The day began for UCLAs Collison with an early-morning flight to New Orleans from New York City, where he shook hands with David Stern after being chosen 21st in Thursdays NBA Draft. LSUs Thornton did not have to rise out of bed quite as early as his new teammate, traveling by car from Baton Rouge this morning. The players arrived at the New Orleans Arena at around 9:30 a.m. and were given a brief tour of the facility. The look around the Hive likely wouldve been longer under most circumstances, but the circus is in town this week and using the space in various portions of the arena, including the main area where the basketball hardwood court normally would be visible. Collison and Thornton later headed over to the Hornets corporate headquarters on Poydras Street, to meet about 100 team employees individually.
At lunchtime, the 21st and 43rd overall draft picks, respectively, headed to the Emerils Delmonico restaurant on St. Charles Avenue, where they were joined by Chris Paul and Julian Wright. Just after 2 p.m., Wright and the first-year pros appeared at the Hornets Summer Hoops clinic being held at the University of New Orleans. In the same gym, the rookies spoke to the media and held their official introductory press conference at 3.
Im looking forward to doing a lot of big things, said Collison, whose UCLA teams made the Final Four three times in his four-year college career. I did a lot of big things during my college career. Its not going to be easy, my first year. There are going to be a lot of trials and tribulations, but Im looking forward to it. If thats what it takes to win a championship for this team, Im up for it.
Thornton, who was initially drafted by the Miami Heat but quickly traded to his hometown NBA team, said: I thought I was going to Miami, which is not a bad place, but five minutes later I found out I was coming to New Orleans. What better place for me to come?