|Aaron Gray (Photo by Parker Waters)|
NEW ORLEANS Ă˘â‚¬â€ś If you're a New Orleans Hornets fan, it's easy to look backward or forward and miss the here and now.
The temptation to look backward is to wonder what might have been done differently. What if the team hadn't traded a No. 1 draft choice for Jerryd Bayless, who proved to be such a disappointment that 27 days later he was shipped, along with forward Peja Stojakovic, to Toronto for guard Jarrett Jack and forward David Andersen. Did New Orleans get maximum value for Stojakovic's expiring contract, or could that have brought more closer to the trading deadline?
It's also tempting to play wonder about former Hornets guard Marcus Thornton. Was he given a fair chance to earn a permanent spot in rookie coach Monty Williams' rotation? Was he a good enough scorer for the organization to make worthwhile a commitment to a one-dimensional player?
The organization obviously believed the answer to the second question was Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“no,Ă˘â‚¬Âť because it shipped Thornton to Sacramento for forward Carl Landry.
There are two ways to play this what-if game. What if New Orleans had not made the Thornton-for-Landry deal? Sure it would have Thornton's scoring Ă˘â‚¬â€ś he has blossomed into a 20-plus-points-per-game scorer with the lottery-bound Kings, who can afford to turn him loose and not worry about his shortcomings.
But if that trade had not been made, the Hornets would be making their playoff push with Jason Smith as their starting power forward and essentially nothing in reserve. Of course, they didn't know David West would suffer a season-ending knee injury when they decided to make the deal, but they did acquire Landry to bolster the depth behind West and provide insurance for the future. Without Landry Ă˘â‚¬â€ś even with Thornton Ă˘â‚¬â€ś New Orleans' playoff prospects would look a lot bleaker than they do now.
Landry's presence provides a useful segue to the future, where many unanswered questions linger. Will there be a lockout? When will the new collective bargaining agreement get done and what will it mean to free agency?
How will West's pending knee surgery and subsequent rehabilitation go and how will that affect the organization's offer of a contract extension to West, the team's leading scorer, second-leading rebounder, and two-time All-Star?
How will the injury affect West's decision to opt out of his contract after this season and how will it affect his attractiveness on the open market if he does opt out?
How will all of the uncertainty surrounding West affect the future of Landry, who will become a free agent after this season?
Of course the biggest question hanging out there is what will happen with Chris Paul, who can opt out after next season and become a free agent. Is he Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“inĂ˘â‚¬Âť as he claims in the organization's latest marketing campaign? Or is he on the way out?
But this time isn't for dwelling on the past or speculating about the future, it's about appreciating the present. New Orleans is on the verge of clinching a playoff berth, perhaps as soon as Wednesday night against the Rockets.
The Hornets, who won just 37 games a year ago, entered training camp with a bushel full of question marks. Now they're a playoff team again.
The past is past, and the future can wait. Appreciate the here and now.