Hornets.com 1-on-1: Brian Roberts

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Perhaps the most unexpected individual stat line from the NBA’s busy weekend slate of 27 games was New Orleans Hornets point guard Brian Roberts’ 16-point, eight-assist performance in a 107-99 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. In the Hornets’ prior four regular season games, Roberts totaled 11 points and four assists, though his playing time was limited to an aggregate of 29 minutes. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder logged 30 minutes against Charlotte on Friday, taking full advantage by going 7-for-8 from the field. Roberts sparked New Orleans’ bench to a 56-point total output.

Roberts took an unusual path to officially debuting in the NBA for the Hornets on Oct. 31 vs. the Spurs, playing four seasons overseas, including three in Germany and one in Israel. Although Roberts is technically an NBA rookie, the 26-year-old University of Dayton product has considerably more professional experience than his fellow first-year teammates, including winning three consecutive championships in the German league.

“He looked really poised,” Hornets forward Ryan Anderson described of Roberts. “He’s going to just continue to get better and better. He’s a really reliable guy. You can tell he has experience and has played at a high level. Everybody has to adjust to a new system (when they come to a new team), but he’s really finding his way. He has that little edge over most rookies.”

During the team’s extended break from game action prior to Wednesday’s Southwest Division matchup in Houston, Roberts joined Hornets.com to discuss the young season:

Hornets.com: Following your college career at Dayton you played four years internationally, but you mentioned at summer league that at age 26, you wanted to make a push to be in the NBA this year. Was the game against Charlotte maybe exactly what you hoped for when you pictured being here?
Roberts: Yes. If you what have told me I’d be here in November, in a regular season game, and have 16 (points) and eight (assists) in a big win, I would’ve definitely taken that. [smiles] I just want to show that I can be a valuable asset to the team and to the organization and just show what I can do.

Hornets.com: You shot the ball well in summer league, as well as in preseason, but you started slowly in the regular season (4-for-16) prior to Friday’s game. Do you feel like you’re finding your confidence now or realizing what you can do in the NBA?
Roberts: That is part of it, keeping confidence. But also getting back to what I do. Sometimes you get kind of caught up in trying to play perfectly, or trying to be somebody you’re not. I wanted to come into (Friday’s game) and just be myself and be aggressive.

Hornets.com: Watching your style of play, you seem like you’re always under control and not trying to do anything too recklessly. Is that something you’re realizing too, that even in regular season NBA games, you can still play the same way?
Roberts: Yes. I’m just keeping that aggressive mindset and also understanding that it’s important to make reads on the court and see different things. I never want to be too out of control. That’s one thing I try to maintain in my game, to be poised and make the right plays.

Hornets.com: What are some of the biggest differences between playing in Germany and the NBA, off the court?
Roberts: It’s a lot different. I was in small-town Germany the last three years. The travel to games is mostly on bus. An average trip to German-league games would be four and a half hours; the longest bus trip we had was around seven hours. But you get used to the bus. We had a cool bus – it didn’t have TVs or anything, but we did end up getting a wireless network on there. Travel here (in the NBA) is obviously first-class – you’re taking charter flights and staying in the best hotels.

Hornets.com: Wait, you took seven-hour bus trips in Germany? I didn’t realize Germany was that big geographically…
Roberts: On the bus it is. It seemed very big. [laughs]

Hornets.com: What about media coverage? Did you get interviewed a lot over there?
Roberts: It’s not very in-depth. The reporters mostly talk to the German players. They might interview Americans here and there, but it’s not very often or that big of a deal.

Hornets.com: How much German can you speak?
Roberts: I should know more, having been there for three years. But the last year I was there, I could understand a conversation a little bit. But for me speaking it, it was tough. Everyone there speaks English though, so it wasn’t that bad.

Hornets.com: Some NBA players who have competed in Israel’s pro league say that the experience changed their perspective about the world or their own lives. What was that experience like for you?
Roberts: It definitely changed my perspective of Israel. It’s nothing like what you see in the media, where you think there are bombs going off everywhere. I didn’t see any of that or feel uncomfortable at all. All of that goes on in a remote area, in the south of the country. Israel was great – they love Americans and were very friendly, very nice to me.

Hornets.com: Aside from you and Jason Smith, who went to Colorado State, every member of this Hornets team attended a college that’s in a BCS conference. How much different would you say your experience was as a high school prospect compared to most of your current teammates?
Roberts: [smiles] The coverage I had was pretty much nonexistent. Coming out of high school, my local Toledo (Ohio) TV channels would interview me once in a while, but it was nothing like the guys on this team got, or most players in the NBA. I wasn’t a highly-recruited guy coming out of high school. I just had to work my way up to this level. I didn’t get much recognition. I just kind of came out of the shadows and tried to make a name for myself.

Hornets.com: Anthony Davis tweeted that the Hornets may be the funniest team ever assembled. Why do you think he believes that?
Roberts: I think everyone here has a little comedic side to him. On this young team, we have guys who are pretty comical, whether it is statements they make or impressions of other people. It’s definitely a fun locker room to be in.

Hornets.com: Who are the best guys on the team at doing impressions?
Roberts: Hmm. Austin Rivers does a really good one of Eric Gordon.

Hornets.com: Have you set any individual goals for this season?
Roberts: Not really. I just want to improve and make the most of the minutes I get. Numbers-wise, I haven’t even thought about that, because I’m a new guy to this whole situation. I just want to help the team win games – that’s basically it. I want to get better, understand the NBA game and help the team win.

Hornets.com: It doesn’t seem like there has been much rookie “hazing” going on this year. Have the veterans been taking it easy on you guys?
Roberts: It’s not too bad. There are a few vets who have us doing things, but nothing extraordinary. There have been little tasks. My job is getting donuts every morning that we have (a practice or game). Or at least bring some baked goods that my wife made. She’s a great baker.

Hornets.com: Do the veterans treat you exactly like they treat the other rookies? Or do they give you a little bit more leeway and respect because you’re 26? It’s not like you’re a 19-year-old just coming out of college…
Roberts: Not too much, but I do feel like I get a little bit more respect, just because of my age and where I’ve come from. I’ve been a pro. I understand what it means to be a pro and to conduct yourself in a certain way. I don’t think I need (hazing) as much (as the other Hornets rookies do). [smiles]