JDefense with John DeShazier

January 10, 2013

Absence has been strikingly obvious, though logically explainable.

Thanksgiving. Christmas. Football season. And, perhaps most prominently, 6-23.

The latter was the Hornets’ record after 29 games and if we cut to the chase, it was as significant a reason as any that fans might’ve been slow to warm to this team this season. Everybody, after all, loves a winner.

Which means New Orleans’ basketball fans in general, and Hornets fans specifically, at least should be starting to like what they’re beginning to see.

The Hornets are 4-2 in their last six games, 4-1 in games in which the team has been at full strength, 3-0 in games that have been started by the lineup Coach Monty Williams envisioned would open games before the season began. In short, we’re beginning to see tangible evidence of progress and improvement, evidence that when the Hornets have available their key components, they’re capable of doing more than keeping close the score and hoping for the best while watching opposing stars take over, make key plays and leave New Orleans wondering what might have been if only this or that player had been on the court.

All that’s missing, New Orleans, is you – to watch a product that has been pretty entertaining for the last handful of games.

Sure, there’s no reason to get too happy on the farm, to paraphrase Coach Williams. The first of those four victories was against Charlotte, which at that time was on a 17-game losing streak. And the second was against Dallas, an overtime road win against a team that, today, is 10 games below .500 for the first time since March 30, 2000, and seemingly about that far removed from winning the NBA title.

But the third win was against the formidable Spurs, who are 28-10 and NBA Finals contenders. And the fourth, on Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena, was against Houston. And in that game the Hornets broke Houston’s five-game winning streak, held the league’s highest-scoring team 28 points below its per-game average of 107 and dominated the fourth quarter by outscoring the Rockets 29-10.

The Hornets became the first NBA team to sweep the three Texas teams in consecutive games since 2009.

Not the 6-23 Hornets. These 4-2, 4-1 and 3-0 Hornets.

So, you see, the improvement is coming. It might not take the form of four victories every six games for the rest of the season – that’s a brisk pace for any team. But New Orleans’ capabilities are much clearer now than previously they were, when truly it was impossible to get an accurate gauge on the team because it was operating at such a distinct disadvantage in personnel.

This time last week, I said the Hornets had 50 remaining games to show exactly who they are.

Now, I’m saying there are 47 games left for fans to take an up-close look, because they should be fairly impressed with what they’ve seen from afar the last week-and-a-half.

The team has left behind its excuses. Fans, what about you?

Monty Williams Show