Friday, May 30, 2008

2008 Draft Prospectus

Ok, so I have no idea whatsoever about anything scouting related. However, I have been reading tons of Chad Ford et al articles about the upcoming draft. Does this make me any wiser? No. Does this make me think I should post my own Round 1 predictions? Yes. Does the answer to the last question make me stupid? Probably.

I've always hated these types of articles. You make one guess, then make a another guess that's predicated on the correctness of the previous guess and so forth and so forth. So, by the time you land on the Celtic's pick (at number 30), you're basically suggesting that Boston would take so-and-so (Ibaka, if I'm the one talking)… oh, but that's only in this one highly unlikely scenario I've drawn up. Awesome.

1. Chicago Bulls: Michael Beasley (PF, Kansas State)
You couldn't go wrong with Rose, but Chicago is desperate for a real scoring threat in the front court. Plus they have a good enough point man in Hinrich — and he's got a contract that'll make it hard to move him.

2. Miami Heat: Derrick Rose (PG, Memphis)
The heat are lucky: they have so many positions to fill that any player in the lottery would probably be a good fit. The addition of Rose, however, would do wonders for this team. Of course, if Beasley fell to them, no one would be complaining (except for Udonis Haslem).

3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brooke Lopez (C, Standford)
It's feasible that that the Wolves might grab Mayo or Love here, but what they really need is a big, defensive-minded addition to their front court since Al Jefferson only really does that offensive thing.

4. Seattle Sonics: Jerryd Bayless (PG, Arizona)
The Sonics need a capable point guard more than another scoring machine (i.e. Mayo). Bayless is the best in the draft after Rose.

5. Memphis Grizzlies: O.J. Mayo (SG, USC)
It seems unlikely that any team (even Memphis with its overloaded back court) could pass on Mayo. Or maybe they could pass the Mayo… or hold the Mayo. Wow. That's not going to get old. Actually, the most likely scenario is Memphis drafting Mayo then immediately trading him to the Lakers for Colby Karl and a $20 gift certificate to Del Taco.

6. New York Knicks: Danillo Gallinari (SF, Italy)
Supposedly D'Antoni isn't too high on this Italian star, but Danilo is a talented and intelligent player who could easily thrive under this coach. The question is can thrive next to everyone else on the roster.

7. Los Angeles Clippers: Eric Gordon (SG, Indiana)
A lot of the analysts are picking Westbrook to go here, but with Maggette and Brand possibly leaving, it would seem that the Clips would need a stronger scoring option than Westbrook. Plus Livingston should be back from injury to helm the point.

8. Milwaukee Bucks: Donte Greene (SF, Syracuse)
Most people insist that even though the Bucks need a SF, Greene has too many question marks to take this high. Ford even suggested that they'll probably just take the best talent on the board and then work the phones all summer. Bottom line: when your options at the 3 are Bobby Simmons and Desmond Mason, why not gamble on Greene?

9. Charlotte Bobcats: Kevin Love (PF, UCLA)
This guy's stock just keeps rising, and since it appears that Sean May might never come back (did he ever even show up?), Love is a great option to compliment Emeka in the front court and take some of the pressure off of Crash. Randolph is also a good option here.

10. New Jersey Nets: Anthony Randolph (PF, LSU)
Sean Williams was good int he first half, Krstic can't stay healthy, and Josh Boone is… Josh Boone. So, the Nets need help in the front court. Randolph is great fit for this young team's fast-paced play. He just needs to add a few pounds to his Tayshaun-ish frame.

11. Indiana Pacers: Russell Westbrook (PG, UCLA)
The Pacer's need a point guard like nobody's business. Even though Jamaal Tinsley is locked up for another few (expensive) years, Westbrook would be a perfect addition to this squad if he fell this far.

12. Sacramento Kings: D.J. Augustin (PG, Texas)
Udrih was good, but the Kings are looking for someone to really fill Bibby's shoes, especially now that there are scorers to pass to in Sactown (read: K. Mart 2.0). If there aren't any good points left on the board, look for the Kings to grab Darrell Arthur to replace what's left of Shareef Abdur-Raheem.

13. Portland Trailblazers: Joe Alexander (SF, West Virginia)
Other than Love, this guy's stock has soared over the past few days. Truthfully, Portland is really solid at the 2, 4, and 5 so look for them to grab Alexander at the 3 or possibly Augustin or Westbrook at the 1 (if they fall this far).

