NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 15, 2008 --
What was Hornets assistant coach and rookies head coach Darrell Walker’s plan for the morning shoot around in preparation to become the first rookie team since Jason Richardson
and co. in 2002 to defeat the sophomores?
Shoot a lot.
And shoot some more.
While the coach of the sophomores, Boston’s Tom Thibodeau, used up every one of the 60 minutes of practice time allotted to instruct his squad and put in an offense, Walker made sure his guys got shots up and practice was adjourned 18 minutes early.
The rookies started off with a full court three-man weave, then split up into two groups on either side of the court to compete against each other in spot shooting for five minutes at a time.
First, Al Horford, Luis Scola, Kevin Durant and Juan Carlos Navarro “won” with 70 makes in five minutes compared to the 69 makes by Jamario Moon, Sean Williams, Yi Jianlian, Jeff Green and Mike Conley.
I use quotation marks around won because the score was only decided after Moon made up the number 69 when the round was over and Williams one-upped his score by saying his group had 70.
A similar point shaving scandal occurred at the end of the next round. Walker repeatedly said that both groups should get at least 90 makes, so when Durant’s team was asked what they scored he replied, “90.” Of course, Conley in turn said his team made “91.”
After another shooting drill that involved running to half court and back to the three-point line for a catch and shoot and some foul shooting, Walker put in an inbounds play with his first five – Horford, Durant, Navarro, Scola and Green.
Here’s a few other things seen and heard at the rookie practice:
Moon attempted a two-handed 360-degree dunk with using two basketballs but assured me that he wouldn’t be using it in the slam dunk contest.
Yi’s jumper was surprisingly the third-most accurate after Durant’s and Navarro’s.
While everybody else wore game sneakers, Jeff Green was sporting low top Air Force 1s.
Coach Walker to Mike Conley: “I played with your father in college … he could dunk.”
Durant said the rookie he was most looking forward to playing with was Moon.
Conley joked that there could be a situation where him and Juan Carlos Navarro double team their Memphis teammate Rudy Gay or even throw an accidental alley-oop to him.
Al Horford to an international reporter: “You have to have good eye-hand coordination in ping pong, that might translate a little bit to my game.”
Scola says that Yao Ming is the player that surprised him the most since being in the league, “It’s crazy how a guy with his size, he’s 7-6, can go up and down the floor the way he does, can shoot, can move the way he does. It’s amazing.”
Sean Williams said he has avoided rookie hazing by his veteran teammates, but he does pick up Popeye’s Chicken for the team before road trips.
Hall of Famer Bob Petit is the rookie team’s assigned legend assistant coach.