SIDELINE PATROL: Hornets have fallen from graces
New Orleans was eliminated from the NBA?playoffs Wednesday night by the Denver Nuggets. It is hard to claim that a season is a disappointment when a team advances to the playoffs but the way the Hornets loss was disgraceful.
For example, facing elimination Wednesday, New Orleans was tied at halftime before the Nuggets went on a 24-3 run to put them away.
In fact, I am not sure if the Hornets ever showed up at all throughout the entire series. They were beaten soundly 113-84 to open the matchup before another loss 108-93, They barely hung on for a 95-93 victory in New Orleans in Game 3 before being embarrassed 121-63 in the fourth game on their own home court. The 58-point loss tied a 50-year old record for biggest deficit in a playoff game in history.
All the while, they allowed the Nuggets to win their first playoff series since 1994 as Denver outscored the Hornets by an average of 24.2 points per game.
Chauncey Billips thoroughly dominated New Orleans in every facet, while the Hornets even made Chris Anderson look like an All-Star at times. Chris Paul looked human and Denver easily overcame sluggish early nights from Carmelo Anthony. Tyson Chandler reminded us he was too skinny when he entered the league as Kenyon Martin imposed his presence down low. And David West just didn’t answer proving he is not on par with the likes of Paul Pierce. Peja Stojakovic was never as valuable as Manu Ginolbi and now he is just old.
So where do the Hornets go from here. I was against Chandler’s attempted trade earlier in the season because I felt that he was apart of the identity being established in New Orleans. Now it doesn’t make a difference who goes. Chandler, Stojakovic, West or James Posey, who was brought in to try to win a championship.
The identity of the Hornets rests in the hands of Paul, but even he is not safe. Defenders exposed him putting an end to talk of MVP.
The real question is not what will change in the makeup of the team but how long they will remain in the Crescent City, now.
Conversation consistently rose about the franchise moving permanently to Oklahoma City after the team spent a season playing there following Hurricane Katrina. It seemed people thought the “Big Easy” was not a basketball town and couldn’t sell tickets. Then, the Hornets began to win regularly and a fan base quickly followed. But as everyone has become accustomed to with the New Orleans Saints, fans can go as quickly as they came.
Many thought New Orleans was on the rise after falling one game shy of advancing to the conference semifinal a year ago. Now they have to prove they are not on a downward spiral.