14. Golden State Warriors: DeAndre Jordan (C, Texas A&M)
This is the most logical pick for the Warriors. However, even if they do gamble on Jordan, Nellie probably wouldn't play him anyway, as big men who play defense well do not quite mesh with the 2 seconds or less philosophic structure of Nellie Ball. I mean, last season he only played Biendrins twenty-seven minutes a game for crying out loud. Still, Jordan would give them a strong front court presence who is young enough to run and gun.

[So, that was the lottery. I won't break down the rest of the picks since each one gets more and more absurd as we go (on uninformed decision on top of another), so I'll just list them. If the all of the 14 above players are off the board, here's how I'd draft the rest of them.]

15. Phoenix Suns: Darrell Arthur, (PF, Kansas)

16. Philadelphia 76ers: Marreese Speights (C, Florida)

17. Toronto Raptors: Robin Lopez (C, Stanford)

18. Washington Wizards: JaVale McGee (PF, Nevada)

19. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kosta Koufos (C, Ohio State)

20. Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson (PG, NC State)

21. New Jersey Nets: Chase Budinger (SG, Arizona)

22. Orlando Magic: Brandon Rush (SG, Kansas)

23. Utah Jazz: Roy Hibbert (C, Georgetown)

24. Seattle Sonics: Bill Walker (SF, Kansas State)

25. Houston Rockets: J. J. Hickson (PF, NC State)

26. San Antonio Spurs: Nicolas Batum (SF, France)

27. New Orleans Hornets: Courtney Lee (SG, Western Kentucky)

28. Memphis Grizzlies: Nathan Jawai (PF, Australia)

29. Detroit Pistons: Chris Douglas-Roberts (SF, Memphis)

30. Boston Celtics: Serge Ibaka (PF, Congo)

So, to recap, none of this will probably happen at all. I do hope, however, that the Hornets have the sense to draft one of three players at the 2 (Rush, Douglas-Roberts, or Lee depending on who's available) or grab Nathan Jawai to help fill the black hole caused by the tandem of Ely/Bowen. I'll be thrilled for next season no matter what, but any of those picks would make me happy.

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Recap: a Glorious Season Comes to an End

I would first like to apologize for my absence. I had to impose an ESPN ban on myself for the past week in order to effectively get over the end of the season. But now I'm outside the tunnel and feeling good… I can now enjoy sports again without ripping the nearest pillow to shreds. So... recap, anyone?

The Man and his Mentor.

To help me sum up the fantastic ride that was the Hornets' season, permit me to call on the golden-age rapper Whodini's "Magic Wand".

Hey y'all, we'll be back again
So tell all your friends
Good things don't always come to an end

This is, in so many words, a great encapsulation of the last six months. I could wax philosophic for paragraphs on end about how awesome this season has been, but I've opted for something that should be more fun and completely expose me for the compulsively organized individual I am. For your enjoyment, I've decided to recap the season High Fidelity style. I will now blast some mad tunes while I channel John Cusack's character. Let's get started.


Top 5 Games of the season:

1. Dec 1, 2007 [New Orleans 112 | Dallas 108]:
Peja hits a trey at the buzzer to send the game to OT. Hornets take care of business, outscoring Dallas by 4 in the extra quarter.

2. Jan 28, 2008 [New Orleans 117 | Denver 93]:
On their way to a dominating route of the Melo-less Nuggets, the Bees hold Marcus Camby to something like 5% of his normal nightly contributions and make AI do all the work. More importantly, this was the first game in which we heard the "MVP" chants fill the arena. Goosebumps all around.

3. Feb 20, 2008 [New Orleans 104 | Dallas 93]
Dallas comes to town for their first game after completing a blockbuster deal in which Cuban mortgaged the Maverick's future for the likes of Jason Kidd. While it was no surprise that this new mix of players couldn't take a game on our court, no one could have predicted Chris Paul's unbelievable performance (see number 3 in the next list). By the way, Jason Kidd's agility owes CP's agility like thirty grand.

