Has been getting louder and louder for three years now. The New Orleans Hornets (I have never, nor will I refer to the OKC portion--nothing against Oklahoma City; we appreciate them giving our team a place to play til we got things straightened out as much as they will be down here, but as for trying to take them entirely...buzz off) have gone from a team which I once wished would have the organizational ethos of the Memphis Grizzlies (seriously, I did....of course that's when the Icon was running them), to truly one of the top teams in the league. They didn't do this by buying stars. They did it by putting together a basketball team: getting hard-working team players to start (the oodles of talent therein didn't hurt), and equally hard-working role players to come off the bench.
Chris Paul has practically single-handedly rejuvenated my interest in the NBA. Ever since the Admiral retired, I found myself slipping further and further through apathy to antipathy towards the soulless, vainglorious, bling-infested hip-hop video that the NBA was becoming. To add to the situation, there was the very real possibility--complete with the vociferous endorsement of the head coach--that the Hornets (who, with the Cleveland Cavaliers were one of my top 2 teams during the '90s) would be headed out of the state. But then I saw a guy who gets triple doubles in points, assists, and STEALS?!? Sounds like someone was actually playing basketball! If MVP actually meant what it means (Most Valuable Player), instead of Flashiest Scorer, Chris would be a no-brainer. Then I hear him on NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO???!!!???
OK, it was as a guest on their quiz show, but he was witty, charming, and a big hit. It was at the 2nd Annual Chris Paul Weekend in his hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. That weekend, Chris Paul and several other NBA players helped a group of volunteers build a Habitat for Humanity house. He talked about how his parents wouldn't allow him and his brother to play any sports if they didn't maintain a 3.0 GPA. An intelligent, hard-working, personable, unbelievably talented NBA player? In this day and age? I'm hooked. Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in. Who knows? I might even buy his new shoe.
Then, there's his back court complement, Peja Stojakovic. He definitely got my attention when he was in Sacramento. First off, other than Sarunas Marcillionas (sp?), he's the first European player I think of. Secondly, he's an absolute marksman. He's like Robert Horry, but every day, and during the regular season, too. David West is one of the most under-rated big men in the game. Damn near averaging a double-double every night out, he is to the front court of this team what CP3 is to the back. Hilton Armstrong is a consistent offensive player, and a force down low defensively. The bench has a great combination of youthful exuberance and veteran leadership. The Hornets are what the future of the NBA should be.
This team is young, talented, and hungry. They work together--on and off the court. And it is this fan's sincere desire that they stay just the way they are for years to come.