by Alejandro de los Rios
Well, as real as "The Basketball Jones" can get. I mean, it is just a song, and a music video and Web site, none of which are really all that tangible in the "it's-in-the-room-with-me-and-I'm-asking-it-a-question" kind of way. But The Basketball Jones Web site is an excellent source for all things NBA and Tas Melas, one of the site's founders, is a great source for unique (if not a bit tardy) insight into the world of the Association.
For the record, I e-mailed the Basketball Jones guys the same questions I did everyone else on the Blogosphere Edition panel, but as I did not hear from Tas or J.E. Skeets for a couple of days, I went ahead with the other replies. Seeing as how I never set a deadline or anything of that nature, it seems unfair that I wouldn't post Tas' responses after him putting the time to answer them. With that in mind, I give you the full Q&A:
Why is it that the Hornets have flown under the radar for much of the season?
New Orleans has flown under the radar for much of the year for a couple reasons. First, the West is so overwhelmingly packed with great, established teams. The Nooch hasn't been in this position before and they are overshadowed by clubs with recent storied histories. Second, although Chris Paul is definitely an MVP candidate, the team didn't have that star power coming in to the season. In the minds of most people, on opening night, they didn't have a player who had already had his coming out party. Nobody on their roster compared to a Kobe, or a Duncan, or a Yao, or a Dirk, or even a Deron Williams.
Despite the Hornets record, are people picking the Spurs, Jazz, Lakers and Suns to take the West?
Picking the Lakers, Spurs, Suns and Jazz is a lot easier than picking the Hornets. They've all been to at least a Conference Final in recent years while New Orleans simply hasn't. People back what they know; we're all creatures of habit. I've scratched the my right ear with my left hand for 15 years. The inevitable excuses ring through in people's reasoning: not a lot of playoff experience, tough conference, etc. The fact is, no one knows who will come out of this conference, and if they tell you they do, they're lying.
What are the keys for an extended Hornets playoff run?
Chris Paul, Chris Paul, Chris Paul. He has to remain healthy, level headed, extremely competitive and extremely crafty. I say those last two because teams are going to try and slow him down anyway they can and will throw things at him he didn't see in the regular season. He's going to see a lot bigger players, longer players and more bodies in general because of double teams. It's pretty clear, as CP3 goes, the Hornets go, so it will be the way Paul handles this added pressure that determines the Hornets success.
When all is said and done, where do the Hornets finish?
Yikes. How can I make a prediction after saying this conference is too hard to predict? I'll start by saying I truly feel playoff experience does mean something. The focus and persistence needed minute after minute, game after game is something players must go through before they can thrive in it. Let's face it, the roster lacks this experience. I know the Hornets have shown incredible diligence in beating all the powers in the NBA but it'll be different in a 7 game series. Making a prediction is a bit of a crap shoot considering I don't know who they'll be playing in the 1st round, but I'll go out on a limb and say they'll clinch that #1 seed and win a first round series before bowing out in round 2. Uhh, that just made me feel dirty.
Apologies to Tas for having to make his predictions so soon before the season ends. But that's what you get when you don't adhere to imaginary deadlines not set by a person you don't even know.