4. Mar 12, 2008 [New Orleans 100 | San Antonio 75]
After failing pretty miserably against this team in NOLA earlier in the season, the Hornets bounce back and route the reigning champs. An entire quarter of booing (after some poor officiating) led to an 8 point effort in the fourth from the Spurs, allowing the Hornets to bounce back from a 7 point deficit. It was an even bigger victory for us when include the amount of attention and head-turning it prompted from the media.

5. Mar 22, 2008 [New Orleans 113 | Boston 106]
If the heads hadn't been turned by this time, all eyes would soon be on the Hornets after the Celtics came to town. After shutting down the Spurs and Lakers at home, the Hornets' played host to this year's media darling. After a shaky start, the New Orleans came back to win in a scintillating fourth quarter as they outscored the Celtics 32 to 17.

Top 5 Individual performances by players named Chris Paul:

1. Jan 28, 2008 [New Orleans 117 | Denver 93]
23 points, 17 assists, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block

2. Feb 6, 2008 [New Orleans 132 | Phoenix 130]
42 points on 55% shooting, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 8 steals, and 1 turnover in 50 minutes of play. Damn, son.

3. Feb 20, 2008 [New Orleans 104 | Dallas 93]
31 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds, 9 steals, and 1 turnover

4. Apr 22, 2008 [New Orleans 127 | Dallas 103
32 points, 17 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals (Dallas series, game 2)

5. Apr 29, 2008 [New Orleans 99 | Dallas 94]
24 points, 15 assists, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, 0 turnovers (Dallas series, Game 4)

Top 5 Individual performances by players not named Chris Paul:

1. Nov 6, 2008 [New Orleans 118 | Los Angeles Lakers 104]
Peja: 36 points, 10-13 beyond the arc, 5 rebounds, 1 block

2. Jan 4, 2008 [New Orleans 116 | Golden State 104]
Tyson: 22 points, 22 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block

3. Mar 5, 2008 [New Orleans 116 | Atlanta 101]
JuJu: 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists.

Jump on it, JuJu. Jump on it.

This game is less important for the numbers, but rather it marked our first of many "Holy crap! Julian Wright is going to be awesome!" moments. My buddy Nat had this revelation the other day: "Julian Wright is really good. He could be as good as Ron Artest… you know, minus the crazy". Additionally, he had two highlight dunks and danced like a fiend to The Sugarhill Gang's "Apache". Read about it or watch the highlights.

4. Mar 25, 2008 [New Orleans 114 | Indiana 106]
D.West: 35 points, 16 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 3 steals

5. May 13, 2008 [New Orleans 101 | San Antonio 79]
D.West: 38 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks, 2 steals (San Antonio series, Game 5). A god among men.

Top 5 Moments of the playoffs:

1. What's playoff experience?
Every single analyst in the country had the Hornets either losing to the Mavs or pulling off a close win in a game seven. This seeming lack of faith was justified at the Hornets' lack of playoff experience. That statement remained true for roughly 24 minutes, or the first half of Game 1 against Dallas. After that, the Hornets exploded and never looked back, taking the series in 5 games. CP averaged 25 points, 12 assists, and 1 turnover during that stretch.

Where playoff experience is optional happens.

2. West owns Dirk's pride.
After taking an elbow from the reigning MVP, D.West gets in the big German's face, tells him he "only gets to do that once", and then taps his cheek. Dirk's response? Fear.

3. Where the savior destroys hope happens.
Game 4 versus Dallas. The Mavs are about to lose on their own turf and go down 3-1 in the series. Out of bitter frustration, the man who was sent in to save them all, commits a tasteless, flagrant foul. When Jason Kidd, pulled Pargo down by the neck on a fast break late in the game, the Dallas season was effectively over. Read more in this entry.

4. Stop the Flop.
Dirk had been flopping all throughout the series (so much so that Nat suggested that "maybe falling is just part of his shooting motion"). After 5 games, the Hornets' fans had had enough. During a Dirk and-one, a fan's sign prompted the entire arena to chant "Stop the flop!" at the top of their lungs during every single Dallas free-throw until the end of the game.

5. Love, even in a loss.
In the final minutes of Game 7 against the Spurs, after Pargo missed an open trey that would have tied the game, Chris gathered his sixth foul on the other end of the court and promptly went to the bench. As fans, we recognized that moment as the end of our season, despite the ninety some-odd seconds remaining on the clock. As Chris reached the bench, the entire arena stood up and cheered louder than I've ever heard them. Instead of being bitter, there was a feeling of love and gratitude flowing through the building. It was a hell of a way to thank the guys while simultaneously drawing attention away from the Spurs' victory.

