Melvin Ely Q&A

Sunday, January 27, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Blog-Hornets.com caught up with New Orleans reserve forward/center Melvin Ely on Friday at the New Orleans Arena. The 6-foot-10 Fresno State product discussed his decision to go without goggles for the rest of the season, his relationship with Kenyon Martin and his excitement to pick up an NBA championship ring in San Antonio - no matter how it's delivered to Ely.

Hornets.com caught up with New Orleans reserve forward/center Melvin Ely on Friday at the New Orleans Arena. The 6-foot-10 Fresno State product discussed his decision to go without goggles for the rest of the season, his relationship with Kenyon Martin and his excitement to pick up an NBA championship ring in San Antonio - no matter how it's delivered to Ely.

Hornets.com: You had worn goggles in every game since you returned from your fractured eye socket injury and were wearing them Wednesday, but you took them off in the middle of the Portland game. Someone said they thought you broke them when you threw them down on the court. What happened?
Ely: [grins] No – this is what happened. Every time you wear those, it starts getting little pockets of sweat in it. So when I went to flick it off, it slipped out of my hands. Everybody thought that I was mad, but it wasn’t that. I just lost the grip on it. [a smiling Hilton Armstrong interjects: “How are you going to lie to the public like that? Your fans want to know the truth!”]

Hornets.com: Do you think the goggles were a good look for you?
Ely: [smiles] Nah. It was more of a distraction than anything. Even though the goggles are really close to your face, you get blind spots where you can’t see. I felt a lot better without it and I’m not putting them back on again.

Hornets.com: That injury sounds extremely painful. On a scale of 1 to 10 – with 10 being the most pain you’ve ever been in during a basketball game – how much did that injury hurt when it happened?
Ely: That’s a 10. That was by far the worst injury I’ve ever had. When I woke up after it had happened, I was kind of dazed. Then I couldn’t remember how I got to my hotel room in Dallas (the next day). It was a little fuzzy for a while. There was a stabbing, constant pain. It didn’t calm down until about three days later.

Hornets.com: The Nuggets are coming here Monday. Did Kenyon Martin say anything to you about the play?
Ely: He came to me directly afterward and apologized. You know, we are actually pretty good friends. The day before that game, I actually called him to hang out. That play wasn’t anything that was done on purpose.

Hornets.com: Do you think he should have been suspended like he was?
Ely: I’ll let the higher-ups decide that. Hopefully if I was ever put in that position of hitting somebody, but not doing it on purpose, they would be lenient on me.

Hornets.com: Is this the most fun you’ve had in your NBA career, considering you are contributing to a team with such a good record?
Ely: Yes. I’ve been on a bunch of teams that have struggled. When I was with the Clippers, we had a bunch of talent, but no real direction. Losing is no fun. I’ve done a lot of it. I had two losing seasons with the Clippers, then two losing seasons in Charlotte. I was blessed to play with San Antonio last year and win a ring.
Now I am not just sitting back and watching (like with San Antonio). I feel like I am actually a big part of the team and having fun.

Hornets.com: I remember meeting you for the first time Sept. 13 when you signed here as a free agent. If I had told you that day that the Hornets would be 29-12 at the midway point of the season, what would you have thought?
Ely: For this team to do this well, with no big trades or add-ons, I think Coach Scott has done a great job of getting the best out of what he has. A lot of people are praising some of the other coaches who have good records, but a lot of those teams made big trades (like Boston). I don’t see how you don’t have Coach as either No. 1 or 2 on the list of top coaches this season. It’s been a joy to be coached by him and to play for this team.

Hornets.com: You mentioned during your introductory press conference that one of the things you liked about Byron Scott was his honesty. One of the first things Scott told you when he was recruiting you was that you could improve a lot as a rebounder. How do you feel you’re progressing in that area?
Ely: If I can actually play a solid stretch without getting hurt or something else happening, I think I can get there. Before I got hurt, I was feeling comfortable. I’m getting better as a rebounder each season. Against Portland, I had five in the first half, just off effort.
I think the better shape you’re in, the more disciplined you are as a player. Overall, your game gets better. That’s one thing Coach Scott gets out of you – he’s going to make sure you’re in shape, and do what you need to do to stay on the court. Anywhere my game has improved, I give him all of the credit. I appreciate the way he pushes his players and his honesty. When I wasn’t playing well, I (was benched) and he told me the reasons why, and I fixed it. It’s rare for a coach to be brutally honest like that, but once you fix it, he’ll put you back in.

Hornets.com: Speaking of Scott’s bluntness with his players, although you and Ryan Bowen were injured for much of that part of the season, what was your reaction to Scott’s heavy public criticism of the bench?
Ely: He didn’t point out anybody specifically, but he made sure that his displeasure was felt among the second unit. [laughs] I told everybody this: People just need to give our (reserves) a chance to play together. We had a stretch early in the season where you had a couple guys missing from the starting lineup (due to injuries), so there was a time where you didn’t really know (from game to game) who was playing together (among) the bench. That kind of hurt the second unit. But now that everyone’s back and we have that sense of comfort of knowing what everyone’s going to do, I think we’re going to play a lot better.

Hornets.com: What’s it going to be like for you to get that championship ring in San Antonio on Saturday?
Ely: It’s going to be unbelievable. To be a part of that team was a honor. I didn’t get to play much, but I experienced the whole thing. To be able to see that ring, it’s going to be a night to remember.

Hornets.com: And you’re still planning to keep it on 24 hours a day, right?
Ely: [smiles] At least for a month. I’m going to hold it and baby it. It probably won’t leave my hand for a month.

