Hornets play first game in Louisiana tonight

Friday, December 16, 2005

OKLAHOMA CITY -- P.J. Brown knows firsthand the horrors Hurricane Katrina brought on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, and he doesn't want anyone to forget.

Brown and the New Orleans Hornets will play the Phoenix Suns in Baton Rouge, La., tonight, the first of six "home" games scheduled on the campus of Louisiana State University.

Before the game, Brown hopes to get home for a few hours to tie up some loose ends. Even 3 1/2 months later, there's no way he can spend one night at his house in Slidell, La., across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.

"It's not livable," said Brown, the Hornets' 6-foot-11 center. "We really haven't even started getting it back. We've got it cleaned up and stuff like that just like everybody else. The insurance companies are dragging their feet with all of us."

The trip home will be a fresh reminder for Brown, who visited his flooded, damaged and looted home several times before the season began and went back again for his mother-in-law's funeral last month.

"It's special to go back home and go back and see family, see some friends and play in front of so many of our fans who haven't had a chance to see us play," Brown said. "It's bittersweet. It's tough just knowing the situation, knowing a lot of the tough times that people are going through down there."

While Brown keeps up with Katrina's lingering effects, he fears that the country's awareness has dropped off since the Aug. 29 storm.

"You see the reports, but people don't have no idea the pain and suffering that people are going through down there," he said. "We've got a long, long way to go down there."

From a basketball standpoint, New Orleans coach Byron Scott doesn't expect the return to Louisiana to be a distraction, although it's the first time he can remember that he won't get to sleep in his own bed before a home game.

"I understand what the league is doing," Scott said. "We have six games on Louisiana soil, which is great so we still have that connection with the state of Louisiana and New Orleans, but it's an inconvenience to us as a team.

"That's just the truth. Because this is supposed to be a homestand right now where we have three games at home."

The Hornets have sold more than 3,000 tickets for the first Baton Rouge game, but Hornets spokesman Michael Thompson said the number is not discouraging.

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