Top 5 Ways to make myself feel better after getting booted from the playoffs:

1. We took the defending champs to game seven.
I don't care that we were the two seed: the defending champs are always the defending champs (unless they're from Miami). Let's face it, the Spurs ARE a freaking dynasty. They've won 4 of the last 9 championships, and their big 3 have played in over 100 playoff games together. That's more than an entire season of just playoffs. This team is incredible and we took them to seven games.

2. We won the Southwest Division.
We won our first divisional championship this season, outperforming what is easily the hardest and deepest division in the league — and that's including the likes of Memphis. Though (as we found out) the regular season means nothing in the playoffs, it's still nice to finally have a divisional championship under our belt (and a banner hanging from our rafters).

Where earning respect happens.

3. The nucleus is returning.
Here's a list of the young talent that is returning next year: Chris Paul (23), David West (27), Tyson Chandler (25), Jannero Pargo (28), Julian Wright (21), Hilton Armstrong (23), and whoever the hell we draft next month. Peja is the oldest of the crew, but he only recently cracked 30 on the odometer (he'll be 31 on June 9th).

4. We have Jeff Bower.
In hindsight, that trade with the rockets was not the greatest move ever. Though Bonzi performed really well during the regular season, he all but disappeared in the playoffs (that was partly Byron's fault, but we'll save that for another day). Plus, I'm not even sure that Mike "Shoes" James even traveled with the team after the regular season ended. Regardless, Bower is a genius of GM in league so full of ineptness. Though drafting Paul was a no-brainer, Bower built this team from the ground up after Baron Davis' oscar-worthy portrayal of Vince Carter destroyed the franchise back in 2004.

5. Home Court Advantage for ALL of next season.
I will concede, despite many posts arguing to the contrary, that we had embarrassingly low attendance until mid-January. Home court advantage was really hard to come by (especially considering that when people did show up, it was often to see the other team's superstar). However, the Hornets still won 56 games. Imagine how many more they could win if the fans showed up for an entire season. Now that we have our own superstar, we won't have to wait too long to find out.

Top 5 Songs to listen to while writing a blog entry about basketball:

1. "Harder, Faster Stronger" by Daft Punk

2. "Basketball" by Kurtis Blow

3. "Inside Game" by Royal Trux

4. "Rock Box" by Run D.M.C.

5. "Rebel Without a Pause" by Public Enemy


All in all, who could have asked for a better season? Ok, maybe the whiny Boston fan-base, but I sure couldn't have. For a small market team, nothing could have beaten the credibility and exposure we were able to [slowly] amass over the past six months. I mean, how many people get to say, "Hey, I got to watch [insert name of athlete who becomes god-like and joins pantheon of icons in his sport] transcend to greatness. Yeah, I had season tickets. Yeah, I was there before anyone thought to look…" how awesome is that?

This year was the beginning of something great, not the end. The old powerhouses in the West are slowly succumbing to age. Their time has past. A new era is being ushered in. An era in which the likes of young guns are out to make a name for themselves. The wild, wild west is about to get a bit wilder. And look for the Hornets to be wielding a young point guard hungry for victory.


Thanks for sticking it out with us all season. Just so you know, we'll be continuing to post during the off-season, so be sure to check back periodically. I expect Curry to post a season recap in the near future, but also be looking for a draft preview as well as the Hometown Hornets' official draft day live blog, in which Curry and I will go head-to-head predicting picks while consuming alcohol... admit it, you're excited. Of course, we may not make it to the second round. Stay tuned!


(Quick thank you to All of the images from this post (minus Kurtis Blow) can be found in their online photo gallery along with hundreds of others from the entire season.)

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Links, vol. 4

Western Semis, Game 5. Last night was nothing short of amazing. Curry will post a recap, but I do have to interject with one thought: DAVID WEST IS A GOD AMONG MEN. He played through injury and owned anyone in a San Antonio uniform who got near him. Kicked ass and took names. Wow. I just went from six to midnight. Before this gets anymore inappropriate, let's move on to the links.

