Another New Orleans Hornets Media Day has come and gone. Let’s see what we caught this time!
Eric Gordon is not quite 100 percent
The Hornets couldn’t even make it through Media Day unscatched, as they announced that Eric Gordon will have “limited participation in training camp” due to soreness in his right knee following voluntary workouts with the team late in the summer.
Dell Demps remarked, “The team is taking a cautious approach with Eric to give him the best chance to be ready for the season,”
There’s no way to really put a good spin on this. Hopefully it’s a precautionary measure, but it’s worth noting that this is the same knee that Gordon arthroscopic surgery on last season.
Al-Farouq Aminu reflects on his Olympic experience
“It was amazing, man.” Al-Farouq exclaimed when I first asked him what it felt like playing the the Olympics. “The best part about it was that I played with my brother for the first time. That was the first time we played together in a real game.”
The thrilling run in the qualifying tournament that culminated in the first Olympic berth in the history of Nigerian basketball was excellent, as was the on-court celebration that still, to this day, gives me goosebumps just at the thought. But was it his best basketball moment ever?
“Yes. We didn’t go far in the tournament, I mean… in high school basketball I won some state championships, but it couldn’t compare to making the Olympics.”
I expected to hear nothing less from Nola’s favorite Nigerian in our first face to face since before he both qualified for and played in the 2012 London Olympics, but he did shock me with a few of the details.
For one– He’s never actually been to Nigeria, a country he refers to has “his dad’s”. He plans to go next summer, and wants to hold a basketball camp there, but as of now he’s a virgin.
How exactly did it come to be that he wound up on the national team of a country he’s never been to?
It started with Aminu reaching out in the media and saying that he wanted to play for the Nigerians. He then got together with Ike Diogu, Aminu’s co-star on the Nigerian team and his former Clipper teammate, who had planted the idea in Aminu’s head years before. Ike helped guide him through the process and seemed to act as he facilitator between Aminu and the Nigerians. Eventually, Aminu got an email saying he was invited to training camp in China.
The rest, as they say, is history
Greivis Vasquez will not be satisfied until Venezuela has made the Olympics
Venezuela fell short in the same Olympic Qualifying Tournament that Aminu and Nigeria fared so well in, and that reality wasn’t lost on Greivis Vasquez. The guard said that he and Aminu “talk a little trash” about the tournament, but it doesn’t sound like the stuff that destroys team chemistry quite yet.
It also doesn’t sound like Vasquez is giving up hope. “It’s a dream” he said when I asked how important it was that he and Venezuela one day make the Olympics. He’s aware it’s not going to be easy, but he already has his sights set on the next lower level tournament that will allow Venezuela to have another chance to qualify.
“We’re gonna have to start working a little bit earlier and get something together and get everybody at the same pace so we can qualify to the World Cup, and then carry that to another qualifier to the Olympic so we can get there”
Greivis didn’t downplay the challenges Venezuela faces in even qualifying for the Olympics, “It’s hard. It’s very hard. It’s not easy to make it especially in our group because we got the USA, we got Brazil, Argentina… but I have no doubt that before I retire form basketball I think i can get my country and my teammates to an Olympic games.
I had to ask– “Is that your goal for international basketball? You will not be satisfied retiring unless you make the Olmypic team with Venezuela?”
“Yes, definitely. That’s something that I have under my pillow. I wake up and I see it,” he replied. “That’s why I work so hard every day, because as an NBA player you want to win a championship. As an international player you want to be in the Olympics, and trying to win a gold medal.”
It will be interesting to see if Greivis is able to achieve his goal, and we’ll be sure to follow him throughout his progress.
…and a few more tidbits about Vasquez
He cares way more about closing games than starting them, but he cares about starting also, just not as much.
Having Gordon out there makes everything easier for everyone. “If he’s not there, it’s going to be hard for us”
Vasquez followed that up by saying that there is “no doubt” that the Hornets will be a playoff team this year if everyone stays healthy.
Off the court he told me that he “loves to go the casino every now and then” His game is craps, but he’s “not recommending that to young guys”.
He’s “definitely” interested in getting more involved in New Orleans culture. “I want to really get involved more and get myself out there a little bit more”
Perhaps most importantly, especially because New Orleans has such a rapidly growing Spanish-speaking population, he plans to start a charity that would allow for more local Hispanic people to attend games and be involved with the team. He wants them to think “we got a Latino guy who made it to the NBA. We can also reach our goals and follow his footsteps”
Lance Thomas has lots of respect for Carmelo after his time in Vegas
After spending a bunch of time talking to Lance in Vegas, I was interested to hear him reflect on the experience a bit and really get into what he took from it. What really stands out in his mind as the number one thing to take away from it?
