Shootaround: vs. Rockets

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Updates from Wednesday morning’s shootaround at the New Orleans Arena, as the Hornets prepare to try to post their third consecutive victory for the first time in 2012-13:

• New Orleans is 0-2 against Southwest Division counterpart Houston this season, but both of those games were in Texas. If the Hornets are to break through against the Rockets this time, transition defense will need to be a primary focus. The high-scoring Rockets have gotten too far many easy baskets in the previous two matchups and are coming off a 125-point eruption against the Lakers last night. Monty Williams: “The emphasis is always stopping the ball. The better we can guard the ball, it sets us up to stay with all of their shooters. But you’ve got to have good shot selection (on offense). That keeps them out of transition, and then you’re not scrambling on the defensive end. The premium is keeping that ball out of the paint.”

• Ryan Anderson on the Rockets: “They are a fast-paced, high-scoring team with a lot of talent. Last game we really struggled to guard them in the post and in the paint. They got a lot of easy baskets from (James) Harden driving to the paint, and (Omer) Asik had some easy looks down low. We need to eliminate those easy baskets, really close off that paint, and make them shoot some jump shots.”

• Williams on one change he’s seen in point guard Greivis Vasquez, which has helped Vasquez make significant improvement: “He’s learned how to take coaching, and he won’t allow it to bury him. Last year I would jump him in games, or get on him in practice, and it would affect him differently. Now he knows I’m going to jump him, but he just has to deal with it. That’s what the good players do – they want to be coached, they want to be pushed. They learn how to deal with it and they keep playing. Last year he wasn’t as equipped to do that. He got here right before the season started. Right away, I was on his butt for certain things, and he was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ Now I think he understands that I want what’s best for him, but I’m not going to write it on a Hallmark card or in a fairy tale. I’m going to give it to him in a way that’s going to help him as a player.”

• Although Eric Gordon has understandably received much of the credit for the Hornets’ recent winning ways, Jason Smith’s return has also helped considerably. Anderson on Smith: “His effort and energy are contagious. It’s something that we need him to bring every night. It’s something that he does very well. He makes great hustle plays. He’s a smart player, a guy you can really play around. He’ll get you open on screens. He’ll run the floor, get some key blocks, run the floor, rebound. Those are things we expect from Jason. He’s playing great as of late.”

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