WESTWEGO, LA - In poker, the best thing sometimes is to act first with a hand. You initiate the action and, even if you don't have the best hand, you still control the table if you play your cards right.
The New Orleans Hornets and head coach Monty Williams are now in that position after winning the NBA Draft Lottery on Wednesday night.
At a press conference on Friday afternoon at the Alario Center, Williams addressed the critics while still playing the poker face even though every mock draft is in agreement that Kentucky's Anthony Davis should be the first overall pick.
"Obviously there's a consensus number one on a lot of peoples' boards, but it's irresponsible of me to talk about one particular person. I'm not going to take that step and be irresponsible about that," said Williams in a conservative tone.
Though Williams is a man of the process who will diligently study Davis along with other prospects, he still had some high praise for Davis' defensive prowess and work ethic.
"Defensively, he's above and beyond most college guys. His ability to cover ground, and the willingness to play defense is something that most guys don't care about. Davis is a guy who has instincts to play defense at a high level right now."
Not one for hyperbole, Williams also compared his defensive ability and potential impact to great names like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan. But in the same breath, Williams pointed out that Davis is still very young.
As for the skeptics that dared to call the NBA lottery process rigged in favor of New Orleans, the notion did not bother one of the beneficiaries of the lotto magic.
"These people come up with this stuff every year," said Williams who referenced the Tim Duncan and Derrick Rose drafts that featured teams which weren't expected to win those respective lotteries. "The bottom line is we have the pick, and we've been an organization that believes in no excuses and no explanations."
Results through hard work are the focus of the floor boss in New Orleans. Williams is not worried about the flash that persists more in the NBA today. He is an old school coach who has helped dramatically make over the roster of the Hornets, for better or worse.
The upside of this franchise is palpable. Through 45 losses in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, 26 of those came by single digits. Due to injuries and the need to play younger players for evaluation, the Hornets used a different starting line-up on average every third game. There is now more of a feel about what team possesses as a talent foundation.
With many questions left to answer, there are already several that are answered. Ownership is intact, the Hornets know where they're picking in the draft (1st and 10th overall) and Williams is a valued coaching commodity who knows what he thinks the team needs to improve.
Still, this is a team that won only 21 games, and Williams acknowledges the mountains yet to climb.
"We've got to get better as coaches, and we have to improve our young core of players. We also have to get length," said Williams who mentioned how that hit him the year before last during a first round playoff series loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The biggest question that will face the Hornets in the off-season though is player movement, especially in the case of All-Star calibur shooting guard Eric Gordon. The centerpiece of the trade last year between New Orleans and the Los Angeles Clippers, Gordon is a restricted free agent.
"Either guys want to be here or they don't want to be here," explained Williams, who made it clear recently that he wants Gordon to be the foundation of the Hornets moving forward.
"I'm tired of guys making 13-17 million dollars a year, whining about how they need help and how they want everything to be perfect. When you make that kind of money you are the help," said Williams. The highest character guys that are willing to put in the work of an 82-game season may be valued over talent at times as New Orleans moves ahead with the rebuilding process.
Led by general manager Dell Demps and Williams, the Hornets have a golden opportunity with a pair of top 10 picks in the NBA Draft to turn this team back into a post-season contender in short order. Williams along with all Hornets fans are hoping that those pair of draft picks turn out to be aces, which will in turn help the franchise take that next step.
With the help of the Royal Flush at the NBA Draft Lottery, the Hornets now hope to draw a full house every night at the New Orleans Arena.
|< Prev||Next >|