Share 1-on-1: ESPN Radio's Will Perdue
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

April 15, 2009 caught up with ESPN Radio analyst Will Perdue during his weekend visit to New Orleans, for the Hornets final regular season home game against Dallas. Perdue was a member of four NBA championship teams during his 13-year professional career, including three titles with the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls and one with the San Antonio Spurs. Perdue provided us with his extensive thoughts on the Western Conference playoff field: The Lakers are clearly the favorite in the Western Conference. Most analysts are also saying that teams 2 through 8 are relatively equal. In your opinion, who is the biggest threat to the Lakers in the West?
Perdue: Honestly, I dont know if anyone is necessarily really a threat. The team that can probably give them the best run for their money, based on the way theyre playing lately, is the Mavericks. If you consider matchups, the Mavericks look like they have the pieces, with Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry. They have the ability to keep up with the Lakers from a scoring standpoint, but do they have the prowess on the defensive end to be able to get stops?

As far as some of the other teams, Denver has always been inconsistent in that area and unable to get out of the first round; its going to be tough for San Antonio without Manu Ginobili; the Hornets have unfortunately been besieged by injuries. So basically you have the Lakers, and the next seven positions are a toss-up. How much of a difference do you believe Chauncey Billups will make in the Nuggets efforts to get out of the first round for the first time this decade?
Perdue: I dont know. I cant necessarily say Im a believer (in the Nuggets). I know he makes a huge difference in the makeup of that team, because the day they made that trade, there was no doubt who their leader was. He walked in and became the leader vocally, as well as based on how he plays on the court. The thing about Denver is, since hes been there, theyve made a commitment to defense and done a good job on that end. But I still think, in the back of their minds, their mindset is that they think they can outscore you. As the Lakers and Spurs have proven time and time again, once you get to a seven-game playoff series, thats just not how you can be successful. Despite Tracy McGrady being out for the season, is this the best chance the Rockets have had during the Yao Ming era to win a playoff series?
Perdue: I think so, because of the defensive presence that Ron Artest gives them. Everyone always knew about Shane Battiers defense, but that was only one guy. Now theyve got two perimeter defenders who are better than average. I think the question for them is the mentality of Yao Ming. Does Yao go in there with the mentality that he has to dominate and wants to dominate? Or does he say, Ive (only) got to be a role player?

I think he has to change his approach to the game once they get into the playoffs. If they can establish that inside presence and he can continue to score, it will open things up for guys on the perimeter. Then, if they can play the defense theyre capable of, I think they can get to the next round. In 2008, many NBA analysts talked about how the Hornets did not have much playoff experience entering the postseason. The West team that seems to fit that description most closely in 2009 is Portland. How much might their youth and inexperience affect them?
Perdue: I think it could affect them, but the big thing they have is a go-to guy in Brandon Roy. I go back to my experience playing with the Bulls. We used the triangle offense and yes, it was a very effective offense but like any offense, when you get below 5 or 6 seconds left on the shot clock, its time to go one-on-one. You have to have players who can create their own shot. Brandon Roy can do that, as well as Rudy Fernandez, though hes still struggling with his confidence a little bit.

I think their inexperience probably wont affect them much in the first round, but sometimes once you advance and start to understand the enormity of what youre trying to accomplish, it can have an impact on younger teams. Youre a former Spurs player who won a ring with them in 1999. How far can San Antonio go in the playoffs without Manu Ginobili?
Perdue: Until I know the health of Tim Duncan, I really dont know. There was a time during one of their recent games where Duncan wanted to go back in the game, and (Gregg Popovich) said, No. I dont need a hero. I need a healthy player.

That led me to think that even though Tim says hes healthy and answers all of the questions in interviews that way, he may not be (100 percent). This is the first time in his career that Tim has worn two knee sleeves. When I hear Pop make those comments, it makes me think that Tim is more injured than hes letting on. I dont know what his effectiveness will be. Right now, it just doesnt look good for him. After talking with other teams around the league about the Hornets, are they still being viewed as an opponent that is dangerous in the playoffs, despite a recent slump?
Perdue: I think whenever you have a player of Chris Pauls caliber, and a David West they have the ability to put a team on their backs on any given night. The Hornets have that luxury. But after winning championships in Chicago and San Antonio, I believe in the three-man theory. In Chicago, it was Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant for us. In San Antonio, it was David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Sean Elliott when I was there.

Obviously the third guy for this team is Peja Stojakovic, but he hasnt been healthy. He missed 15 games recently. Hes really got to step up for them, because they need that third option. They have two, which is great, but a perfect example (of not having a third scorer) was the (April 10) game against Dallas when Chris Paul had 42 points and David West had 20, but the Hornets still lost by eight. Theyve got to develop that third option that everyone knows they have. Now its a matter of are they going to be able to implement that into their system? Is Peja going to be as effective as he has been in the past? Utah has been described by plenty of observers, especially Charles Barkley, as the second-best team in the West. But the Jazz havent played like it, especially of late. Whats your explanation for Utahs struggles?
Perdue: I wish I had one. Youve got Deron Williams and youve got Carlos Boozer back from injury. The one guy who has surprised me is Andrei Kirilenko. It seems like two years ago, that guy was a walking quadruple-double. He could score, rebound, block shots and pass. It would be a little harsh to say that hes disappeared, but hes really not the same player. I dont know what happened. As his play and production have declined, it seems like Utah has been less effective.

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