June 1, 2011 may have been one of the darkest days in the history of the New Orleans Hornets franchise.
The Hornets were already eliminated from the NBA Playoffs after a six-game series against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. The team was being run by the NBA and Commissioner David Stern because there was still a search going on to find out who the owner might be for the team going forward. Most fans of the team was pretty sure that they witnessed their last game of All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who had been the face of the franchise ever since he stepped into the league.
It was a scary time for Hornets fans. Not only because of the potential of losing a superstar and beginning the rebuilding process, but due to the fact that there could potentially be no more team in New Orleans if the NBA couldn’t figure out the ownership situation.
Than everything changed once the NBA announced that ownership of the team would be taken over by Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints. This insured that the team would be staying in New Orleans for the foreseeable future.
Now we arrive to June 1, 2012. One year later and the Hornets not only have an ownership group but the also possess the rights to the first overall pick in this year’s draft after winning the NBA Draft Lottery. This means the team has the right to draft the Naismith award winning center from the University of Kentucky, Anthony Davis. The Hornets also possess the No. 10 overall pick in the draft, which they acquired in the Paul trade.
Hornets Head Coach Monty Williams was not willing to admit that Davis would definitively be the team’s first selection come draft day on June 28, but he was willing to say how much Davis could possibly help if the team were to take him with the No. 1 overall pick.
“When we were playing against the Lakers in the playoffs, every time we drove to the basket all I saw was arms and legs,” Williams said. “When you look around the league today, most of the dominant teams have length.”
Davis’ superior length is what helped him average 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks during his freshman season at Kentucky en route to a National Championship.
“Defensively, he’s above and beyond most college guys,” Williams said. “Davis has the instincts to play defense at a high level right now. He’s one of the few guys that has come into the league (and has been compared to) Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Tim Duncan.”
While the possibility of adding Davis and another elite prospect with the No. 10 pick is quite exciting for the future of the Hornets, Williams also understands that the team has a long way to go and that other additions will be necessary in order to truly get the team where they want to be.
“We could probably use a couple more veteran guys that understand the day-in, day-out grind of dealing with me, dealing with the type of practices we have,” Williams said. “It takes a certain kind of leadership to handle that. Along with the talent, I think you need to add a few guys that understand what it takes to be a pro.”
One of the players that could fulfill that role for the Hornets—along with a few others—is restricted free agent Eric Gordon, who the Hornets acquired in the deal that sent Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers.
While it has been reported that there has been mutual interest from both sides concerning Gordon’s potential return to the Hornets under a long-term contract, there is still quite a bit of uncertainty around the organization on whether or not it will actually happen.
Williams is unconcerned about all the talk.
“Either guys want to be here or they don’t,” Williams said. “Having the top pick attracts guys, but at the same time, those guys are going to get offers from other teams. But I think that pick, our new ownership and our city will attract guys.”
Also, there was a bit of controversy surrounding the lottery after the announcement was made that the Hornets won. Some conspiracy theorists out there believe that Stern awarding the Hornets the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft was “payback” for the denial of the trade that would have sent Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers instead of the Los Angeles Clippers. Also some believe that it may be possible that Stern could have thrown the top pick in the draft in to sweeten up the pot and maybe give Benson more motivation to purchase the Hornets.
Williams doesn’t pay much attention to those types of rumors.
“People come up with this (conspiracy) stuff every year. Chicago had a low percentage when they got Derrick Rose. When LeBron (James) went to Cleveland,” said Williams. “People are going to write and say what they want to say.”
While it is nearly impossible to prove any type of conspiracy theory surrounding this year’s lottery to be true, there is no doubt that the results have completely turned the Hornets organization around and this team’s future is much brighter today than it was a year ago at this time.