By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com
Among all NBA rookies, Quincy Pondexter didnt crack the top 40 statistically during the regular season in any major category. His final averages 2.8 points, 1.3 rebounds, 11.1 minutes per game certainly didnt generate the kind of headlines or attention that those of fellow first-year players such as Blake Griffin, John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins did. There was one number, however, that pleased Pondexter more than any other during the 2010-11 campaign 46, the total victories for the New Orleans Hornets. A 46-36 record allowed the Hornets to comfortably reach the Western Conference playoffs, making a return to the postseason after a one-year hiatus.
Upon reporting to New Orleans in the fall for training camp, the University of Washington product quickly realized how important a playoff berth was to his veteran teammates. En route to helping secure a trip to the NBAs spring tournament, Pondexter was often counted on to provide a spark off the bench. The 6-foot-6 small forward also started six times, including debuting in the role Jan. 21 in Atlanta, during a 41-point thumping of the Hawks.
It was definitely the biggest goal, the California native said of qualifying for the postseason. Coming off a season where they didnt make the playoffs last year, there was a real big emphasis on making it. Especially with all of the adversity and guys getting injured (in 2010-11), its a big accomplishment and a testament to how hard we worked.
Speaking of work ethic, thats one area where Pondexter has consistently excelled, according to first-year head coach Monty Williams. Its an approach that helped the 22-year-old persevere throughout his initial NBA experience.
Hes been a guy whos up and down, Williams said. Hes a guy were really high on, but especially on a team with a lot of veterans in front of you, youre up and down. Your confidence is down at times. But hes a tough-minded kid and he works his butt off every day. Defensively, hes ahead of most guys at that position, because he can guard the ball.
Like many players whose biggest strength may be their defensive prowess, its difficult to evaluate Pondexter entirely in numbers, partly because there are far fewer stats that accurately gauge defense than offense. However, by being part of a successful, playoff-bound team in Year 1 of his career, he put himself in some elite company. Among the 30 men selected in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft, only 13 are on teams that reached the 2011 playoffs. Of that group, Pondexter ranked fourth in games started (6) and minutes played (733). Philadelphias Evan Turner and Indianas Paul George were the only playoff-bound first-rounders to surpass Pondexter in both statistics.
To have this opportunity has been a dream come true, Pondexter said of continuing to play into the postseason as an NBA rookie. Ive considered myself a winner pretty much all my life. I would hate to be on a team that didnt have an opportunity to play for a championship. Even though Im a rookie and still learning so many things, Id rather take this than be on a team thats not as good. You could be scoring as many points as you want, but its not about that. Its a team game and its about winning. Thats what Im all about.
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