New Orleans Hornets' Buzz: Back from the Dead

Joe GerrityCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 20:  Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets goes up for a shot over Rudy Gay #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies at the New Orleans Arena on January 20, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Hornets defeated the Grizzlies 113-111.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Six months ago, the New Orleans Hornets franchise was considered all but dead by nearly everyone outside of Louisiana. Their historic home playoff loss to the Denver Nuggets, hardly a superpower, appeared to be end of the Hornets as fans knew them.

In 2008, ownership rolled the dice and agreed to spend big to go after the elusive NBA Championship. It was a risky move for an organization based out of one of the smallest cities in the NBA, and before too long, it was clear that it wasn't going to pay off. Injuries, fatigue, and a serious lack of depth doomed the team before they even reached the playoffs.

With the full-fledged recession in America and the NBA's luxury tax line unpredictably falling for the first time in years, fans were forced during this offseason to face the reality that Chris Paul, David West, and Tyson Chandler were not going to be the group that would lead them to the Promised Land.

Around the world, speculation of a blowup increased with each passing day. Reports surfaced that nearly star player was available, even the previously untouchable Paul.

Since then, GM Jeff Bower has worked magic, cutting $10 million in payroll while actually improving the team. He fired Coach Byron Scott and hired himself as the replacement, potentially savings millions of dollars.

Although the team isn't built to win this year, they are only a player or two away from becoming one of the NBA's top teams. With Peja Stojakovic entering the last year of an enormous contract next year, the Hornets are in great position to add a lot of talent without losing anyone of value.

Rookies Marcus Thornton and Darren Collison have joined Emeka Okafor, West and Paul at the end of games recently, making for one of the leagues youngest units.

Only time will tell if they will become something special, but one thing is clear: The Hornets are a team on the rise again.