Hornets Beat: Chris Paul, Monty, and Feeling Blue

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Published: November 26, 2012

Our New Orleans Hornets writers discuss booing Chris Paul, Monty Williams, the recent slide, and the future of Lance Thomas and Xavier Henry.

1. It’s said that the waiting is the hardest part. What is your advice for fans feeling a bit let down with the recent slide?

Jason Calmes: Just put any hope of being competitive in a little sack and toss it off your favorite high bridge. This team has active players that wouldn’t make it into one of those quirky sports movies where guys get a second or last shot to make it big and inevitably have to play a team consisting of consummate professionals. Half the committed salary has not played for the team, and the most frequently injured player who actually plays is the one guy no one who loves the Hornets wants injured. Understand that the degree to which these guys make the other team sweat for just a bit is a testament to what may come in the future. That, and get some good snacks to complement your viewing.

Mason Ginsberg: As Jason noted, any hope of playoff contention this season should be discarded. Even if both Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis came back 100% healthy tomorrow, the Western Conference is simply too deep for the Hornets to overcome this 3-8 start and suddenly transform into a legitimate playoff team. There are too many holes up and down the roster at this point. On the bright side, if the end result is another top-5 pick, then between that and ample cap space next offseason, this team could be poised to turn things around historically quickly.

Andrew Smith: First, don’t watch a Saints game and a Hornets game in the same day – you will feel worse. Remember, we’re planning for the future. In the first 11 games that the Seattle Sonics played with Durant, they went 1-10. We are in the same situation and the rebuild will be tough, but we have a great coach and GM, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Jake Madison: I could just spout cliches but honestly that wouldn’t do much. Hopefully the young, core players of the team learn to hate the feelings associated with losing. And a high draft pick is always nice, right?

Joe Gerrity: Things could obviously be better, but they could also be worse. Davis looks better than expected, Rivers looks closer to being an NBA player than many expected. This is a learning season, and the next one may be too. Championships are way more satisfying when you’ve built them from the ground up, and you’ll look back on these days with nostalgia when the Hornets hoist their first title banner.

2. On a scale of 1-10, rate the job performance of Monty Williams so far this season

Jason: 7. Monty, as usual, has these guys motivated and over-achieving. He has, however, not demonstrated the ability to adapt to changing circumstances to my satisfaction. He’s being given something less than Shinola to deploy against other teams, but it’s the same story each night: threes or offensive rebounds.

Mason: 5. He has done a great job of getting the most out of his roster from an effort perspective, but his game management has been surprisingly disappointing. The stagnant offensive sets and poor perimeter defense have been frustrating, to say the least.

Dru: I’d go 6, mainly because I’m sick of giving up these open 3s. I know his scheme is to protect the paint and force long “contested” 2s & 3s, but I don’t see much of a contest. It looks like he refuses to adapt to this even though these open jumpers are killing us. We are number one in opponents’ 3pt rate.

Jake: I’d actually say an 8. I may not agree with his defensive philosophy right now, but he’s paid to be a coach and I’m not, so I’ll trust his mindset going in. Where I’m concerned is with the lack of adjustments he’s making in game. If your game plan just isn’t working, tweaks need to be made. We haven’t really seen that this season. In general, though, he does have this team overachieving and he’s one of the best coaches and drawing up plays coming out of timeouts.

Joe: Oddly enough, I’ll go with a 4. I don’t think he’s doing a bad job, but I’m not seeing nearly enough experimentation. Why we’re the second slowest team in the league yet again is beyond me. I’m equally stumped as to why we have repeatedly seen a small-ball lineup that includes Brian Roberts, Austin Rivers, and Roger Mason Jr. Clearly that’s not the answer.

3. Is Lance Thomas in the league in five years?

Jason: Yes. In just over 80m of action this year, he’s made 7 of 18 shot attempts, and 14 of 21 from the line, bringing the total to 28 points. Additionally, he’s racked up 12 fouls and 16 rebounds in that time. His numbers really aren’t that different from Jason Smith, and in fact their WS/48 were both 0.134 going into the Nuggets game. Smith has a role due to height and work ethic. Thomas will have to carve and identity that is useful to a team, and he’ll be a set for a low-level contract, like Smith.

