Ten years ago the NBA returned to New Orleans for the first time since the New Orleans Jazz left for Utah in 1979. The franchise that began in Charlotte in 1988 became the New Orleans Hornets for the 2002-03 season. Local fans had supported our NFL team, the New Orleans Saints, for years and were happy to have a professional basketball team in our city again.
When the Hornets began their season on October 30, 2002, New Orleans fans were ecstatic. The Saints had begun their season with a 6-2 record, and the Hornets jumped out to a 10-3 start themselves. It soon became clear that basketball was not only back, but that we also had a winning team to watch.
The Hornets' starting five consisted of Jamal Mashburn, Baron Davis, David Wesley, P.J. Brown and Jamaal Magloire. George Lynch typically completed the starting lineup when a regular was injured. Mashburn had a great year, leading the team with 21.6 points per game and contributing 6.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists. Davis led the Hornets with 6.4 assists per game and added a 17.1-point average. The team's rebound leaders were Brown (9.0) and Magloire (8.8), while Wesley contributed 16.7 points per game.
The team had several players with local ties. Brown attended high school in Winnfield, Louisiana, before starring at Louisiana Tech in college. Reserve guard Robert Pack was a New Orleans native who had been one of the city's top high school players. Even local high school legend Randy Livingston played a couple of games with New Orleans that season.
In the end the team finished 47-35 and claimed third place in the Eastern Conference's Central Division. As the fifth seed in the playoffs, the Hornets dropped the opening postseason series to the Philadelphia 76ers. Nonetheless fans were proud to have a successful basketball team to call our own.
Over the past 10 seasons, the New Orleans Hornets have had ups and downs. However, I expect 2012-13 to be an exciting season for the Hornets and hope to see the team get back to the playoffs this year.
Mike Patton grew up in New Orleans cheering for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs, and LSU Tigers. He is a fan of all New Orleans teams, including the Hornets and the UNO Privateers. Follow Mike on twitter @MikePattonGBS.
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