Thursday, March 02, 2006

Hornets Give Up Second Half Scoring For Lent

Six months after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Mardi Gras parties lifted many spirits in New Orleans this week.  The celebrations then gave way to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  One group of displaced Big Easy residents is making sure to observe the 40-day period so important to Christianity.  The New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets have decided to give up second half scoring for Lent.



The team made good on its vow Wednesday night in an 89-67 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.  After taking a 51-47 lead into the locker room, the Hornets scored just eight points in each of the third and fourth quarters.   Their 16 second half points represented a record low since the shot clock was introduced in 1954.  In contrast, Kobe Bryant alone scored 55 second half points on the same floor on January 22.  That night, the Toronto Raptors got an early start on Lent by giving up defense.



Amazingly, the Hornets went scoreless for a 12:41 stretch in the third and fourth quarters, while the Clippers scored 25 points during that stretch.  Dick Cheney shot more accurately than the Hornets, who missed 21 consecutive field goal attempts at one point.  For the second half as a whole, they were 5 for 34.  However, their misfiring endeared them greatly to the Messiah.  In the words of the Book of Matthew, “blessed are the brick shooters.”



Lent originated as a way to emulate Jesus, who retreated into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days to prepare for his ministry.  The Hornets are in a wilderness of their own, having been displaced from New Orleans.  The team is based in Oklahoma City for now, although it will play three games in New Orleans in the coming weeks.  New Orleans/Oklahoma City needs to count on a strong sense of faith for another reason.  It plays in the NBA’s toughest division.  Just as temptation has brought down so many weak men, so have the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs.



One of the central figures in spreading the teachings of Jesus was the Apostle Paul.  His role in spreading Christianity has made him venerated as a saint.  The Hornets are also reverential toward Paul.  In this case, it’s point guard Chris Paul, the odds-on choice for NBA Rookie of the Year.  However, Chris Paul cannot be considered a saint, as the rules for canonization strictly forbid punching Julius Hodge in the family jewels.



Lent comes to its conclusion on the sacred day of Easter.  The Hornets have clearly learned from the example of Jesus, who rose from the dead after inspiring a hit movie from Mel Gibson.  Having posted a franchise-worst 18-64 mark last season, New Orleans/Oklahoma City is currently 31-26.  It’s a resurrection that many would consider miraculous.



Giving up their second half offense for 40 days will certainly turn that record for the worse, although the Hornets do get a few days off before Tuesday’s inevitable loss to Phoenix.  The team would need a divine first half to even win one game over that span.  However, the franchise has clearly learned an important lesson.  Succeeding in the NBA is all about sacrifice.