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Notes from Hornets Open Practice

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Published: October 4, 2010

Here is a report from the open practice on October 2, 2010, 11:30 a.m. local time at the New Orleans Arena.

Non-basketball Comments on the Practice

The Hornets held an open practice Saturday, and if their intention was to excite the locals . . . it worked.  I estimate about 1200 people showed up, and a few people asked me about it on my way to the practice and at my lunch after.  The crowd was brought to their feet a few times, gave rousing applause many times, and some fans were talking to reps while I was on my way out.  People brought kids who were running around having a good time.  The partisan crowd was enthusiastic, intelligent, and polite. It was really fun and a great example of just how great the organization is at making sure the fans get what they want at each event.  Also, David “Big Shot” Jovanovic, the team’s equipment manager, at-times-ambassador, and hero of the fire extinguisher incident (in my mind), was at the event.  I assume he is free to remain with the team at his pleasure for the time being.

The session closed with the entertainment segment.  In the first round of half-court shot attempts, Marco Belinelli hit it.  Pops dropped it in during the second round.  Gray hit the rim both times.  Marco wisely didn’t try the second time. Pargo, making a festive choice, and perhaps one that belies a realization that he can’t make every shot, tried an over the back shot the second time.

Our last-rookie-standing, Quincy Pondexter, wore a pink wig and pink dress and entertained us with song.  He sang something I didn’t know ((“California Gurls” by Katy Perry, a cappella; thanks to a poster who’d rather remain anonymous for this tidbit)), then tried to take requests from the crowd.  No fans honored his request that the fan who suggests the song also join him at center court in a duet, but Hugo, whom he called “Bee Man,” helped out with dance moves.  With the help of the track over the in house system, he did a very funny YMCA, of which I think he knew no words other than the 4 eponymous letters.  He was a good sport and embraced it.  I was hoping he’d do “Beat It,” which was requested by a child far too young to request it.

Basketball Comments on the Practice

Chris was wearing a knee brace, and Emeka was present but did not participate.  Chris was certainly having a good time and was interacting with everyone.

The practice started with a huddle up in the middle of the court followed by some half-court action which turned out to be `clean up’ activity from the last practice.  Then came general warmups such as stretching, and various forms of trotting took place.  Later these gave way to more complex 3-man drills, some of which focused on fast-breaks.  The ensuing 4-on-4 drills in the half court were very vocal defensively. I remember hearing “cutter” yelled more than once.  I don’t remember hearing it at all in 3 years.

Monty handled the ball a little.  He also stopped the drill a few times to either correct what was happening, or, more impressively in my mind, he would rewind the drill and point out what an offensive player would have done had the drill not dictated the next move.  I thought this was excellent pedagogically and was something I did not see at the open practice I went to under Coach Bower.  These guys are pros, among the 1000 best players in the world in a world of 6+ billion people; acting like they can’t handle nuance or that they can’t deal with multiple issues at once is short-sighted and insulting.  Monty was repeatedly focusing on position.  You could hear him repeat it over and over.  Defense was clearly the emphasis and it looked good from my seat at the back of 101.

After these drills there was the closest I’ve ever experienced to a slow clap.  The lady next to me actually started it.

Following was the heralded scrimmage.  It was originally billed to be 4 8-minute quarters, but after `halftime’ the last half was changed into a long 10 minute period.  This didn’t really help the schedule since the scrimmage went into double overtime, consisting of a 2 minute period followed by a 3 minute period with a running clock, except for the last 30 seconds.

The teams were, in the order Rob Nice named them on the mic:

Trevor Ariza, Aaron Gray, Marco Belinelli, Chris Emmanuel Paul, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, David Moorer West, DJ Strawberry, Mustafa Shakur

Jannero Pargo, Quincy Pondexter, Darryl Watkins, Marcus Thornton, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Smith, Joe Alexander, Willie Green

