Hornets All-Stars Chris Paul and David West rarely rest. Both were among the NBA leaders in minutes played last season.

But at least they get halftime and time-outs to take a break.

The job of entertaining fans at the New Orleans Arena is nonstop, and the Hornets do it as well as any team in the NBA.

In a city with seemingly limitless entertainment options, the Hornets have earned a reputation that would make P.T. Barnum marvel. Whether the home team wins or loses, the paying public will go home assured it has paid attention.

An NBA game is better experienced than described. The game itself is unquestionably the main attraction but even when the ball isn’t bouncing, there’s a symphony of activity.

Pyrotechnic displays, elaborate light shows, pulsating music videos and booming intonations from the announcer … And that’s all before the game even starts.

“My goal is to entertain the fans from the minute they walk in to the minute they leave,” says Joshua Richardson, senior director of Event Presentation and Broadcasting.

 Richardson oversees all the in-game entertainment. He is both a ring leader and a juggler of a dizzying roster of acts, skits and contests.

The team’s beloved mascot, Hugo the Hornet, and the dance team, the Honeybees, are merely starting points for the show. Other regulars include the Stingers, a junior hip-hop dance team; the Use to Bees, a senior dance team; and the French Quarter Flyers, an acrobatic dunk team. The team also plans to unveil a brass band and a break-dancing crew this year, as well as a love interest for Hugo named Beatrice.

 Not surprisingly, the Hornets’ recent on-court success has stoked fan interest. The team has made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and team officials expect season ticket sales to reach 10,000 for the second straight year.

“When you have more bodies in the stands, it makes things a little easier in developing the fan prompts and traditions and rituals,” Richardson says.

That means when the Hornets need a defensive stop, fans reflexively chant “Bee-fense” and when Chris Paul scores a basket, a chorus of “Woo!” reverberates throughout the Arena.

In Chris Paul, New Orleans sports fans are witnessing an All-Star point guard evolve into an all-time great. As he enters his fifth NBA season, armed with a new megabucks contract, he continues to fine-tune his breathtaking abilities. Last season Paul led the Hornets in scoring (22.8 points), and the entire NBA in assists and steals.

The biggest question is whether the team has found a reliable back-up for Paul. Last season, when Paul was on the bench, the drop-off in point guard production was precipitous, prompting the Hornets to pick UCLA’s Darren Collison in the first round of the NBA Draft.

    The 6-foot Collison has the quickness to run the up-tempo offensive style that coach Byron Scott desires, and the defensive mindset to make an immediate impact.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to learn from [Chris Paul] and showcase my talents against him, going up against him every day in practice,” Collison says.

 Power forward David West is the other pillar of the franchise. The two-time All-Star has improved his scoring average every season he’s been in the league.

    The most significant move of the off-season saw the Hornets trade Tyson Chandler to the Charlotte Bobcats for fellow center Emeka Okafor.

Chandler missed 37 games last season due to injuries, and in Okafor the Hornets believe they’ve found a more physical and durable post player.

The 6-foot-10, 255-pound Okafor has not missed a game in the past two seasons and brings career averages of 14 points and 10 rebounds to New Orleans.

The trade of shooting guard Rasual Butler, combined with the likelihood of a diminished role for Peja Stojakovic, should give third-year player Julian Wright and second-round draft pick Marcus Thornton, a former LSU star, ample opportunity to contribute this season.

Although the Hornets made the postseason, 2008-’09 was marked by unfulfilled expectations: The Denver Nuggets decisively eliminated New Orleans from the first round of the playoffs four games to one.

The Hornets hope that the acquisition of Okafor has helped close the gap between them and the NBA’s elite teams.

Chris Paul, now in the prime of his career, has become one of the league’s biggest attractions.

If there’s one thing fans have learned about a Hornets game, even when the showman is taking a break, the show most certainly goes on.

Adam Norris is a sports anchor for WGNO-TV, ABC26 in New Orleans.