Hornets GM Dell Demps becoming accustomed to 'new normal'
For the last seven years, residents of this community have become accustomed to surviving in what has come to be known as "the new normal." For the first time since his arrival here in July 2010, New Orleans Hornets General Manager Dell Demps is finding his comfort level in the NBA's version of the same.
In the 28 months he has been in control of the Hornets' on-court fortunes, life has been anything but normal for Demps.
"You know," Demps said this week, "it has been different every year since we arrived."
Hours after assuming his role with the Hornets, Demps was meeting with the franchise's unhappy superstar to lay out his plan for the team's competitive future and try to convince him to remain with the team long-term.
Five months later, the NBA was assuming control of the franchise, purchasing the team from former owner George Shinn and minority partner Gary Chouest and placing it in league-controlled receivership until a buyer could be found that would commit to keep the team in New Orleans.
Demps put out the initial fire with since-traded All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who, along with now departed forward David West, and an unexpected quick start from the team guided by first-year Coach Monty Williams, helped put the Hornets into the Western Conference playoffs following that first season.
Last year, it seemed Demps, under the watchful eye of the league office, was turning over the Hornets' roster quicker than a French Quarter tarot reader, juggling parts and working around injuries in a lockout-shortened regular season that saw New Orleans landin the lottery where Demps and Williams hit the jackpot.
The team already had won the lottery, of sorts, in mid-April when Tom Benson and his wife Gayle wrote the league a $338 million check to purchase the franchise and provide guaranteed stability for the next decade.
The players the Hornets put on the floor this season will be comprised completely of selections Demps and Williams collaborated upon, the first time either man could say that since they came on board in the summer of 2010.
Williams said he views the upcoming season as a potential barometer to gauge upcoming growth, pointing out the collective youth of the roster (currently 13 under the age of 25) But he isn't ready to call the current Hornets a finished product.
"Dell and I talk a lot about the roster and where do we see ourselves in the future," Williams said. "It's been set up in a way that it gives us even more flexibility next summer to spend some money. Then once we spend that money next summer, I'm thinking 'That's our team.'
"We have a great foundation and I think it's set. The guys are so young I don't want to put that kind of pressure on them and say 'We're going to do this.' Those guys need to figure it out.
"Next summer, you give Austin and Anthony a year under their belt, and we go out and spend some money and find another player, that team needs time to jell. You ain't going to just put it together and think it's going to work. With young guys, we're teaching again. That's a tough spot. We've got some guys who know things, but for the most part, our foundation, we're teaching those guys everything right now. We think we can win while we're teaching because we have high-talent, high-level guys, but it can be hard."
Welcome to the Hornets' new normal.