1. In case you were looking for an easy-to-understand, fairly well designed overview of every one of Chris Paul's dimes this season, well look no further. The Times Pic has you covered. Just click the image below to get a closer view... then enjoy the awesomeness of CP3.

2. Chris made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team.

3. The crew at Ball Don't Lie did coverage of Game 5 with a live blog. Funny stuff. I promise.

4. The guys at Basketbawful had a pretty fantastic entry in their daily "Worst of the Night" column. So who made the list of worst on the night?

Anybody who guarded David West: Holy Moses. West was so hot last night that I got first degree burns from just watching him destroy any and every Spur who dared to defend him. Tim Duncan included. West finished with 38 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 blocked shots. If you thought Fabricio Oberto was ugly before, imagine what he looks like now that West scorched his eyebrows off.

5. Even the perennial whiners in San Antonio are impressed by David West. Check out this article in the San Antonio Press full of well-deserved love.

6. I heart John Hollinger and his numbers and stuff. Read article.

7. Cool video, courtesy of ESPN, about CP paying tribute to his grandfather. The number 61 will never be the same.

8. Funny post from ESPN the mag about Ric "WOOOOOOO!" Flair.

9. Check it. Great interview with JuJu from TrueHoop.

10. Page 2 feature on Chris "Birdman" Andersen's improbable (albeit insane) journey to the NBA, to drugs, to suspension, and back again. Worth the read.

11. So, this last link is sort of unrelated, but you'll just have to deal. A member of my beloved Cardinals (at least for part of his career... the good part) is hanging up the spikes. That's actually only partially true, but unless the Cubs (BOOOOOOO) sign him to a a one-year deal, Jim Edmonds may be finished with Major League Baseball. Check out this fantastic Page 2 article that recaps his (almost historic) numbers. Thanks for the memories, Jim.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

West Semis, Game 2: Messing with Texas

My buddy Ted -- an avid Mavs fan -- sent me the following message after the last game (NOH 102, SAS 84)...


Ingredients: Floundering basketball team in the best division in the NBA, disloyal owner, disinterested fan base, economically crippled city, Curry Smith, Lee Domingue (Section 325).

Directions: Just add Hall-of-Fame-Caliber point guard

I hate you."

Despite the jealousy he throws in there at the end, I like it. Honestly, it's a good analogy. The Hornets' offense is similar to a recipe. I won't do some hokey post that includes phrases like "17 parts David West" or "4 parts Julian Wright's headband." I will, however, write the following...

In recent memory, we've seen it in almost every game. The Hornets stay close or post a small lead at halftime. Then, they come out in the second half like men possessed. The team takes away opponents' rhythms like they're Vanilla Ice ripping off the beat from a David Bowie-Freddie Mercury song. The Hornets' defense leads to their offense; steals, blocks, and rebounds often immediately precede a Peja 3, a Tyson dunk, or a D-West mid-range jumper. It's more or less the same formula they've used for the entire season. It's not exact, but you know what to expect. It's also just one more reason that I think Chris Paul's nickname NEEDS to be "The Chef." The great thing is... most opponents are unable to stop it. Case in point: the Spurs on Monday night.

At halftime, the Hornets were down 42-43. Pretty familiar territory (they were down 44-49 at the break of Game 1). After a 19-point loss on Saturday, everyone expected the Spurs to bounce back to their defending championship form. Specifically, people looked for Tim Duncan to vastly improve upon his Game 1 performance. And he did; by halftime, he had exceeded his point and rebound totals from the first game. But the Hornets turned it on. They limited Timmy to only one field goal in the second half and outscored the big guy's team 60-41 in the same span.

While he was trying to get himself back to form offensively, Duncan and the rest of his frontline were doing a much better job defensively against David West (2-11 shooting for 10 points). Problem for the Spurs is when they kept one of our All Stars under 30 points... our other All-Star went ahead and got himself 30 points. To go along with 12 assists. And two rebounds. And a steal. A pretty good early birthday present that Chris Paul gave himself.

There were plenty of times that the Hornets looked noticeably younger and quicker than their "experienced" counterparts. That definitely has something to do with the average ages on the two teams: 27.7 for the Hornets and 31.5 for the Spurs. Not to be overlooked is Coach Byron Scott's infamous military-esque training camp. Those extra laps around the gym are starting to come in handy.

