The NBA Playoffs have, in some ways, been very similar to years past. The Spurs stole away the Suns hopes of glory with methodical, albeit boring, execution. Tracy McGrady and the Rockets were once again ousted in the first round (will someone please tell this guy to stop walking under ladders while spilling salt and kicking black cats?). The Pistons steady D led them through a surprisingly tough series. But this year, the playoffs also have something they have lacked in recent years; the buzz of an exciting, young, and effective team. It’s the buzz of a team that plays the game unselfishly, and goes all out on every play. It’s the buzz of a team that is high-flying and entertaining, but also has the capacity to actually make a championship run. It’s the buzz of the Hornets.
For any diehard fan of the teal and purple (and my heart goes out to you if you’re out there) seeing their team finally climbing out of NBA anonymity seems like a miracle. The Hornets have been an afterthought since the days of `Zo and LJ, back when all it took to market a shoe was to have an ogre-sized man dress like an old woman and throw down vicious dunks. But this new Hornets team is once again relevant, and they are dangerous to boot.
Tyson Chandler has gone from consistent non-factor to soaring alley-oop dunker. Peja Stojakovic and Mo Peterson will absolutely bury you if left open beyond the arc. David West’s potential seems unending with each 30 point game he pours in. And their floor general, Chris Paul, is like some kind of freak hybrid of point guards past that can kill you on any given night in whichever way he deems most efficient.
This New Orleans squad is the one team that I haven’t been able to take my eyes off of this post season. They are the refreshing alternative to everything that has pushed the NBA following into disinterest in recent years. Their frenetic, yet fluid style of play is not unlike the Phoenix Suns teams that have been so enjoyable these last few years. The only difference being, it seems these guys may actually have a shot to win it all. The Suns were fast and fun but they continually ran into the issue of the humdrum, “we’re so talented it looks like we’re not even trying” teams that figured out a way to shut them down. But similar teams have had no such luck with New Orleans.
After running through a regular season which saw them lock up the 2nd overall seed in the ultra-talented Western Conference, the Hornets still had many doubters. Despite beating the Spurs by more than 20 twice, and handily defeating the East’s best squad from Beantown on more than one occasion, no one seemed to be talking about the Hornets as contenders. But the Hornets have youth. They have athleticism. They have speed. They have shooters. They have confidence. So what were they missing? What was it that made so many sure they’d trip over Dallas in the first round? They lack experience. They haven’t been there. The only problem for their opponents… the Hornets don’t seem to care.
Now in the postseason, when the youth and inexperience of this team was supposed to suffocate them, they have impressed more and more with each passing game. Save for one loss, the Hornets swatted aside a geriatric Mavericks team in round 1. Now in round 2, and facing the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, the Hornets look as explosive as ever. After stomping the Spurs in games 1 and 2 even the most steadfast nonbeliever has got to be wondering if these guys might just be the real deal. The Hornets have been absolutely on fire, and no one seems to know how to douse the flame (even their mascot has caused unruly combustion).
Sure it’s only round 2, and things aren’t even close to over. But the New Orleans Hornets have shown they have the potential for something great. They have proven they will not go down quietly. They are refusing to live up to the label of the electrifying, but ultimately inconsequential team that so many had stuck them with. The Hornets are fun, but they are poised. They are feverish, but they are organized. They are young, but they are fearless. And they have made one thing very clear, the rest of the supposed contenders had better watch themselves, because the Hornets are buzzing.