February 28, 2013
The post-break slide continues and lately, it has come to resemble an avalanche.
There isn’t enough sugar to coat a 1-5 record in the last six games, the fifth loss a 45-point tsunami at Oklahoma City that amounted to the second-largest loss in franchise history. There’s no favorable prism through which to view the way the team has played since it entered the All-Star break by winning four of its last five games.
That’s not to say we totally expected a smooth ride for the Hornets this season. Realistically, the forecast called for bumps, dips and potholes.
No team as inexperienced as the Hornets glides through an NBA campaign. Twelve of the 13 players on the roster have four years or less of NBA service, and nine are 24 years old or younger. There are players on this team who probably don’t need to use a razor.
But the NBA is an unforgiving, no-excuses league. It’s a fraternity where older brothers smack around younger ones, where the wounded are trampled and left behind when they’re unable to keep pace.
It’s a league where a mass youth movement is viewed by opponents as little more than a free meal, and the Hornets have the bite marks to prove it.
The day is coming – soon, we hope – where New Orleans’ hide will thicken and toughen. There’ll be a time when this franchise sheds its baby teeth in favor of a permanent set, and that set will be sufficient to not only bite back, but to break through consistently.
Right now, what Hornets players can do is keep a personal log and retain a long memory.
They can remember the way games are being lost, and to whom. They can remember the caliber of play, level of effort and degree of execution required to compete and win.
They can remember that a pre-break run does not guarantee post-break success, and that intensity is ratcheted up for the NBA stretch run for a variety of reasons. There are playoff runs to be made, contract offers to be sought, pride to be displayed, careers to be extended.
The promise of a 4-1 bounce has been replaced by the deflation of a 1-5 follow-up.
There’s no sugar to coat it. There’s only the hope that lessons are being learned from it, and that they won’t soon be forgotten.