So, finally, it seems the deal is done. Chris Paul gets a new home, the NBA-Owned Hornets get to start over and life moves on in the Big Easy (although things get really interesting now in L.A., right?)But I'm not here to talk about what Chris will do or won't do alongside Blake Griffin, what that means for Kobe and the Kobettes or what Orlando and Howard will do now. I'm not even interested in talking about the new Hornets or what they could turn Kaman and his expiring contract into or how bad Minnesota will be this season and what that will earn us. Other people do all that better than me. I want to say goodbye to Chris Paul as a Hornet's fan and basketball lover in Louisiana.
I grew up in LOVE with Michael Jordan. His dominance in the late 80's and early 90's (and the ensuing ribbing I got to give my dad as his Pacers and Jazz teams fell again and again) inspired me like few things have the rest of my life. I loved basketball, period. But I had no home team (I wasn't going to root for the Hawks!), Jordan was on my television more than anyone else, why wouldn't I be a Jordan fan? Then Jordan retired (again), and the league sucked (again) and there was sadness.Two things happened the fall of 2002 that brought me back to basketball. I got digital cable (and a DVR) and the Hornets moved to New Orleans. For the first time in my memory, Louisiana had a home team in the NBA. I watched all but two of the Hornets broadcasts that season. I fell in love with Baron Davis and Tractor Traylor, thought Jamaal Magloire was a top ten Center. For the first time in my life, I had a basketball team. Not just a player, but a team. In 2005, New Orleans had a bad year. Basketball was the least of our worries. Even people who had time to think about sports (like me, since I got paid to do it sometimes) were talking about the Saints, not the Hornets. If we'd lost that "Louisiana Home Team," no one would have been surprised. In their exile, it became clear that this young point guard that had been passed up by Atlanta and others was really talented, maybe a superstar. And in 2007, he brought basketball back to New Orleans. In a lot of ways, it felt like the first time it had been in the city since the Jazz headed for the hills. Chris Paul was New Orleans' basketball saviour.
He's been robbed of MVP awards (2008 belonged to him, and NO ONE can tell me different. That season his PER was historic, ask Bill Simmons), mentioned incessently for two years in trade rumors and overlooked by the mainstream media for Wade, Lebron and Melo. But we knew about him. CP3 was OUR guy. And what a guy he is!
When the lockout was over, it was clear that Chris had to be traded. We need something for him, and we don't have much to offer him (no real chance at a big Free Agent acquisition, no immediate title chances, and no owner with a plan). To his credit, CP has handled it with class and dignity. For that, I thank him.
But mostly, I want to thank him for fantastic basketball played in our jersey and our arena. We got to watch and cheer for a good human being with abilities that seem beyond human. We wore our banner into battle, fought bravely and is leaving the battlefield with honor. Sounds like a guy who deserves a salute.
Best of luck, Chris, thanks for saving us for a while.