NEW ORLEANS — The costume of choice for “Halloween at the Hive” on Wednesday night didn’t include a cape, a scary face or even a drop of fake blood.
If you wore a unibrow to the New Orleans Hornets’ season-opener against the San Antonio Spurs, you fit right in with hundreds of other fans who officially welcomed No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis to the NBA.
And Davis fit right in with the members of the crowd at the New Orleans Arena who chose to replicate his trademark bushy eyebrow.
The most-anticipated season opener in Hornets’ history was highlighted by Davis’ nine-point, four-rebound first quarter in less than nine minutes.
The 19-year-old Davis — who finished with 21 points and seven rebounds — didn’t appear to be nervous — unlike Hornets coach Monty Williams, who admitted to experiencing a few butterflies throughout the day.
“I was amazed today at how nervous I was,” said Williams. “Sometimes you forget the nerves and the fear, and all the work and the preparation doesn’t erase that.”
It was no problem, however, for Davis.
He calmly delivered for the crowd when he scored the first four points of the night for the Hornets, getting his first NBA basket on a baseline jumper with 10:09 left in the opening quarter.
Thirty-five seconds later, he scored again and by the end of the first period, some fans were chanting, “Fear the brow! Fear the brow!”
It was exactly the start the Hornets needed.
Loaded with a roster of newcomers (eight of the 13 players who dressed weren’t around a year ago), the Hornets thrilled the crowd of 15,358 even though they lost, 99-95.
Still, it was the kind of excitement team officials were expecting ever since the Hornets were purchased this spring by Saints owner Tom Benson. Shortly thereafter, they won the NBA lottery and the right to select Davis after a memorable one-year stay at the University of Kentucky.
The debut of Davis and fellow top-10 draft pick Austin Rivers as well as veteran acquisitions like Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopez and Roger Mason, and Halloween, of course, made for a festive evening.
Even though there were some empty seats, it easily topped the team’s New Orleans debut after moving from Charlotte, N.C., in 2002.
“People were excited then, but the difference now is what’s going on — and not only on the court,” said Harold Kaufman, the Hornets’ vice president of communications. “You add in the strength of being owned by Mr. Benson and people are taking it to a whole new level.”
While the team has added new fans, thanks largely to Davis’ presence, there are loyal holdovers as well.
Like French Quarter residents Larry Lane and his wife, Apple, who have had season tickets in the lower bowl since Day One.
“When the team first came here, this was a football town,” said Lane. “Now, for the first time, people are interested in the Hornets.”
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved