a trailblazing franchise when, early in the 2011-12 season, the team brought in Gustavo Ayon, the third Mexican-born player to play in the NBA. Horacio Llamas and Eduardo Najera preceded him in the league.
The 6'10" mammoth center showed great promise in his lone season in New Orleans. Had the team not found a great trade target, Ryan Anderson, Ayon may have been the team's starting center this upcoming season. Ayon is now in Orlando, where he will compete for the chance to start, since Dwight Howard is no longer there.
The Hornets also have been favorable to the rest of the Hispanic population, bringing in point guard Greivis Vasquez. In fact, the team has made due with some very good international players in the past few years; Marco Bellinelli and Peja Stojakovic are also among that group.
It is a bit odd, given the city's overall lack of Hispanic heritage, but the city has embraced these players while they've been here, and it's been exciting to see the diversity on the court for the Hornets.
Hornets Among Youngest Teams Entering 2012-13
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It's almost impossible to determine yet what the average age of every team's starting five or entire roster will be for the 2012-13 season. This much is clear, though. The 10 years that this franchise has been in New Orleans has ultimately led the team to the point where it is now.
The Hornets' likely starting five will certainly be among the league's youngest. The oldest members of the unit will be Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez (24). Eric Gordon is the middle child of the group (23), while Austin Rivers (20) and Anthony Davis (19) are the babies of the group.
The average age of the Hornets' current 15-man roster is 22.6 years of age. It is nearly impossible that five teams can go lower than that. Add to it the fact that only two players are 30 or older (Roger Mason is 31, and Hakim Warrick is 30), and Brian Roberts is 29.
This a young team.
That's perhaps the greatest testament to this team. Its best days are most likely ahead of it. The past 10 years will help make the next 10 years that much sweeter, if all goes according to plan.