“The work ethic you need to have before and after practice.” Thomas exclaimed. He went on, “There was a time when I decided to get a lift in afterwards (a meeting), and I was lifting with Carmelo… I was like wow, these guys are in there really working” Thomas was referring to how hard all the top players work, not just Carmelo, but Carmelo came up shortly after.
When I asked who worked the hardest, he replied “The hardest person to guard while I was there was definitely Carmelo. He had a great camp.”
In the end, Thomas comes into camp this year physically stronger than ever, in the best shape of his life, and coming off a summer in which he worked with the best players in the world. He’s confident that he can guard any spot on the court, and he sounds legitimately excited to get out there with his teammates and show the world what he’s got this NBA season.
… and he’s the best fisherman
“I love to fish,” Thomas answered instantly when I inquired as to his favorite local activity, “I was actually in the gulf not too long ago… it’s good to get out on the ocean.”
He does it all– deep sea, fly, you name it. His favorite to eat is Redfish, and make no mistake about it, he loves it down here. Asked where his favorite place to fish is, his response is sure to make the locals love him even more.
“The best fishing in the world is definitely down here,” Thomas answered, immediately adding a second “definitely down here” afterward to assure me he meant it. “You throw your pole in any water out here and you’re going to get a bite and it’s gonna to be a big fish.”
He’s been fishing with a bunch of the guys, in fact. “I’ve been fishing with Carl Landry before. That was fun”, he exclaimed as a grin came across his face and his mind drifted to what was obviously a fun time. Thomas has also baited hooks with Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Jason Smith. Greivis said he got an invite, but he’s yet to take Lance up on the offer.
So who’s got the best game off the water?
“I’m killing it”, Lance said confidently.
… and he’s working with the Roots of Music
Right after saying he loves fishing, Lance went right to his involvement with The Roots of Music, a local non-profit that I’ll be highlighting later this week. For now, all you need to know is that it’s a great non-profit that helps at-risk kids through music education, tutoring and mentoring—unlocking their potential as individuals, and building a nationally-recognized marching band along the way.
His love for music doesn’t end at non-profit work, either. He’s a big fan of the House of Blues, and he actually went and checked out a show just last night.
I didn’t ask specifically, but I got the impression that he’s quite fond of the city.
Austin Rivers talks a big NBA2k game… and then walks it back a bit
Roger Mason Jr. is the old guy for the first time
Me: Is this the first time that you’ve been…um…
Roger: The oldest. (a tiny smile begins to form)
Me: You are the oldest? (I say knowing full well he’s 32, well clear of 29-year old Hakim Warrick)
Roger: This is the first time in my career
Oh how time flies. Roger Mason Jr. is well aware of his role as The Veteran. “It’s something I’m looking forward to,” he remarked.
Mason Jr. chose to come to New Orleans for a number of reasons: “I felt like this place had a clear direction. Obviously ownership being familiar with Dell Demps and Tim Connelly, and my time with the Spurs and the Wizards played a role. I just felt like it was a roster my skill set could help.”
His signing may go down as one of the more underrated of what was an eventful summer for the Hornets, especially if he’s able to regain some of the swagger he displayed while starting 71 times in 2008-2009 for a Spurs team that won 54 regular season games. It’s no secret that Eric Gordon has struggled to stay on the court, and news that he’ll be taking it easy during training camp is hardly encouraging.
…and he’s a classically trained pianist/fisherman/comedian
The last interview of the day, Roger, apparently trying to fit in, told us that he’s also an avid fisherman as well as a classically trained pianist. He added “I’m looking forward to jazz down here.”
After Andrew tried to stir up a fishing rivalry between Mason Jr. and Lance Thomas, the guard had a quote for the road:
“I got some good fishing stories, too. Over the years they get even better.”
EG appears to be more of a fraud everyday. When you look at the big picture: only 9 games played last season, crybaby antics he displayed when we matched the $58 million offer this summer and now he won't paticipate in training camp. EG can quickly become a cancer in the locker room. Just think, we are building the team around this guy!
That's not what Dell and Monty said. Now they may have been just trying to kiss the Lil Punk's arse but they did say they were building the team around EG.
But hey, I know it's pre-season and we are all suppose to believe in fantasy not reality. So I'll play along - EG will suit up for all 82 games and when the MVP award. Fantasyland is fun!