  • Trevor: Ariza looked good.  He had an oop with Chris (crowd to its feet, roars).  He made some deep shots and looked comfortable.
  • Aaron: He looks better.  He went after rebounds.  He was weaker to the basket following a rebound than he was going for the rebound, but it was an improvement.  There is room to grow, and I don’t mean into his old uniform.  He also was active on his feet, slightly hoping or shuffling as opposed to standing around flat-footed.
  • Marco: Marco ran the point a few times with Chris out on the win (with Chris drilling a 3 to kick off the session).  He nailed some long shots too.
  • Chris: Chris was Chris.  He looked good.  Damned good.
  • Pops: Of the new guys, I think Nana Papa Yaw Dwene Mensa-Bonsu has the best shot to make the team, even ignoring the lack of depth.  Briefly, Pops was playing like Big Daddy.  The dude has energy and seemed to be in the right place and the right time but with a certain softness when placing the ball in the basket.  Beauty plus beast.  He may be that `attitude’ guy we need, or at least I want.
  • David: He looked good.  He was having fun and performed well.  He continued his thieving ways as well. DJ: He didn’t really stand out.
  • Mustafa: Mustafa just may make the team.  He seemed smart.  Chris was chatting him up.  He also had a nice inbound pass. I would say it’s nice to do that to someone finally, but it was us, so . . .
  • Jannero: Jannero was unremarkable, but that may be a positive considering the lingering fear that he’ll take ill-advised shots and ill-advised times.
  • Quincy: Q built on the positive marks he earned in summer league
  • Darryl: Darryl played some good defense at times.
  • Marcus: Picture Marcus plus defense. Yeah.  Done grinning? It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Chris says Marcus is the reason he re-signs with the Hornets.
  • Peja: Peja looked good.  He was nailing the long ball.  He did just fine on defense, hurrying Ariza at times.
  • Jason: This guy has potential.  I’m not the first one to say it.
  • Joe: I don’t remember him doing one thing. I’m sure he did something, I just don’t remember it. This is more a comment about myself than Mr. Alexander.
  • Wille: Willie is inconsistent. He looked like the fans doing the 3 point contests at times, but then had great flashes at others.  If Pops works out and some other guard can do a little point work when we get Chillie Willie, the trade to get him will probably have been worth it.

Following the practice. Chris and Jannero were working on shooting.  Chris working on shots with Pargo, in my mind, said a lot. One, this guy isn’t phoning it in this season.  He’s not going to pout and demand a trade.  He’s going to work harder this year than any other.  This guy doesn’t need to work on shots to be NBA-ready, but he needs to work on them because he’s Chris Paul.  Pargo working on shots may show a sense of awareness that would end up pleasing us all.  Them working together says something about the camaraderie that Chris seems to love.

Also, these guys can work on shots anywhere at any time; them doing it there for all to see, I take as a message.  Chris is media savvy and is growing more so each day.  He’s showing the fans he’s the leader of this team and takes that role seriously.  There have been lots words about Chris in the past few months, but these are solid actions, actions out of the spotlight but in plain sight of some people with a stake in what Chris does with his life. When it comes to Chris Paul, I’ll trust his actions over words of others and I think he’d take that as high praise.

Overall, the defense was improved.  It was clear. The guys were vocal and there were many more defensive plays than I remember in the past.  It was very encouraging.  It’s a new day, Hornets fans.  In fact, some of you Hornets foes might want to keep one eye trained down here.  It may not be opening night, the all-star break, or this season, but watch yourself: we just might have something for you, and maybe a little lagniappe.

20 comments
Eman5805
Eman5805

Joe Alexander was aggressive attacking the basket, drawing fouls each time he did it. In the fast break drills, he really showed off those excellent hops and looked smooth and fast going up the court. CP3's gonna have a field day between him, Ariza, Thornton, Pops, and even Jason Smith is another big that can get up and down the court. I think a young player always needs at least two teams to prove himself. We're his second team and I Joe is going to electrify the crowd when he gets the chance to put one down.

buzz
buzz

thanks for the info guys, us out-of-towners rely on you locals to make the effort, which you always seem to. thanks again.

hewhorocks
hewhorocks

For the preseason, NBA TV has the game at Orlando listed for Sunday at 6. Also the Miami game for the 13th at 8pm.

stormsurge
stormsurge

CP started out a little gimpy. It showed in some of his shots. He warmed up and looked great. Ariza looked like he belonged there. Of particular import, he got an assist to West and one from CP that warmed to cockles of my heart. Marco looks like he can fight Thornton to a standstill for the starting position. I was PISSED Okafor was sitting. If there is anything I think the team needs its him practicing with them to get the defensive chemistry together. QP will make us forget Juju was ever on the team.

Forever504
Forever504

do any of you guys ( or gals) know if the Hornets first scrimmage will be shown on TV

QueenBee
QueenBee

You talking about the one on Friday against Memphis? I'm not sure. I don't think the preseason games are usually televised.

pschafer
pschafer

You guys rock. Thanks for the info!

Rob
Rob

Wait, Pops hit a halfcourt shot?! I'm from the UK, if Pops makes the team the Hornets will have a fair few new fans here. Power game + soft touch round the basket sounds right. Fantastic rebounder/energy guy, prone to sudden rushes of blood to the head where he thinks he can bring the ball up or shoot 3s... (at least for the Great Britain national team) if he can stick to his game, I think you'll love him.

