The Notebook: The Hornets return to N’awlins…

Our man in the Big Easy, DJ Toney Blare, checked out opening night in N’awlins…

My girl and I walked through the Superdome’s underground parking lot to the New Orleans Arena, which is a big, aqua blue geometric expression of half-assed design, a runty little brother in the shadow of the Dome. Nothing much happened there during the storm, and since it’s only a few years old, there’s not the civic affection that the Dome holds. Anyway, a brass band blared and people milled around under search lights and what looked like big white maces, I guess a nod towards stingers? The vibe was really good, everyone glad to start something new in this gutted old town.

• We get free teal t-shirts at the turnstile, and though I planned on purchasing a lid or extra shirt, what really goes with teal or purple? Perhaps Khalid knows, he always stays fresh to death!

• Just like the Dome, the Arena sells hard liquor, meaning you can go to the Southern Comfort stand, as well as guzzle as much Bacardi and Beefeater as you like until the 4th quarter. I remember kids puking all over themselves at Tulane games back in the day. Good times.

• After we take our seats (the very last row in the place, center court), Chris Paul (who’s face is nearly as ubiquitous as Reggie Bush’s in the blocks around the arena) receives the NBA’s community service award for September from Willis Reed, newly inserted in the Hornets’ front-office.

• RIP Red Auerbach

• Danity Kane (who?) sing the national anthem, doing it fairly well, with the short brunette taking the lead vocal role. I guess they were on Making the Band which I guess is Diddy’s show? I know nothing about music.

• Owner George Shinn says a few words, receives a few cat-calls as his wife appears to scan the crowd for snipers. He claims it’s a sell-out, but it looks Chuck D to me.

• The Hornets intro music sounds a lot like Russ’s boys Slayer, which makes no sense. Not for the last time, I wait in vain for Ha! Tyson Chandler seems a bit bugged out by the pyrotechnics.

• CP3 says a few words, says “N’awlins” properly, reps the Saints.

• Your crowd emcee tonight: Rob Nice. Someone should copyright the name Nice.

• Tip-off and Tyson is busy, Peja is off and CP3 is amped, but overall the play is a little sloppy, about right for Game 3 of the season.

• With 7:03 left in the 1st, Yao picks up his 3rd foul. Look, I know this dude puts up good numbers and seemed to break out last season in the second half, but how many times have you read a version of that last statement? Anyway, DEKE!

• Who let the dogs out? Come on, man.

• CP3 hits David West for lay-on, NO up 8-7, then Shane Battier drops two 3’s in a row, straight Olympian.

• TV timeout, during which we learn that CP3 loves Grey’s Anatomy. Doesn’t mention SLAM radio, hmmmm…

• Cheerleaders emerge and my girl asks if they’re called “the Hornies.” I love her.

• Early on, T-Mac is cold. Still Dre, Brickhouse…no Killer Bees?

• Oh yeah, the Times Picayune had a feature with photos of Hornets in the city, most notably “Bobby Jackson takes in the sights in the French Quarter,” where B-Jax looks very ill on a balcony. So he checks in with 3 minutes left.

• Bonzi comes off the bench. Throughout the game, I wonder if he’s really gonna help this team that much, but it’s a contract year again. Looks out of shape for now.

• Rasual Butler hits his second three, Bobby Jax drives for a nice scoop shot, and it’s 24-15 NO. Juwan Howard checks in, matters very little, and the quarter ends with CP3 splitting the D and making it 26-15.

• A vaguely bee-like mascot named Super Hugo performs some dunks with sunglasses on to the sounds of “Monie Monie.” Whatever.

• I go to get some food at the start of the 2nd. The beer I buy from a vendor who walks by. He appears to be a Cajun guy and as I give him the cash with one hand full of nachos, he says something under his breath. I think he’s intimating that he ain’t carding
me (I’m nearly 30), but what he means to say is he’ll leave the bottle caps on for easier transport. To cover his tracks, he announces loudly, ‘OK, bottle caps off!’ I guess to shake the authorities. I’m like, thanks shady Cajun. Love this city.

• I get back in time for the cheerleaders, whose proper name is “the Honeybees.” They get down to Lil John. What, Lilweezyana ain’t good enough for y’all?

• T-Mac, who has 3 points with 4 minutes left in the half, loses the ball to CP3, who drives, kicks out to Peja, wet. 38-33 NO.

• Mooooove, get out the way, get out the way. Couldn’t it just be Back that Azz Up? Did the Hot Boys never exist?

• Lord Byron’s got his hands in his pockets. Funny to think that:
1) With 2 finals appearances and this young team on the rise, he’s got a better career going than Van Grumpy.
2) For the second time in 2 stops, he lucked into the generation’s best point guard, who has 9 assists with 3 minutes left in the first half.

• Peja hits another 3, 45-37 Hornets.

• Two white toddlers in helmets compete in a mini dunk contest. Both kinda punk out, repeat same moves twice.

• Danity Kane is coming up at the half!

• If he could catch the ball, Tyson would really benefit from CP3, who hits another runner as Jack & Diane plays. How weird.

• T-Mac the Cold kicks it to Shane Battier Things, who misses a 3. At the half, it’s 48-42 Hornets, CP3 has 10 and 10, Battier leads all with 15, T-Mac still has 3, and Yao is MIA.

• DK is coming, but first we learn that one of the Honeybees loves Flavor Flav, Beyonce and DK. Her motto: “Did what you always done, be what you always been.” Word.

