Hornets downplay preseason hype

Sunday, September 28, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Over the 21-year history of the franchise, the Hornets have fielded plenty of competitive teams, making 10 trips to the playoffs and winning 50-plus games three times. In fact, when New Orleans finished with 18 wins during the 2004-05 campaign, it was the first time since 1991-92 that the Hornets compiled a losing record.

Still, when Athlon Sports’ NBA preview magazine predicted that New Orleans would win the 2009 NBA championship, it may have been a franchise first. After posting 56 victories and coming up a Game 7 victory shy of reaching the NBA’s version of the “Final Four,” the Hornets are being viewed as a legitimate title contender.

How much value are Hornets players putting in some of the lofty praise? As it turns out, not much.

“It’s OK that people are putting that type of faith in us, but we know that it's not going to get us anywhere," Hornets forward David West said. "We can’t be influenced by (what others say) we are supposed to do. We need to focus on what we need to do to be successful every game.”

“I don’t think we necessarily think about the expectations that others have of us,” Chris Paul said. “We expect a lot of ourselves. We feel like we had a great season last year. We lost a few key components to our success, but we also added some key pieces. I’m a little biased, but I think this team has what it takes to get to that next level."

“We all just ignore it," reserve big man Melvin Ely said. "This is the first I’ve heard of (Athlon Sports' prediction). I think it’s important for our team to not even buy into that. Because once you start reading your press clippings, you start slacking on the court. Our goal is going to be the same as last year: to be better than we were (the season before). I think that’s a realistic goal, especially with some of the players we added.”