New Orleans has been through a ton in the past few years, absorbing blows from nature, big oil and Roger Goodell, but this city on the Gulf keeps bouncing back.
The Hornets also have acquired talented players such as Greivis Vazquez, Robin Lopez and Austin Rivers. This is ground floor for their rebuilding process, and tonight, they took on an intriguing team from Minnesota.
I got to the arena early to tour the concession stands because since I was sitting on the floor for this game, I knew I wouldn't have the opportunity to later.
I love when stadiums offer you their local delicacies. New Orleans' arena does not fall short in that department. Here, you can see that it offers local Abita beer and alligator sausages. I don't know any other stadiums serving up this swamp dwelling predator.
They also offered alkaline water at the game, something I've never seen before. Alkaline water is believed to have beneficial qualities and is a growing rage. Kudos to the Hornets for being on the cutting edge of water.
The suite life.
More New Orleans seafood specialties: BBQ shrimp and grits. BBQ shrimp are a bit of a misnomer. There's no grill involved; the shrimp are just sauteed with a lot of hot spices.
I was delighted to see that The New Orleans Arena imported "hurricanes" from Bourbon street. It's comprised of: 151 rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, grenadine and dark rum. It's a great way to taste the real New Orleans without having to witness Cuba Gooding, Jr. assault a bartender. (Seriously, Absinthe House is my favorite place to get hurricanes.)
Wait, isn't there a game going on? I took up my post on the firing line and started flicking away as some of my favorite players warmed up.
Seriously, who doesn't love Euro enforcer Nikola Pekovic?
Superstars Kevin Love (though his front office doesn't think he's one) and Anthony Davis (I don't care if he's only played a few games; he's a Team USA member) both missed chunks of this season. The stars were aligned, as I was getting the opportunity to see them square off. I just wish Ricky Rubio was healthy (he would play the next day), then this would really be a party.
Hornets GM Dell Demps. He's had to deal with more restrictions than many GMs ("basketball reasons," anyone?), but he's done an admirable job restocking the cupboard.
Hugo the Hornet is on his farewell tour. It was recently announced that the team would be changing their name to the Pelicans. While some people were against this change (including a follicularly-challenged reigning MVP), Deadspin did a great job of showing that Pelicans are about as savage as it gets. Cheer up, Hugo; rumor has it Michael Jordan may bring you back to Charlotte and make you wear terrible clothes.
As soon as the game started, I was in awe of Andrei Kirilenko. I guess while he was in Russia I forgot how explosive he was or how he has the wingspan of a pterodactyl and basketball IQ that's higher than Lamar Odom back in his Clippers days. He was all over the court wrecking havoc.
Wow, $5 beers? On a Friday night? Hopefully, it turns out better than the Cleveland Indians' infamous 10 cent beer night. (I actually consulted an inflation calculator, and 10 cents in 1974 is 47 cents now. I can see how that would cause some calamity.)
This is what we all came to see: Anthony Davis blocking Kevin Love.
Free fries if the Hornets get to 100 points (crossing fingers).
Another surprise for the T'Wolves has been Alexey Shved. This Russian import has been balling recently and seems to have an ESP connection with his national team mate Kirilenko.
NBA Fashion Watch: Double socks. I'm not sure if it's for comfort, style or both, but it's catching on with the young players. We'll see if it lasts longer than the "Sworts" craze of the summer of 2012.
Non-name brand shoe watch: Greivis Vazquez, wearing some fake Kobe low-top Under Armour shoes.
The crowd took a collective gasp as Anthony Davis took a nasty spill right before half, but he was OK.
Despite the meal I received in the media room, I made a halftime dash for some alligator sausage. It was not meant to be; they were sold out. This was a dark day in sports gastro journalism.
To say Austin Rivers has underachieved to this point in the season would be an overstatement, but tonight was different. He was scorching hot in the first half, scoring 19 points on just seven (!) shots.
JJ Barea made a funny.
Non-name brand shoe watch: What are those things on Kevin Love's feet?!? I did some digging around and found out they are his signature line of a Chinese shoe company, 361 Degrees. It kind of reminds me of when Hakeem had the signature shoes with Spalding.
Shout out to Shved rocking the Kobes besides him, though.
Eastern Euro Tattoo watch: Nikola Pekovic seems to have a cross between a depressed vampire and Link from Zelda holding a sword on his leg. Please don't tell him I made fun of his tattoo.
Mr. Kahntroversy, David Kahn. I really like a lot of the players he's imported over the past few years.
Greg Steimsma really needs to watch more film of Brian Scalabrine and Robert Sacre to learn how to act on the bench.
T-shirts were delivered to fans via cheerleader and slingshot.
Greivis Vasquez making some low-flying attacks on the basket. He had been in a slump recently, but the Greivy Train was rolling again to the tune of 15 points and 17 assists. It was pretty cool that after every basket, he got the Cruz treatment. (The PA played salsa for a few seconds.)
In the final few moments of the game, Kevin Love seemed to re-injure his hand and immediately headed to the locker room for X-rays. Uh-oh, he already suffered a broken hand in the preseason that cost him nine games (and his shooting accuracy). Thankfully, it was an unrelated, minor thumb injury in the end.
With under a minute left, sitting on 97 points, down 14, the game was out of reach for the Hornets, but the fries were not out of reach for fans. Austin Rivers drained his final three and the crowd went nuts. He was confused for a second by the standing ovation, but soon realized the fans were amped up because he just won them fries.
Eastern Euro tattoo watch: Andrei Kirilenkos' dragon wings tattoo.
Both of these teams are interesting. One has substantially upgraded its talent, but the wins haven't followed, as the team seams to lack intensity. The other team is one that is comprised of underrated cogs from all across the globe, one that can throw five white guys out there and compete like it's the 1950s. I don't think either team will be lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy in the near future (especially in today's world of superstar collusion), but both will be putting butts in seats with all the intriguing talent they have cultivated.
As if you needed anymore reasons to visit New Orleans, I recommend Hornets games as a travel destination. This teal-tiled treasure of an arena accurately reflects all the things that make New Orleans so unique and special.