Posted Sep 16 2010 7:08AM - Updated Oct 1 2010 2:29PM
Talk is cheap and history is just that.
Monty Williams has had enough of both. He's spent a large part of the summer trying to get his message across to his new players and anyone else who will listen.
"It's a different team now," said the first-year coach of the Hornets. "I want to put in our system, to become a more efficient offense and put most of our focus in training camp on defense.
"Mostly what I want to do is get into training camp and start to work on the things that can make us better, the things that we can control. I'm tired of talking."
He's worn out on the subject of whether point guard Chris Paul will commit himself to New Orleans for the future and weary of looking back at the Hornets' recent slide.
"We're not going to get into all of that about Chris," Williams said. "Sure, I heard all the rumors. But Chris never expressed any opinions to me that he didn't want to be here. Is he frustrated that he hasn't won more? Yes. Was he frustrated when he missed half of last season because he was injured? Yes.
"I'm not going to get in the details of any conversations that I had. But Chris never said he wanted out. That's all I had to hear. When camp opens soon, he's with us."
Yet the question of for how long remains. Perhaps no coach in the league will be more under the gun to get off to a quick start than the rookie Williams, who knows the subject of Paul's happiness will be resurrected if the Hornets struggle.
After all, the Hornets were on the rise when they won 56 games and claimed the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference in 2008, but then fell off to 49 wins in 2009 and only 37 last season.
Was that all because Paul missed 37 games and required knee surgery? Or had the level of talent surrounding Paul dropped off so much that it prompted him to make an ominous toast at Carmelo Anthony's wedding?
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"I can't think about it. I don't think about it," Williams said. "I can't rely on anything that happened before I arrived. I can only be concerned with the things under my control."
Williams and first-year Hornets general manager Dell Demps cut their teeth in the San Antonio Spurs organization, where the emphasis on defense produced four championships and the franchise's no-nonsense attitude was instilled by coach Gregg Popovich. Then it was hammered home the past five seasons working as an assistant coach under Nate McMillan in Portland.
"Pop taught me how to look at the game," Williams said. "He taught me to always keep learning, to look at other coaches, talk to guys overseas, to always be open to ideas. But more than anything, he's about defense.
"Nate and Pop are a lot alike in that they don't mess with the game. They both have great respect for how the game should be played and they don't go for fluff. They both like to keep things simple."
Simply put, Williams expects his Hornets to push the tempo and run with the ball on offense and to contest every possession on defense.
"With a guy like Chris and the talent and skills he has, he's the biggest part of our offense and makes things go," Williams said. "But we think we've added some other pieces."
Swingman Trevor Ariza was brought in from Houston to give Paul a partner to run with in transition and finish on the fastbreak.
"He's gotten better as a shooter every year in the league," Williams said. "He's one of the toughest wing guys to guard and defensively he'll help us overall and allow to do more switching."
The Hornets believe shooter Mario Belinelli is capable of becoming a more consistent weapon from the wings, providing another offensive force to draw defenses away from Paul. And Williams says the reports on veteran Peja Stojakovic have been nothing but positive.
The area where Williams expect to make the most difference is on defense, especially in the post, where center Emeka Okafor and power forward David West struggled badly last season.
"Remember, we're not looking back," Williams said. "I'm looking forward to having David play our style that will take advantage of his talent.
"In the case of Emeka, we've talked and I'm very optimistic about what he can bring to the team. The important thing for Emeka is to go through a training camp. Last year, when he first came to this team, he was injured [toe] and didn't have a camp. That put him behind all year. But he's healthy now. I've been watching a lot of film on Emeka and he's pretty good on defense. He's efficient. And I think he has the ability to contribute on offense. Is he a 20-point-a-night guy? No. But year in and year out, he's been good for double figures in points and rebounds. "
One way or another, everything comes back to Paul, who has gone from runner-up to Kobe Bryant in the 2008 MVP voting to a constant subject in the rumor mill.
"I don't want to talk about any of that anymore," Williams said. "We want to do some things that will augment his game and at the same time make his teammates more efficient. He's the one who can make us go. He wants us to win. That's all he's said to me. As far as I'm concerned, that's all that matters."
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