NEW ORLEANS -- When
But I am glad that Stern stuck with the Big Easy. It was the right call, no matter what inconveniences are encountered during the three-day orgy of dunks and daiquiris.
Predictably, this feeling has something to do with the surprising play of the New Orleans Hornets, 32-15 as of Tuesday morning, and something to do with the rebuilding effort that continues two and a half years after that catastrophic storm touched down in the early-morning hours of Aug. 29, 2005. No, the city will not rise and reconnect its tattered infrastructure because the Hornets have been playing some of the best and most entertaining ball in the NBA (notwithstanding their three-game losing streak). And, no, the team, which began the season with the modest goal of just making the playoffs, is not suddenly cohesive and formidable because so many Crescent City citizens have rolled up their sleeves, spit in the wind and said, "We can come back." It's not that simple.
But spend a few days in New Orleans, watching the Hornets one night and touring the Katrina devastation and the rebuilding effort the next, and it's impossible not to sense that something special is going on here. Stern sticks with New Orleans and what happens?
Taking a Katrina tour (a terrible description but that's what it's called) should be the obligation of every New Orleans visitor during All-Star weekend. I guarantee that you will never think about that tragedy the same way, or so blithely dismiss the city's chances of rebuilding, or have anything but contempt for those ignoramuses whose racist rants about the Katrina victims were one of the lowlights on YouTube a while back.
To begin with, Katrina was not, and is not now, an African-American problem. It was, and is, a
The first stop on our Katrina tour last week, in fact, was Lakeview, a predominantly white suburb. The storm did not discriminate according to color. Brownish stains, reminders of the level at which the surge of floodwater mercifully stopped, appear
The death toll from Katrina stands at about 1,600, though it's anyone's guess how many are still dying from the slow poisons of pollution and/or the dreaded web of depression. The victims died in rich homes and poor homes, in white suburbs and in the much-publicized Ninth Ward, where our tour came upon the caravan of
The rebuilding cuts across socioeconomic and racial lines, too. True, many homeowners in both the affluent suburbs and the downtrodden areas simply left New Orleans, disheartened by dealing with byzantine insurance requirements or the prospect of starting over in a 250-square-foot FEMA trailer. But thousands of others have picked up hammers and saws and wheelbarrows and paintbrushes and gotten busy, rebuilding and remodeling and hoping against hope that their city can come back.
A similar thing is going on with the Hornets. With an internal ownership squabble (
This much is clear: As good as Paul and his mates have been to this point, the stability of the enterprise and the future of an NBA franchise in New Orleans remain giant question marks. From one man who had a change of heart, here's hoping that All-Star weekend provides a boost.