NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Hornets’ season has proved to be just as trying on fans as it has to the franchise.
Bettina Buval, a season ticket holder since 2002 — the first season the team relocated to the Crescent City — has been at the New Orleans Arena to cheer rookie Anthony Davis and others at home games.
Sure, there’s been more disappointment than glee, including Sunday’s 107-89 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the team’s home season finale.
But Buval has seen the Hornets, who will become the New Orleans Pelicans next season, rebound from a forgettable season before only to make the next memorable.
“This is not the first time we’ve had a hard season,” Buval said. “We have one of the NBA’s youngest teams with a lot of energy. I always look at the developmental stage. Next year, is going to be a pretty good year. Kind of like when we got (former Hornets All-Star point guard) Chris Paul, who wasn’t great when he first got here.”
Most fans were in agreement that the Hornets, coupled with Davis’ continued improvement, are a playmaker or two away from transforming into a playoff contender. Maybe another guard. Or post player. Perhaps both.
The Hornets selected Davis with the first pick of last year’s NBA draft.
While the Hornets are out of the playoffs for the second time in as many seasons, William Brent of Franklin has seen enough progress through another trying season on the court to be optimistic for the immediate future.
By next season, Brent said the Hornets should be back in postseason contention and finally in a position to overcome the free-agent loss of Paul and power forward David West.
“They’re starting to get a young team that can compete,” said Brent, who normally makes the 100-mile drive with his wife and two daughters.
“A few years ago, when they had Chris Paul and David West, they were right there. So I’m hoping to see them get back to that level.”
It’s the same optimism that season-ticket holder Doug Bostick shared before Sunday’s game. During the franchise’s time in New Orleans, Bostick has had tickets for five seasons.
The Hornets, he said, aren’t quite ready to compete against the perennial powers of the Western Conference — from Oklahoma City and San Antonio to Denver and Paul’s Los Angeles Clippers.
Still, what Bostick enjoys above wins is maximum effort.
“As fans, that’s all we can ask for,” Bostick said. “If we’re going to spend the money to bring our family back here, we want them to give effort. This year, even last year, I felt the players as a whole were giving effort.
“Anthony Davis was a good start. What we need now is some good draft picks and some veteran leadership.”
Jason Isabell of Gulport, Miss., agreed.
He’s hoping the Hornets, who finished 14th in the Western Conference, get a lucky bounce in the upcoming draft lottery.
Isabell is a Saints season- ticket holder, but the Hornets, he said, provide a more family-friendly atmosphere.
“I’m going to bring my kids starting next year,” he said. “I like these games.”
Like most fans, a few more wins wouldn’t hurt either.