• DK comes out with the whole stadium bathed in orange and proceeds to battle technical difficulties and bad wigs. My girl says they have JBF hair, which she says means Just Been F…. We are getting married. After the first song, one of the DK’s reveals herself to be a former Honeybee! Then she mentions the sound guy and their big hit “Showstopping” starts and gets straight muddled. The song is a series of product placements for cars. Sounds a little like It’s Goin Down. Little girls scream, I wince, but you know, I don’t know much about this music thing.

• Good note: the Hornet’s Hoops for Houses program has raised $1.6 mil to build 20 homes in the city. Later they show a family who received a house through the program. These are the kinds of things teams can do to help this city and really build a bond. I hope it continues with people like CP3 and Reggie Bush becoming strong civic leaders. That’d truly be something new and positive.

• OK, 3rd quarter gets sloppy, Houston pulls to 52-50 with a Skip 3 and Lord Byron calls his first timeout of the game…naw, he doesn’t. He waits another minute til T-Mac, who doesn’t seem to be at full speed (??) gets it to Yao for a 54-52 Rockets lead.

• David West likes Fight Night 2, Denzel, and the Cosby Show. He’s almost as polished as CP3.

• Sean Paul ain’t from here.

• D-West is nice. He works hard in the post and battles around the rim, and looks like he could really be a CP3 running partner for a long time. Peja hits 3 3’s in a row, just throwing in the last one, and Van Grumpy calls time with 2:12 in the 3rd, NO up 68-66. Quarter ends 71-70.

• I think I see David Wells on the Dance Cam.

• Start of the 4th, Bonzi fouls D West hard on the break, but he’s off on both.

• A guy in the middle of a large Asian contingent to our left stands up and screams, “That’s my boy!” after Top 10 Player Yao makes his first forceful bucket in forever. I think that guy is drunk.

• Rasual Butler gets a tech, I think, and some words of wisdom from Peja. “Vlade told me, and I’m telling you…” Overall, complaining is neglible.

• Luther Head makes it 78-77 NO and that “Owner of a Lonely Heart” song plays. Seems about right for Luth.

• BJax provides some energy with a drive and one, 81-77. Will be interesting to see how he and Chris play together. Desmond Mason’s the odd man out as the game gets tight.

• Honeybees dance to Beyonce, then “Welcome to the Jungle” blares. Yep, home of jazz and funk alright.

• CP3 makes a great spin move but throws it away, then rushes back to strip T-Mac. This kid is not messing around. Rasual Butler hits a 3 to make it 84-77.

• “You Don’t Know Me Like Dat…” Do you know BG or Mister Serve-On, or ferchrissakes, UGGGGGH? Come on.

• Both teams go a little cold, Tyson hits a put back and it’s 88-80. “Percolating.”

• Should note, there’s a lot of dumb puns in the arena, like the Buzzvision Jumbotron, which I guess could be like Beer Goggles, right?

• Jungle Boogie, a great hit from the NO pantheon. And of course, Shout!

• David West hits another jumper, T-Mac is fouled on a 3 attempt, and it’s 94-84.

• With 2:00 left in the game, Yao (who does have 17/8 somehow) picks up his 5th. BJax hits a nice runner, 94-88 with :52 left.

• Wait, the Hornet mascot with big Hornet head on is Hugo, meaning that he’s only Super Hugo when he has the spandex head and sunglasses on. Just to be clear.

• And he rides a Honeybee around on a motorcycle to the sweet sounds of Born to Be Wild.

• Anyway, game ends 96-90 and confetti falls. Stats:
CP3: 12 and 16, controlled the game.
DWest: 22 points, looked really strong.
Peja: 16, 5-8 from 3’s.
T-Mac: 14-7-7, but just didn’t look that sharp.
Yao: 17-10. I didn’t see much that suggested dominance and that foul trouble is inexcusable.
Shane Battier Things: 18 points.

• Overall, things look good for the Hornets as a team. The bench played well enough, CP3 is real, and they can run. We’ll see how they fare against better teams in the West, because the Rockets looked slow to me. You’d think JVG has this season to prove this thing can work, and from what I saw, he’s got a ways to go.

As the game ended, the guy in front of me and I compared ticket prices, $43 per for both of us. He’s an African American guy with 3 kids there, and I’m white and with my girl. We both agreed that these prices are prohibitive, especially considering the current context and the fact that a lot of seats were empty and the team really didn’t have a strong bond built before the storm. My girl said, “Maybe we’ll see you next game.” He said, “Not at these prices,” and we both shook our heads.

Whether or not it’s possible, the league should push the Hornets to free up as many tix as possible at a discount when there’s no sell-out. They may not be the Saints, but the Hornets, with a good young team, could really help the spirits of the populace with some generosity.

Of course, you have to wonder how badly Shinn wants to stay here and if the high prices are intentionally hostile. We have to think about these things down here, like it or not.

And I noted the music choices because they’re central to the dilemma we face here: We want to get back to normal, but that can’t mean getting back to a generic norm that sounds like the rest of the country. Honestly, there’s no excuse for a soundtrack that could be heard in any city when we have everyone from the Meters to Juvey the Great to draw from.

It’s a microcosm: In getting things back together, the city can’t lose touch with its roots, which run so deep and vibrant. The Hornets for one should do more than throw in some brass bands at the beginning and end of a game. Hell, serve jambalaya instead of nachos. If they want to really become a part of the solution, they should show off New Orleans at every timeout. It’s more important than just firing up the crowd.

Y’all come visit, we can use the help.