While thinking about the Hornets up and down season, it dawned on me that it fits Gustav Freytag’s pyramid of dramatic structure perfectly.
Freytag’s pyramid applies to both comedies and tragedies. In a comedy the protagonist finishes better than how he started. In a tragedy it is the opposite–the protagonist is worse off. Which one will the 2010-11 Hornets season be? As the Hornets geared up for opening day, it could have gone in either direction. The conflict was set: Make the playoffs and win the title. But will the season end with happiness and laughs with a miracle run in the playoffs? Will hearts be broken with a tragic trip to the lottery? Or is there another unexpected reversal? Time to put my English degree to use. Lets take a look after the jump…
The diagram above illustrates the pyramid. Let’s take a look it part by part. (All quotes come from Wikipedia.)
Exposition: The Offseason and the Uncertainty Ahead
“The exposition provides the background information needed to properly understand the story, such as the protagonist, the antagonist, the basic conflict, and the setting.”
Here’s a brief version of what happened during the offseason. Jeff Bower resigneed as coach of the team to focus on his duties as GM. Monty Williams is hired as the head coach of the team. Williams is a rookie, unproven and the youngest coach in the league. Jeff Bower is fired as GM. Dell Demps is hired as his replacement. Demps is also unproven and a rookie. Chris Paul supposodly makes a toast at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding which sets off massive amounts of trade rumors. The sale of the team from George Shinn to Gary Chouest is still pending. Pretty much the entire roster is gutted and retooled. That certainly sounds like a recipe for a dramatic season.
The Inciting Moment: Hornets 96, Miami Heat 93
“The inciting moment sets the remainder of the story in motion beginning with the second act, the rising action.”
For the Hornets this could easily be the start of the regular season but I’ll argue that it was the Miami Heat game on November 5th. The Hornets came into the game in 4-0. Yes, they had beaten some good teams (Spurs and Nuggets) but people tended to believe that Hornets weren’t serious contenders in the west. That perception changed with the Heat game. The team shot 49.4 from the field and put up 50 points in the paint. Talking heads on TV started to take the team seriously. It looked like this could be a special season. But the game wasn’t a blow out. The Hornets had a lead the entire game until the Heat drew level on 90 points with a minute left. The Hornets won and were 5-0 but flaws were apparent. The lack of playing time for Marcus Thornton was also becoming a saga in itself.
Rising Action: Streaks and Wins and Losses
“During rising action, the basic internal conflict is complicated by the introduction of related secondary conflicts, including various obstacles that frustrate the protagonist’s attempt to reach his goal.”
This is where the meat of the story is. After the Miami game, the Hornets continued their strong start, going 11-1. But the team’s flaws started to turn into cracks and the first reversal of the season occurred. The inability to play well against teams with length, the struggle to defend the three point line and one of the league’s worst offenses all became apparent. The Hornets rising action was filled with ups and down and their amazing start melted into a 21-16 record.
Side plots and minor conflicts turned into full blown controversies and huge issues. After a phenomenal rookie year, fan favorite Marcus Thornton was receiving sporadic playing time. This divided Hornets fans with one side blasting Williams and the other vehemently defending him.
If you broke the Thornton situation itself down into Freytag’s diagram the climax would be the Sacramento game on December 15th. (Looking back at things literally, this is a great use of irony and foreshadowing.) Thornton led the Hornets to the largest comeback in team history; yet two games later he played only 13 minutes. Thornton’s story seems to be a comedy. Since the trade to the Kings he has received the playing time Hornets fans clamored for. He has kind of played very well for them.
In late December the ownership situation further complicated the team’s ambitions. With the NBA taking ownership of the team, the Hornets now had to worry about both the current season and their long term future. And to make matters worse there was that whole attendance benchmark thing.
The season could have easily gone south for the Hornets but there were more reversals in store. After a close loss to the Lakers, the Hornets went on a 10 game winning streak—the highlight of which was David West’s game winner over the Thunder with .5 seconds left. Things were looking good. Then boom…Emeka Okafor, arguably the team’s most important player, hurts his hip. The Hornets survive. Over the team’s Mardi Gras road trip Paul suffers a scary concussion and 19 days later David West is lost for the season with a knee injury. But just like in a movie there is Carl Landry to step up and fill the void. The drama continues.
The Climax: Hornets 101, Houston Rockets 93
“The third act is that of the climax, or turning point, which marks a change, for the better or the worse, in the protagonist’s affairs.”
The Houston game represents the highest point of tension for the Hornets. Win and they clinch the playoffs. Lose and things become murky. Houston races out to a 38 to 21 first quarter lead. But the Hornets fought back and went into the half only down four. The Hornets played tough in the second half and in the 4th quarter they managed to pull away and seal the win and a playoff spot. The game itself almost sums up the Hornets season. It was a game of runs and streaks; the struggle to defend the three-point shot yet clamp down on defense when it matters. It’s fitting that in the playoff clinching win Chris Paul–who has been hot and cold all year–probably plays his best game of the season
Falling Action: The Here and Now
“During the falling action, or resolution, which is the moment of reversal after the climax, the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist unravels, with the protagonist winning or losing against the antagonist.”
This is where the Hornets stand. The team has acomplished their goal of making the playoffs. The end is near (nigh!) but the conclusion to this story has yet to be written. Do the Hornets finish as the 6th seed and (potentially) face the Mavericks in round one? Or will they fall to 7th and a dreaded matchup with the Lakers? Will this season be a comedy or tragedy?
Denouement: Playoff Performance and the End of the Season
“The denouement comprises events between the falling action and the actual end of the drama or narrative and thus serves as the conclusion of the story. Conflicts are resolved, creating normality for the characters and a sense of catharsis, or release of tension and anxiety, for the reader.”
The resolution of this story will be how the team fares in the playoffs. Are we in store for a repeat of the 07-08 season? Or are we looking at another Nuggets series? Is a sense of catharsis coming from winning a championship? Will the relief simply come from the roller coaster ride ending? The rest of the story is up to Monty, Chris and the rest of the team to write.
I’m inclined to think were looking at a good ending. In what could be the highest point of their professional careers, Emeka Okafor and Jarrett Jack did not really talk about making the playoffs for the first time. There was no big celebration–after the game most players headed right for the locker room. The team isn’t satisfied just making the playoffs, they want to win. The offense has been clicking recently and even Trevor Ariza is playing better on that end of the court. It looks like there could be one more reversal left.
Hopefully you’ll be joining me at the Hive tonight night If you are, let me know on twitter (@nolajake) and let’s talk Hornets before the game. Can’t make it? Not to worry, you can still watch the game on NBATv.
How do you think the Hornets season will end? Let us know in the comments below!
Finally, your pregame metal song to fire you up. This one is for 42 over at Hornets247.com.