Before this series started, I guessed that it would go the full seven games. I'm not surprised the Hornets are up 2-0. But I am surprised at the dominant fashion in which they got there. Now, let's see if the team can impress me once more and take Game 3 on San Antonio's home court.


The Links, vol. 3

Hello all. In case you want a recap of Game 2 versus the Spurs complete with witty banter and intelligent observations... well, you'll just have to wait. Curry's on top of that task. My task: to provide you with another set of wonderful Hornets-related links that will allow you to waste countless hours on this here internets thing. I do want to mention that Game 2 was pretty awesome. I keep getting this sense of "is this really happening or is the endless cup of beer I'm consuming prompting some kind of illusion?" Turns out, it's all very real... and very amazing. Even Page 2's subhead on Tuesday had a reaction: Page 2 ... WHERE PAUL IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD IN SAN ANTONIO. Amazing. On to the links.

1. In case anyone is wondering how our owner has assembled this remarkable squad with a fraction of the budget of other teams, the answer is simple: Jeff Bower. Not a man of many words (I had a brief conversation with him earlier this year before the trade deadline), Mr. Bower appears to be beyond competent in the front office. has the story.

2. Happy Birthday CP3!. ESPN the mag honored CP on his 23rd birthday (which was yesterday) with a batch of cool links spanning from high school to his total domination of the NBA. Had to include the Sportscenter commcerial he did after landing the ROY:

3. Man, the love just keeps on coming. Chris is named to the First Team All-NBA. In fact, he finished an extremely close second to Kobe in total votes received. Somehow, though, the league (or whoever gets a vote) managed to overlook D.West. He definitely deserves to be there more than Carlos Boozer, if only for Boozer's lackluster April (and playoffs).

4. J.A. Adande continues to drink the CP3 Kool-Aid. Pretty awesome article about what he calls "CP3's mean streak".

5. Chris continues to impress everyone. Check out this feature from the latest victim: Mr Eric Neel. The quote below sums up his fascination quite well:

[H]e's someone we can view as a symbol, a turning of some historic page, a bellwether signaling the end of one era (that belonged to Kidd and Steve Nash) and the beginning of another.

6. Air Jordan tribute video to CP. Sweet.

7. Another entry from the mag. This one pits Jannero Pargo against Tyson Chandler's wife, Kim, to see who knows the Chairman of the Boards better. The best friend against the love of his life. Watch the video to see who wins.

8. Need something to help pass the antsy-ridden hours leading up to each game? Check out this nifty flash game. Fleur-de-Bee... ENGAGE!

9. One final entry. I managed to get on DJ Gallo's chat the other day (on He's more of a satirist than a journalist, but you should check out the chat anyway; it's pretty funny. In case you aren't an "insider" at espn, I took the liberty of reproducing the part of the chat where he answers my question:

Lee (New Orleans): San Antonio was unable to overcome the Hornets by playing a surprisingly clean Game 1. Think they'll return to the regular flop-o-rama to try and take Game 2?

DJ Gallo: They are legendary floppers. But I doubt it. Chris Paul has made it clear that if one Spurs player flops, it's going to be crotch-punches all around. Even Popovich will get one.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pure Energy

I noticed that Lee used this term in his last post to describe the crowd in Game 1 of this series. I just want him -- and the general public -- to know how disappointed I am that he didn't immediately link to the following video...

I am here to right his wrongs (and his lefts). You're all welcome.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Western Semis, Game 1: Peja Heads

New Orleans 101 | San Antonio 82
Western Conference Semifinals: Game 1 [box score]

On any other day of the week, I'd be terrified to face the reigning champs in a playoff series. Even with home court advantage, the looming Spurs are a seasoned crew who frequently show up for big games and squash the dreams of many a player and fan. But somehow, Saturday night in the hive did not feature any anxiety about the fact that the Hornets were playing host to a team who's won 4 of the last 9 NBA titles. Instead, there was excitement: a distinguishable "buzz" was running through the crowd.

But why, you might ask. Was it the fact that the Spurs looked a little older and moved a little slower this April, than in others past? Was it that the Hornets had split the season series with the Spurs, with both of their victories having a 20+ point margin? Was it that the Hornet's had just won their first seven-game playoff series? Or that the last time they even played in the Conference Semis was in the Least? Was it that CP3 seemed utterly unstoppable against Dallas in the previous series with no signs of slowing up? Or was it the sea of yellow that graced the arena provided by the "Mardis Gras Gold" t-shirts that each fan was given (at the behest of Chris Paul)? Maybe it was the Peja on-a-stick that each fan waved wildly in the air?

