Fans get up-close view of Hornets at events

By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Hornets rookies - Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Darius MillerAs several hundred New Orleans Hornets fans collectively held their breath, rookie big man Anthony Davis chased a loose ball on the sideline, leaped over the first row of courtside seats, then crashed into Row 2. After the crowd gasped and for what seemed like an eternity, Davis dusted himself off, got back on his feet, smiled and walked back onto the hardwood. Crisis averted.

“He’s OK,” Hornets head coach Monty Williams later assessed, with a wry smile. “He’s got to learn the protocol of open scrimmage. Engage with the fans; don’t hurt one. Just let that ball go. When he’s on the floor, he dives. He has more loose balls than anybody on the team in practice. But that’s how he plays. That’s who he is.”

At Saturday’s open practice and Friday’s multi-player visit to the Audubon Zoo for the Halloween-themed “Boo at the Zoo” event, New Orleanians learned more about details like that about a mostly-new roster. The team’s 16 players also got to interact with an energized fan base that is excited about the approaching tip-off of the regular season on Oct. 31 vs. San Antonio. In addition to the Davis’ leap into Row 2, here are a few other highlights from this weekend’s pair of events:

• After the Black team posted a 49-43 victory over the White team in the intrateam scrimmage, players walked across the floor to meet fans, sign autographs and take photos. Prior to departing the New Orleans Arena, a smiling Williams addressed the crowd: “We’re excited about the future. I’ve never been as excited about coming to work as I am now… When I’m around town or go to the gas station, I’m used to getting a lot of advice about how to do my job. But when you see guys around town, tell them that you believe in them. They’re playing for you. We want to make this city proud. We want to bring two championships (including the Saints’ Super Bowl title in 2009) here… We may have some peaks and valleys with the young guys, but I think we’re going to have many more peaks, because they’re committed to what we do.”

• As the Black and White teams formed lines and shook hands after the buzzer, White team forward Ryan Anderson – in an apparent nod to previous head-to-head games – said “Way to win for the first time,” to Black team players.

• New Hornets season ticket holders were guests of a Q&A session that included rookie players Davis, Austin Rivers and Darius Miller. The trio spent a chunk of the event ribbing each other, causing laughter from the crowd. When Miller – a native of Maysville, Ky. – stumbled on his answer to one question, Davis quickly interjected “There’s the Kentucky school system for you.” With a grin on his face, Miller shot back: “Yeah, but I graduated (from college).” Davis left the University of Kentucky after one year. Later, while referencing Duke’s opening-game NCAA Tournament defeat against tiny Lehigh, Davis ribbed Rivers by saying “Duke had a great run in the tournament, but unfortunately there can only be one winner.”

• At Audubon Zoo on Friday, Anderson and Robin Lopez joked with fans for 90 minutes, while meeting youngsters in costume and passing out free books and candy. Anderson celebrated the occasion by holding a red Clifford the Dog stuffed animal on his shoulders for most of the appearance. Miller, Brian Roberts and Hakim Warrick also stopped by to meet fans at the famous local zoo.