Hornets.com: Is there going to be a ceremony? [Note: Tim Duncan handed Ely his ring a few minutes before Saturday’s game in San Antonio] How are they presenting it to you?
Ely: I’m not sure about exactly how I get. I don’t care how I get it, as long as I get it. They could throw it to me if they want to – I’ll catch it! [laughs]
Hornets.com caught up with New Orleans reserve forward/center Melvin Ely on Friday at the New Orleans Arena. The 6-foot-10 Fresno State product discussed his decision to go without goggles for the rest of the season, his relationship with Kenyon Martin and his excitement to pick up an NBA championship ring in San Antonio - no matter how it's delivered to Ely.

Hornets.com: You had worn goggles in every game since you returned from your fractured eye socket injury and were wearing them Wednesday, but you took them off in the middle of the Portland game. Someone said they thought you broke them when you threw them down on the court. What happened?
Ely: [grins] No – this is what happened. Every time you wear those, it starts getting little pockets of sweat in it. So when I went to flick it off, it slipped out of my hands. Everybody thought that I was mad, but it wasn’t that. I just lost the grip on it. [a smiling Hilton Armstrong interjects: “How are you going to lie to the public like that? Your fans want to know the truth!”]

Hornets.com: Do you think the goggles were a good look for you?
Ely: [smiles] Nah. It was more of a distraction than anything. Even though the goggles are really close to your face, you get blind spots where you can’t see. I felt a lot better without it and I’m not putting them back on again.

Hornets.com: That injury sounds extremely painful. On a scale of 1 to 10 – with 10 being the most pain you’ve ever been in during a basketball game – how much did that injury hurt when it happened?
Ely: That’s a 10. That was by far the worst injury I’ve ever had. When I woke up after it had happened, I was kind of dazed. Then I couldn’t remember how I got to my hotel room in Dallas (the next day). It was a little fuzzy for a while. There was a stabbing, constant pain. It didn’t calm down until about three days later.

Hornets.com: The Nuggets are coming here Monday. Did Kenyon Martin say anything to you about the play?
Ely: He came to me directly afterward and apologized. You know, we are actually pretty good friends. The day before that game, I actually called him to hang out. That play wasn’t anything that was done on purpose.

Hornets.com: Do you think he should have been suspended like he was?
Ely: I’ll let the higher-ups decide that. Hopefully if I was ever put in that position of hitting somebody, but not doing it on purpose, they would be lenient on me.

Hornets.com: Is this the most fun you’ve had in your NBA career, considering you are contributing to a team with such a good record?
Ely: Yes. I’ve been on a bunch of teams that have struggled. When I was with the Clippers, we had a bunch of talent, but no real direction. Losing is no fun. I’ve done a lot of it. I had two losing seasons with the Clippers, then two losing seasons in Charlotte. I was blessed to play with San Antonio last year and win a ring.
Now I am not just sitting back and watching (like with San Antonio). I feel like I am actually a big part of the team and having fun.

Hornets.com: I remember meeting you for the first time Sept. 13 when you signed here as a free agent. If I had told you that day that the Hornets would be 29-12 at the midway point of the season, what would you have thought?
Ely: For this team to do this well, with no big trades or add-ons, I think Coach Scott has done a great job of getting the best out of what he has. A lot of people are praising some of the other coaches who have good records, but a lot of those teams made big trades (like Boston). I don’t see how you don’t have Coach as either No. 1 or 2 on the list of top coaches this season. It’s been a joy to be coached by him and to play for this team.

Hornets.com: You mentioned during your introductory press conference that one of the things you liked about Byron Scott was his honesty. One of the first things Scott told you when he was recruiting you was that you could improve a lot as a rebounder. How do you feel you’re progressing in that area?
Ely: If I can actually play a solid stretch without getting hurt or something else happening, I think I can get there. Before I got hurt, I was feeling comfortable. I’m getting better as a rebounder each season. Against Portland, I had five in the first half, just off effort.
I think the better shape you’re in, the more disciplined you are as a player. Overall, your game gets better. That’s one thing Coach Scott gets out of you – he’s going to make sure you’re in shape, and do what you need to do to stay on the court. Anywhere my game has improved, I give him all of the credit. I appreciate the way he pushes his players and his honesty. When I wasn’t playing well, I (was benched) and he told me the reasons why, and I fixed it. It’s rare for a coach to be brutally honest like that, but once you fix it, he’ll put you back in.

Hornets.com: Speaking of Scott’s bluntness with his players, although you and Ryan Bowen were injured for much of that part of the season, what was your reaction to Scott’s heavy public criticism of the bench?
Ely: He didn’t point out anybody specifically, but he made sure that his displeasure was felt among the second unit. [laughs] I told everybody this: People just need to give our (reserves) a chance to play together. We had a stretch early in the season where you had a couple guys missing from the starting lineup (due to injuries), so there was a time where you didn’t really know (from game to game) who was playing together (among) the bench. That kind of hurt the second unit. But now that everyone’s back and we have that sense of comfort of knowing what everyone’s going to do, I think we’re going to play a lot better.

Hornets.com: What’s it going to be like for you to get that championship ring in San Antonio on Saturday?
Ely: It’s going to be unbelievable. To be a part of that team was a honor. I didn’t get to play much, but I experienced the whole thing. To be able to see that ring, it’s going to be a night to remember.

Hornets.com: And you’re still planning to keep it on 24 hours a day, right?
Ely: [smiles] At least for a month. I’m going to hold it and baby it. It probably won’t leave my hand for a month.

Hornets.com: Is there going to be a ceremony? [Note: Tim Duncan handed Ely his ring a few minutes before Saturday’s game in San Antonio] How are they presenting it to you?
Ely: I’m not sure about exactly how I get. I don’t care how I get it, as long as I get it. They could throw it to me if they want to – I’ll catch it! [laughs]