After a tumultuous offseason, the New Orleans Hornets get to finally take the court - but without one of the best players in franchise history.
The Hornets begin an era without Chris Paul when they open the season against the Phoenix Suns on Monday night.
New Orleans went 46-36 last season but was eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers in six games in the opening round of the playoffs.
With the Hornets temporarily owned by the NBA, which is trying to find a permanent local buyer by sometime in 2012, the club has struggled to win long-term commitments from any big-name players.
That even meant players on their roster, as Paul requested a trade once the NBA settled the lockout earlier this month.
A three-team deal that would have sent the star point guard to the Lakers seemed to be struck, but commissioner David Stern cited "basketball reasons" for vetoing the trade.
Less than a week later, New Orleans sent Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers for center Chris Kaman, guard Eric Gordon, reserve forward Al-Farouq Aminu and a 2012 first-round draft pick.
The Hornets also saw the departure of forward David West to Indiana via free agency, leaving them without their top two scorers.
"I'm sure a lot of people are counting us out," forward Carl Landry said. "We've got guys that want to be good players in this league and they come and practice hard every day, and I'm sure it will have a carry-over into game situations."