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As the New Orleans Hornets begin a new season, there’s a new coach, a new general manager and the possibility of a new owner. Fortunately, there are the same point guard and forward in the persons of all-stars Chris Paul and David West, though we hope that each has found renewed confidence in the team’s ability to be a contender.

Having missed the playoffs last year, the climb to a championship seems like a long one. Here, the team can draw inspiration from the Saints, who went from awful to the top within five years. We know the dynamics of basketball are different; a few key players can make their team’s perennial contenders and lock out the rest. But we also know that players can progress while other decline and, with the right breaks, anything can happen.

Beyond our inherent hometown pride, we’re fans of the Hornets because they’re a classy organization and, win or lose, they present a good product – not just the games themselves but the antics, skits and performances during breaks and half-times. A fan can be in the arena in time for a 7 p.m. tip-off, watch NBA quality basketball with lots of side entertainment and conceivably be home in time for the 10 p.m. news.

New Orleans, it has been said, is a football town, but that’s true of most any city, particularly those with NFL teams. Indeed, the Hornets faced the same type of co-existence when they were domiciled in Charlotte. It may be though, that the Saints’ super year will help the Hornets by exciting people to come to New Orleans not just for its other treasures, but also to watch sports. Certainly the redevelopment of the area surrounding the ’Dome/Arena complex will be to the team’s advantage, as will the completion of the redeveloped Hyatt Regency.

From each February on, New Orleans is an NBA town and we hope that possessiveness extends this coming season into June and the playoffs. We are a better, more cosmopolitan city because of the Hornets franchise.

George Shinn, the team’s founding owner, may be handing over ownership of the team to Gary Chouest, the team’s minority owner, during the course of the season. We wish Mr. Shinn well. He is a good man with a spiritual side that guided him through some tough times in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We hope that this year’s squad feels motivated to win the big one for George.

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