QueenBee
QueenBee

LOL 420ftJesus! CP looked good in his movements though right?

420ftJesus
420ftJesus

I think that boy could have an alligator gnawing on each thigh instead of having legs and still juke a Maverick out of his shoes. Really though, he looked focused on the game and the ball rather than his knees or threats to it. I left feeling confident that there will be minimal adjustment to surgical repair. At least, that was the view from where I was while I was taking notes. Jochbe was there and didn't express concern, which I take as encouraging. What did you think, Queen?

QueenBee
QueenBee

@420ftJesus-I thought CP looked good. Wasn't afraid to penetrate. Moved well. Looked focus and he and his teammates seemed to be having a good time.

Jochbe
Jochbe

Yeah--I didn't see anything to worry about with CP.

420ftJesus
420ftJesus

I agree about Monty. I would have loved to hear him over the system for at least part of the practice. D West had the most fun or trouble with the trotting, I just couldn't tell which. About Gray: I'm not saying he's good. I'm saying he's better than last year. I think we're agreeing, really. About Alexander: You are not the only one with high praise for Alexander, certainly. The local writers are concurring with you. I'm not disagreeing; I just wasn't following him. He played more in the faster paced second half, and I followed the guaranteed folks. Pops caught my eye, as did the wide open inbound steal by Shakur, so I followed them more. Missing his game seems to have kept my enjoyment from being all it could have been. Again, it wasn't meant as a comment on his game; it was just an a priori choice of how to spend my limited resources. About my tone: I probably am being a little soft in my writing here. I was happy. Thanks for the additional info. I plan on updating the post with a few pictures and video if there aren't some rules against it.

Jochbe
Jochbe

Oh, and I am a bit disgusted with myself for knowing this, but the first song Q-Pon sung was "California Gurls" by Katy Perry...

420ftJesus
420ftJesus

I update the post with your info. Danke. I remember hearing the word California for sure. I kept your name out of it due to your self-professed disgust. I had a similar experience the other day when on American Dad there was 1001 Arabian Nights take-off that was referring to 90210, which I for some reason volunteered to explain. It got worse when I correctly anticipated the Melrose Place segue. Thank goodness no one knows that I was fully prepared to discuss The Heights . . .

Jochbe
Jochbe

My observations (repeating a little of what I said in the news thread, plus some other stuff): --They should have had Monty miked, especially early on. It would have been nice to know exactly what they were doing there. --I thought the different levels of competence and intensity shown by the players in the dynamic warmups (the "various forms of trotting") was amusing. Some players looked both into it and knew what they were doing (Pops really stood out here, and Aaron Gray had obviously been doing those drills over the summer). Some guys--like Marcus for much of it-- looked like they could have cared less. Pargo looked like he was tripping over himself most of the time. --I thought they really got after it in the weave and fast-break drills. And really, the whole practice was pleasingly intense. --Some interesting points on lineups and positioning: Belinelli was the 2 on the presumed first unit for most of the practice (don't know if this means anything). Both Ariza and Pondexter lined up at the two for a bit (Q-Pon a little more, I think). Smith played both the 4 and 5 a bit. Alexander spent all of his time in the scrimmage at the 4 (I expected to see him at the 3 more). The white team also ran small quite a bit, with Pops and West at the 4 and 5. And some thoughts on performances (not trying to be comprehensive here): --Pops brought a lot of energy and looks to be a strong rebounder. On the basis of this practice at least he should make the team. Both he and Alexander looked quite a bit better than Smith at the 4. --I think 420 is being too nice to Gray. He looked pretty bad--still slow and sluggish (even if he is a little slimmer) and he has hands of stone. To me he was the most disappointing thing about this practice. --420 really wasn't paying attention if he didn't see Joe Alexander do anything. Alexander still lacks polish, but I though he looked reasonably good overall and might make a good bench guy. He looked particularly good putting the ball on the floor against DWest and drawing fouls. He was also a key part of the black team's run to get back into the game in the second half. --I really thought Pargo looked terrible. It would be a crime if Mustafa Shakur (who didn't get enough minutes, I thought) doesn't make the team because Pargo is taking a spot. Willie Green wasn't setting the world on fire, but he looked heads and shoulders above Pargo.

QueenBee
QueenBee

CP wore a sleeve, not a brace.

420ftJesus
420ftJesus

Queen: It was definitely soft, you are right. If that's the correct term for it, then I'll file that away. When I was actually semi-athletic at my rural school, we just called everything a brace, so I used the word. Thanks for the updated lingo. I'd update the post, but I want everyone to know that you told me how it is.