No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis, the new cornerstone of the team, sprained his ankle during a practice and that could cost him an opportunity to work out against the U.S. Olympic team beginning on Friday.
Restricted free agent and the key piece of the puzzle Eric Gordon has already visited with the Rockets and Pacers and plans to keep himself open to any opportunities that come up around the league.
Suddenly there are new reasons to worry in New Orleans. But they’re nothing at all like the old reasons.
Remember, it was not even 18 months ago when the Hornets had to organize a mid-season ticket drive to fill seats in order to meet an attendance clause that could have triggered an escape clause in their lease.
Remember, it was less than seven months ago when commissioner David Stern shot down the trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers and delivered the Hornets a handful of veteran talent that could have avoided the plummet in the standings.
Those were days to really worry, before the long-term future of the NBA in New Orleans was secured by the purchase of the team by NFL owner Tom Benson and before the Hornets hit the lottery jackpot that delivered them the No. 1 pick and Davis.
Look where the Hornets are now. Has the outlook in any other city changed so dramatically as in the Big Easy?
Nobody should expect Davis to be LeBron James in terms of instant impact. There will be period of adjustment to the pro game. But he has all of the talent and instincts to eventually be an impact player and to lead the team.
There may have been questions in many corners about taking Austin Rivers with the No. 10 pick. But he’s got the potential to be another scorer and solid starter for years. Then toss in what many figured was a bonus bonanza at No. 46 when the Hornets plucked Davis’ old Kentucky teammate, small forward Darius Miller. He could wind up being one of the steals of the draft.
There are always reasons to be edgy when your top pick winds up limping off the floor and when there are teams that want to poach your top young players.
But general manager Dell Demps has said all along that matching any offer to the restricted free agent Gordon is the plan. And the word is that even though the sprain to Davis’ ankle has been described as “slight,” the likelihood is that he will not be pushed to work out against Team USA with the eye more getting him ready for training camp.
Time to fret? Time to worry?
Hardly when the outlook for the Hornets has come so far so fast. Based on this editorial from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, one might think it’s even Mardi Gras in July:
Introducing the newest Hornets players Friday, team owner Tom Benson made comparisons to the 2006 offseason for his other professional franchise. That year, the Saints signed Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and other players who three seasons later brought the city a Lombardi Trophy. Many Hornets fans share Mr. Benson’s excitement and hope the comparisons bear out.
In one heck of a draft, the Hornets used two first-round picks to select Kentucky shot blocker Anthony Davis — the draft’s best player, by far — and Duke guard Austin Rivers. The team added Kentucky’s Darius Miller in the second round.
The new players could represent a giant leap for the franchise for years to come. Some sports analysts even suggested that the Hornets, who already have star guard Eric Gordon, may be on the way to building a nucleus for a championship contender.
Fans celebrated the draft, but they know that it will be the results on the court that will determine how good this class is. And it will likely take a few years for the new players to develop in the NBA and to mesh with existing Hornets players. The team also needs to add a center.
But it’s been a while since New Orleans basketball fans have had so much to be buzzed about, and they are rightfully thrilled.