Mason: Yes. Thomas is a student of the game and someone who always gives maximum effort on both sides of the ball. His defense against Carmelo Anthony was the best one-on-one that I have seen from any Hornets player so far this season. He certainly isn’t the most talented player, but he is the kind of player who can be coached and then see the results pay off on the court. While his role likely will never be a big one on an NBA team, he should certainly be able to remain in the league.

Dru: Yes. Coaches value a vocal, energetic, scrappy guy like Lance. Even if his on court performance doesn’t improve much, he’s always going to be a hard worker and a guy to set the bar for work ethic in the gym for whatever team he’s on. On the court, his communications helps everyone on the team. Also, he may not he the most talented, but he knows where to be and when to be there.

Jake: Yes. Not necessarily because he’s a good player, but have you seen some of the people who get NBA minutes? Thomas has played better than I thought he would this season. There will be a spot for him for a while.

Joe: Yes. Coaches seem to love him. Plus, his game has taken a nice step forward since he got his NBA shot last year, and especially since he participated in Olympic trials.

4. Is Xavier Henry in the league in five years?

Jason: No. He’ll be lucky to be in the NBA in two years. In just over 70m of action this year, he’s made 10 of 26 shot attempts, and 2 of 6 from the line. He’s made 1 of 1 from three, bringing the total to 23 points. This is the core of a shooting guards’ contribution (the shooting), and it’s actually harmful. The overwhelmed and out-of-position Austin Rivers has scored 75 points on 81 shots, which is a higher rate. No, I’m not entertaining any 100% from 3 jokes.

Mason: I really don’t think so. Simply put, Henry is a shooting guard who can’t shoot. Those don’t really have much of a role in the league unless they are lockdown defenders, and Henry certainly doesn’t fall under that category, so his value as a NBA player is extremely limited.

Dru: No. I see no reason why he would be, and I’d actually be surprised if he’s still in the league at the start of next season. He was drafted because he was a “prolific shooter from beyond the arc with tremendous range”, but obviously that has left him. He isn’t overly athletic, he’s not a good decision maker, can’t finish at the rim, can’t rebound, is foul prone, can’t defend… the list goes on. I just don’t know what team would want him or why.

Jake: I’m 50/50 on this. By all means he shouldn’t be. The one thing he does well, getting to the line, is negated by his inability to hit free throws. Also, have you seen some people who get NBA minutes?

Joe: Signs point to no, but there’s still hope for Xavier. He does work hard, he can get to the rim and draw fouls. It’s true that what got him drafted– his shot– has failed him, but he’s picked up a few other NBA skills along the way. He’s downright good at drawing contact inside while driving, but that abysmal 33% free throw rate and his inability to actually finish around the rim completely nullify what should be a positive. I guess the reality is that if he can’t figure out his shot, he’s a long shot to remain in the league.

5. The Hornets head to LA tonight to face the Clippers. If you were there, would you boo or cheer Chris Paul when he’s introduced?

Jason: Boo. Chris Paul is like a brother to me, but I have to do what’s best for me and family . . . err . . . ignoring that one brother, I suppose. He got a cheer from me once in his post-Hornets career. Now, it’s all business, per Chris’ own rules.

Mason: Neither. I’m not going to boo an opposing player unless I have a good reason to dislike him, and I’m not going to cheer an opposing player unless there are really special circumstances. CP3 doesn’t fall into either category, so I’d treat him like any other player.

Dru: If I absolutely had to pick one I’d boo. I don’t like to cheer for anyone the other team (even if they’re on my fantasy team because I’m that hardcore) and I already gave him his round of applause when the Clippers came to New Orleans for the reunion last season.

Jake: Neither, but I’d say cheer if need be. I’ve moved on. No hard feelings. It was cool while he was here and I’m glad to have watched so many games of his.

Joe: Boo, but not because I have any real animosity toward him. The reality is that he could have pulled a Dwight Howard and left us high and dry (in a bad way, New Orleans), but the only players who I don’t boo on the opposing team are guys like Marcus Thornton, Darren Collison, and Tyson Chandler.

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