The Chris Paul drama has touched on the fact that the New Orleans Hornets do not have a true owner – the NBA owns them. David Stern has repeatedly said that he wants to keep the Hornets in New Orleans and is only interested in selling the team to buyers who will do just that.
Stern doesn’t have to look too far, as New Orleans native and Hornets super fan Chris Trew is ready to take on the challenge. Stern may not like Trew’s bushy beard and long hair but the commissioner should be impressed by his passion for the Hornets and his ideas to improve the franchise.
Last month, I caught up with Trew before he did a quick (but killer) stand up set at the House of Blues – New Orleans:
Dime: So for the uninitiated who is Chris Trew?
Chris Trew: I’m a comedian living in Austin, TX and in New Orleans, LA – I live primarily in New Orleans. I run comedy theaters in both of those cities and have a small rap career- made three albums as Terp 2 it. I also produce Hell Yes Fest, a big comedy festival here in New Orleans and host the Air Sex Championships. I’m a busy dude but I am also a HUGE Hornets fan.
Dime: So you grew up in New Orleans? How did you become a fan of basketball since the Hornets are still somewhat of a new team here?
CT: Yeah, I grew up in New Orleans and was always a LSU guy. Shaq was a big deal if you live in southern Louisiana so I watched him at LSU and after he got drafted I became a fan of the Magic. I was an Orlando guy for a long time which literally had everything to do with Shaq. Then we (New Orleans) almost got the Timberwolves, I’m not sure if you remember that.
Dime: Really? I might have been too young…
CT: In the early 90s, the Timberwolves were going to relocate and they almost moved here. That’s why New Orleans built the arena. I remember my parents framed and gave me the front page of the Times-Picuyane that said “Got ‘Em!” real big and had a Timberwolves jersey on it. So I was fired up but then it fell through. Then the Lockout (1998-1999) happened – I am cutting to many years later – and I fell out of basketball for a while…I got busy doing comedy. Once we got the Hornets, I slowly started paying attention and then I went to a game and fell back in love with basketball. I’ve been a die-hard Hornets fan since then.
Dime: Does New Orleans embrace the Hornets? There are always rumors that the team may move…
CT: Absolutely! I mean it took a while…the first couple of years we averaged real close to 15,000 in attendance, which is totally respectable – that’s above average. Katrina really hurt us since we lost a shit load of people.
Dime: Yeah, the Hornets ended up playing games at Oklahoma City…
CT: I was living in Austin as an evacuee and was real nervous that the Hornets weren’t going to come back. So it took a while but that 2008 season we were playing the Spurs and were one game away from the Western Conference Finals – that’s the game Jannero Pargo decided to throw up a couple of crazy three pointers – the city was really behind the team then. I think that gave the city an idea of how fun basketball could be.
People think that team is popular mainly because of Chris Paul but games at the arena are just super fun. The team does a great job of games there…
Dime: Right, I know when Peja was here, they would run around with those giant Peja heads after he would hit a 3.
CT: Yeah man, they do a bunch of crazy things like that. It’s a lot of fun. I mean New Orleans is a big time football town but right now we sold the most season tickets since the end of last season, than any other team in the league. We are close to 10,000 total now, last season we were at 6,000. That’s with the lockout happening! So the city is totally behind the Hornets.
The team is doing this great ad campaign called “I’m In” which has a ton of local celebrities all pledging their allegiance to the Hornets. This team is not leaving this city. Stern could have sold them to that dude in San Jose but that is the reason they (NBA) bought the team – to keep them here.
Dime: So after seeing your first video [Editor’s Note: Watch two of Chris’ video at the end of the interview], I checked out the “I’m In” campaign and saw that season ticket holders throw parties to attract potential season ticket holders. Have you gone or been a part of these events?
CT: I haven’t hosted a party but I’ve been to a couple and they are awesome. The President of the team, Hugh Webber, the Director of Marketing and like 10 ticket reps are all in someone’s house, its catered, free good food, free beer and wine…
Dime: Really? The Hornets pay for all of that?
CT: Yeah man, its amazing. We just stand around the house having a party and they answer whatever questions we ask them. They did 100 events 100 days in a row. Those dudes are working hard and its paying off. I was at a party where they were dudes who were like, “I like Hornets games but never thought about becoming a season ticket holder.” Then they kept hearing more and more about how it would benefit the city – and by the end of the night they are like, “Fuck it, I’m gonna buy some tickets.” Once the games come back on, those people are going to go and be so happy they bought tickets.
Dime: Let’s talk about the videos you made. What inspired you to make ’em?
CT: Well, there are more videos in the works. I’m working with this guy Jonathan Evans who shot and edited the videos by himself – hes a bad ass.
I’m a comedian so its my job to poke fun of relevant things but I also did it to promote the team. The team has contacted me and told me they love the videos. So I’m hoping it could turn into something more official. Also, I like showing the world that there is a Hornets super fan out there with a voice.
Dime: Let’s say in an ideal world you actually do become the owner. What would you do as an owner to make the Hornets even better?
CT: If I really was the owner, I would re-brand them. I would go through all of the concession stands and get rid of all of the generic bullshit popcorn, hot dog stands. Instead, we would have all bad ass New Orleans institution food – you know the most famous restaurants in the city would have stuff for sale at the arena. I would make it the ultimate New Orleans experience. I would use the team to boost tourism in the city. I would want other NBA fans from other teams to come to the city – we will have suites for them. Tell them to come hang out in the city for like three days and check out a game in a suite while they are here. I would do fun things like that.
Basketball-wise I would certainly tie up Chris Paul and David West… [Editor’s note: This interview was conducted before the Chris Paul trade madness that erupted last Thursday]
Dime: So how would you actually keep Chris Paul here?
CT: I think we have a better shot than people think. I mean we have a better than decent team. Ironically it involves David West because if West goes its going to be hard to keep Paul. But I think our coach and GM both come from that San Antonio system and know what they are doing. I would not be surprised if they were able to pull some thing where we got a border line elite player like Danny Granger or Andre Iguodala.
But people keep talking about the infamous wedding toast at Melo’s wedding so if Paul wants to go I say we trade him, stock up on draft picks and young talent then lose every game by one point. Or we try to win this year. I believe!
Dime: Interesting take…so what type of response have you received?
CT: People love it. I had a couple of people stop me while I was walking around and be like, “You’re the dude from the Hornets video!” A lot of the local media outlets picked it up and with the team loving the response, things have been phenomenal. I have to keep one upping things though – got to make the next one bigger than the previous one.
Dime: So what’s next for you?
CT: I am going to make more videos. We are actually going to get arena access and shoot the next couple of videos in there.
I would love for everyone that reads this to know that this city is supporting the Hornets and that the team is not going anywhere. We sold a shit load of new season tickets, the Jazz weren’t supposed to leave but that wasn’t the city’s fault. The arena is awesome, games are fun and the Hornets are part of the community. Come to New Orleans and watch a game – I have six season tickets so anyone reading this get in touch with me and we will go to a game and I will take you around New Orleans. Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook – it will be one of the greatest experiences of your life.
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About the author: Ananth Pandian has a beard, two little dogs and owns too many esoteric basketball related t-shirts. He lives in Boston and he’s addicted to the NBA and chap-stick.Twitter
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