What's not to love?

Truth be told, the above may have had something to do with it, but in all actuality the crowd was so loose and carefree because the game didn't actually start until 9:00pm. As such, the league inadvertently gave the Hornets an additional advantage by allowing its fan base to have an additional two hours to get "loose" before the game. And in New Orleans, we're at our best when we're 11 or 12 sheets to the wind.

So that was it. No anxiety in the fan base. Just pure excitement and pure energy.

And the Hornets fed off of this energy, jumping out to a quick 8-0 start. They then promptly relinquished the lead after the Spurs had their own little run of 10-2. The advantage stayed in San Antonio's hands, bouncing between 11 and 4, for the first 24 minutes. But after half-time, the Hornets came out full throttle and outscored the Spurs 56-33 to end the game with a 19 point victory.

Even with home court advantage, you've got to hand it to this crew. Byron wore his huevos on the outside, double-teaming Tim Duncan all night which led big Timmy to go 1-9 from the field and finish with a measly 5 points and 3 rebounds. In case you want some kind of reference point, here are Duncan's per game averages for the regular season: 19.3 points on almost 50% shooting with 11 boards.

Doubling Duncan meant risking a deluge of treys from San Antonio's very capable - albeit aged - jump shooters. Remarkably, it was Bruce Bowen who made us pay the most by dropping a team-high 17 points with 5 bombs from beyond the arc. But the Hornets stood firm and forced plenty of bad shots that eventually led to 16 and 17 point quarters in the second half.

On the offensive end, D.West proved to be unstoppable when the likes of Kurt Thomas (whom I like) and Fabricio Oberto (whom I hate) attempted to guard him. He finished the night with 30. CP's 17 point, 13 dime performance actually fell below most people's expectations (especially after he exploded against Dallas in game 1 of the first series), but additional help arrived via Peja, who gave everyone a reason to wave Peja-on-a-sticks by contributing 22 points (remarkably, though, only two of his buckets were treys, leaving the rest to slashing and creating off the dribble... it was nice to see some versatility in his game). Best of all, when Popovich implemented the Hack-a-Tyson defensive method late in the second, Chandler responded by sinking both free-throws.

The remarkable part of this game was actually the lack of flopping on the part of the Spurs. Manu fell a few times away from the play (but failed to draw any fouls), and if Oberto or Duncan made such a move, I was totally unaware of it... or it just didn't work. I expected to see more of that strategy since it has proved to be successful for them in the past. It also seems like a good way to get a younger team frustrated. There were a few skirmishes involving Oberto and whoever happened to be posterizing him at that moment, but none of them resulted in anything other than a loss of Fabricio's pride.

The only real run-in of note was yet another entry in the Paul-Bowen saga. Bowen committed a relatively physical foul on Paul near the perimeter that the fans were chalking up to be technical (like we always do). I don't even remember what the call was because of what happened next. As Bowen followed the ref, doing a perfect Duncan impression, Paul followed behind to drop in his two cents. And then, Paul took an elbow in the head from Bowen as he flailed about making his case to the ref... or did he? Did Paul fake it? It looked fishy, no doubt, and, in a wise move, the arena saw fit not to replay it. It all hearkened back to the incident that ended Bowen's NBA-leading consecutive game streak. The replay of that play shows Paul as the victim... but also a little as the instigator. Looks like our boys will be fighting fire with fire. It's like many a reporter has stated... don't be fooled by Paul's charm. He's got a fire inside all the same.

In the end, the "technical" didn't really matter. In the second half, that particular matchup was reduced to Paul lighting up Bowen and then staring him down each time Paul thought Bowen got too physical. The look was ostensibly as follows: "Keep it up. No amount of hips or elbows can stop me from owning you. Oh, and you hear all of those people? They love me and hate you... just like every single fan in this league that doesn't root for Utah" I am, of course, paraphrasing.

Stay tuned for tomorrow night's matchup in Game 2. We'll see if the Spurs make adjustments and if Byron can live up to his COY honors and out-adjust Pop.