COMMENTARY | The NBA Southwest Division is arguably one of the toughest divisions in all the North American major pro sports leagues. In their last two games, the New Orleans Hornets defeated two of their Southwest Division rivals. The Hornets' inspired play and the return of Eric Gordon have utopian New Orleans fans like me dreaming of the NBA Playoffs again.
Hopefully, nobody asks Hornets head coach Monty Williams about his team's chances of reaching the 2013 NBA Playoffs. I'm sure his answer wouldn't be as memorable or as funny as Jim Mora's was about the playoffs. However, Williams' response may not be fit for broadcast television.
Still, New Orleans is 3-1 this season when Eric Gordon has seen action. I realize that four games is a small sample size and Gordon may still be sitting in the second games of back-to-backs. But dating back to last season, two very poor Hornets teams are 9-4 with Gordon. Without him, New Orleans is 21-66 during that time. That difference is statistically significant.
Strength of schedule
Not to make excuses for the Hornets, but they have played the seventh most difficult NBA schedule so far this season. That, coupled with the losses of Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon, was a recipe for disaster early on. But Davis and Gordon are back and at some point, New Orleans will start facing lesser competition.
Getting back to math, the Hornets are 9-25 and sport the worst record in the NBA Western Conference. As most NBA fans know, it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a Western Conference team to make the NBA Playoffs with a losing record. Obviously, the Hornets have their work cut out for them.
As proof of how difficult the Hornets' task is, let's take a look back at recent history. Over the last five seasons, the eighth seed in the NBA Western Conference Playoffs has had an average winning percentage of .582. This season (or any non-strike NBA season), that translates to a 48-34 record.
As the author and a diehard Hornets' fan, I am making New Orleans' task easier by foretelling that a 42-40 record may be good enough to reach the 2013 Western Conference Playoffs. If that's the case, the Hornets would need to go 33-15 the rest of the way. This translates to a .688 winning percentage, which eerily almost matches the Hornets' all-time winning percentage of .692 with Eric Gordon on the court!
Unfortunately, there's no telling how long Eric Gordon's injured knee will hold up. Seemingly, after every game, Gordon talks about how sore his knee is. As long as New Orleans is winning, I can tolerate his eccentricities. But his lingering knee issues make it likely that Monty Williams will bench Gordon in several more games this season.
Although there are safer bets than wagering on a Hornets' playoff berth in 2013, the larger issue is that New Orleans has restored hope to its fans. Perhaps a strong second half will convince lukewarm fans that the Hornets will be in the playoffs in the near future. In the meantime, diehard New Orleans fans will continue to dream about immediate NBA playoff glory.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. A loyal New Orleans NBA fan, Patrick was a diehard New Orleans Jazz fan and now cheers for the Hornets. Patrick was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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