Hornets.com 1-on-1: Radio analyst John DeShazier
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
After a decorated 20-year career as a sports columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper, John DeShazier joined the New Orleans Hornets in 2012-13 as the club’s new radio analyst. He’s calling all 82 regular season games on the Hornets Radio Network, including the team’s just-completed four-game road trip. DeShazier wraps up the past week for Hornets.com and looks ahead to the next 10 days:
Hornets.com: Let’s obviously start with a game many Hornets fans will be talking about at least for a couple days, the 105-98 upset over the Clippers on Monday. It was undoubtedly the best win so far for New Orleans this season. One of the better NBA games you’ve seen in person?
DeShazier: No doubt. It was a pleasant surprise to end the road trip, and showed what the Hornets are capable of even without Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon. I think we saw a bit of the incremental growth that the players are exhibiting, in that they bounced back from a 102-84 loss the night before (in Denver) to post an upset win, on the road, against a team that is considered a legitimate NBA Finals contender. The general feeling was that the Hornets might play well against the Clippers, simply because the players and staff were so upset with themselves after the Nuggets loss. That game was one that they didn’t believe was representative of the way they’ve played and how they’ve worked so far. So, regardless of result, it would have been a surprise if the players hadn’t competed better against the Clippers. I think that, as much as anything, is what Coach Monty Williams is after – seeing his team compete and grow throughout that process. The win had to have been a confidence boost for a team that needed it, and it was exciting to watch from the standpoint that the Hornets never flinched and maintained their poise in an environment that got pretty hostile.
Hornets.com: What were some of the terms you used on the air to describe the shooting performances of Ryan Anderson on the road trip? I’m not sure if the stats will do justice to how confident he looks in his shot right now, but he finished a ridiculous 21-for-33 on the trip from three-point range.
DeShazier: Mostly, I think the description has been that he’s a pure shooter with a hair trigger. It has been fun to watch him squeeze off jumpers – regardless of the size of the defender – before the defender can react. Also, he has shown the ability to take his man off the dribble when he has been crowded at the 3-point line and to make step-back, midrange jumpers. Add that to his ability to rebound and I have to admit that the Hornets got from Orlando a much, much better all-around player than I thought they’d gotten. I mean, we all knew he could shoot the basketball. But I didn’t realize how hard he competed for rebounds, how hard he’d worked to develop his midrange and post games and the fact that he can shoot contested 3s about as accurately as he shoots uncontested ones. It’ll be fun to see what happens when the Hornets are at full strength later this season.
Hornets.com: Greivis Vasquez has been known much more for his passing than his scoring in his two seasons with the Hornets, but he twice tallied a career-best 25 points on the road trip. What’s been behind his recent surge in points (he continues to pile up assists)?
DeShazier: I don’t think I’m out of bounds in saying that Vasquez’s confidence is at a professional high. First, he has worked hard on his offensive game and has developed a nice teardrop floater in the lane, and his jump shot is improved. Second, it has to help that he knows he’s the starting point guard and will be allowed to work through his mistakes. So if he starts out shooting 2-for-6 from the field in the first half, he knows there will be opportunities to remain aggressive within the offense in the second half. And let’s not forget that he’s a big point guard (6-feet-6) so he’s able to shoot over the top of most defenders when he’s in the lane. He can drive, bump off a smaller defender and get a clear look. Mostly, though, it seems his confidence is at an all-time high because he’s having success and playing starter minutes.
Hornets.com: The recent drop-off in defensive performance by the Hornets is a marked contrast to the way they’ve played in the previous two years under Monty Williams. What do the players and coaches believe are the reasons behind it and what must improve to get back to holding opponents under 100 points on a regular basis?
DeShazier: A large part has been that the team is young and players are unfamiliar with one another. There are instances of “over” helping on defense – that is, players trying to cover an area that’s already covered by a teammate or two – and that has left open opposing shooters. And there have been slow defensive rotations because even though players know and have been coached where to go and what to cover, you’ll see indecision (I assume) because the comfort totally isn’t there yet. And at this level, that half-second of indecision is the difference between a contested shot and an open look. NBA teams are extremely good in terms of finding their hot hand and feeding it, much like the Hornets are able to find Anderson when he gets rolling and the defense isn’t accounting for him as well as it would like to. The more Hornets players play together, and get repetitions in the defense and gain trust in their teammates, the better the defense will look.
Hornets.com: What are you looking forward to most about the imminent five-game homestand, which includes visits from Utah, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, the Lakers and Memphis?
DeShazier: I want to see the team compete, consistently. What we shouldn’t want to see is players rise to the occasion against Oklahoma City, but then to take Milwaukee lightly. A key element of the growth process is developing consistently and for the most part, the Hornets have exhibited that. At this stage of the team’s development, the result probably isn’t as important as the process. I know fans might not want to read that, but it’s important to do things the right way and let the results take care of themselves. And many times, the team will get the result it wants if it does things the right way. We’ve seen that when the Hornets compete (and take care of the basketball), they usually put themselves in position to win. If they put themselves in that position often enough, they’ll learn to close the deal because they’ll apply the lessons they’ve learned from being in tight games. Hopefully, fans will get out to New Orleans Arena and watch these guys grow and spur them on during the home stand. Having seen the Pacers, Suns and Nuggets ride the emotion from their crowds, it’ll be interesting to see if the Hornets can do the same, against some stiff competition