The Hornets are 13-22, their best ballplayers remain on the disabled list and they've been trotting out lineups that would be hard-pressed to belly up to the Washington Generals, much less the Washington Wizards, who hit the Ford Center tonight with scoring whiz Gilbert Arenas and the world's ugliest uniforms. And that's all the bad news you're getting out of me. Optimism can be found on the Oklahoma City NBA front, provided we do indeed end up with a team somewhere along the line, and that rosy outlook includes the woeful records of the Hornets, the team that's here, and the Sonics, the team that could be. In the 30-team NBA, the Hornets rank 24th and the 13-25 Sonics rank 26th. Hello, lottery. The Hornets, via bad luck, and the Sonics, via a bad team, have played their way into the Greg Oden Derby. Oden is Ohio State's second coming of Bill Russell, a 6-foot-11 freshman with the wingspan of a C-130 and a look meaner than Robert Parish. The lucky NBA lottery winner takes Oden and plugs its middle for the next 15 years. And even if you don't pick first, this will be a deep and talented draft because the NBA gutted the 2006 draft by banning high school seniors. So if not Oden, Kevin Durant or Joakim Noah or one of those international flashes will be available early. Can the Hornets or Sonics fall deep enough to win the lottery? The 24th and 26th positions aren't as prime of lottery real estate as 28th and 30th. Finish with the worst record in the NBA, and your chances of picking first in the 2007 NBA draft are decent. Finish a little closer to respectability, and your chances diminish with each victory. So should we suddenly shift and start cheering for defeats with the Hornets, who someday conceivably could move back here, and the Sonics, who might get here a lot sooner than that if Seattle doesn't build a new arena? Well, I'd say no on the Hornets, yes on the Sonics. First off, the Hornets aren't a bad team, and they're going to start winning as soon as injuries heal. David West will be back soon, Chris Paul and Bobby Jackson not long after that. Peja Stojakovic should be stowed until next season after back surgery, but CP3 and friends will zip away from lottery territory. "We've got 13 wins,” West said. "The team in the (Western Conference) eight spot has 17 wins. That's a good week (of making up ground). We're capable of winning some games, especially when we get healthy. We're going to start turning that corner here in a little bit.” It's not that easy. A Western team likely will need 45 wins to reach the playoffs. For the Hornets to go 45-37, they must finish out 32-15, and that's with several games still short-handed. Not very bloody likely. "Until we're mathematically eliminated, I still have hope of making it,” said coach Byron Scott. The lottery? "I haven't thought about that,” he said. "Will not think about that until, like I said, we've been eliminated from the playoffs.” That tough talk will help keep the Hornets from sliding into the abyss of this long season. Yes, the Hornets are only five games out of the playoffs as we speak; but they also have four teams to climb over and too much January to play before Paul returns. Besides, who wants to cheer for defeats? It worked for San Antonio in 1997, when the powerful Spurs sunk without the injured David Robinson and were rewarded with the lotto that produced Tim Duncan. But OKC might hit a bonanza will cheering on victories. Oklahoma City could recapture some Ford Center magic before George Shinn's show goes back to New Orleans and be rewarded with the Sonics. Hey, Seattle. Lose, lose, lose. Fall as deep in the standings as you can, and if you check that Sonic roster, you know that's pretty danged far. The Sonics are not very good and don't have the Chris Paul cavalry coming to the rescue. If the Sonics relocate to Oklahoma City, what better jumpstart than Greg Oden? He's not as lovable as Chris Paul — CP3 was pretty dang lovable — but he might be just as effective. There's your menu for the next four months. Cheer on the Hornets and whoever's playing the Sonics.
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