Ten questions from Lakers.com on Hornets

Friday, April 15, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Although many fans in New Orleans were publicly rooting for the Hornets to avoid the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, one benefit of matching up against the two-time defending NBA champions is a substantial increase in exposure. The Hornets have not been on ABC national television yet in 2010-11, but Game 1 of the first round Sunday will be. Even during the regular season, when New Orleans hosts the Lakers, it always draws the largest contingent of media members of any opponent.

That's also one reason why when my Lakers.com counterpart Mike Trudell asked me to be a guest interviewee on Los Angeles' site today, I quickly accepted. The Lakers have the largest fan base in the NBA, with a Twitter following of 1.9 million, for example. Here is my 10-question Q&A with Lakers.com, an update on the Hornets and their 2010-11 season.

Williams: Nobody expected anything from Hornets

New Orleans first-year head coach Monty Williams speaks to the local media following every Hornets practice throughout the season, but as expected, there was a significantly larger group than normal Friday at the Alario Center. The team practiced for the first time since Wednesday's loss at Dallas, as it prepares for Sunday's Game 1 visit to the Lakers.

Williams talked to New Orleans reporters for a little over 10 minutes this afternoon, discussing an array of issues. The Hornets will practice again Saturday morning before heading out for their cross-country flight to Los Angeles. The team usually departs for flights in mid-afternoon for games played the following day, but they are expected to leave earlier than usual since Sunday’s game is a 2:30 p.m. Central tip-off (actually 12:30 Pacific time in Los Angeles).

Highlights from media availability Friday at the Alario Center:

On if there is even more pressure on Chris Paul to perform well vs. the Lakers:
“We’ve heard everything that everybody has said over the last few days. The last thing I want to do is put more pressure on any one guy. Chris has enough pressure. I’ve talked to the guys about playing free, but being disciplined. I think it will serve us well to not add more pressure to our plates than we already have. It’s tough enough to win one NBA game; now we’re playing the defending champions. Everybody has put us under the guillotine already, before we’ve even played a game. So why would I add more pressure to the mix?”

On if Hornets are using national skepticism as motivation or bulletin-board material in series:
“No. Because it’s been like that all season. Nobody’s expected anything from this team. That’s why when we win two or three games in a row, everyone’s surprised. We’re used to it. Nobody expected us to be here… I have big-time respect for the Lakers. But we’re going to go in there and try to win the game. Everybody else wants to count us out? Great. I’m just glad they’re not suited up for us.”

On why Hornets are not focused on three-game losing streak entering playoffs:
“(Because it’s) the playoffs. (People) talk about three straight losses, but no one brings up the games before that (three straight wins). That’s the negativity we try to stay away from. We made the playoffs, when nobody expected us to finish higher than 12th (in the Western Conference). Nobody wants to talk about that. To me, it’s just silly to dwell on (negatives).”

On what Hornets learned in four regular season games vs. Lakers:
“Kobe is Kobe, but Bynum and Gasol were shooting 65 percent and above against us. That is unacceptable. If you look at our defensive numbers, if you took the Lakers out of that, we’d have maybe a top-five defensive team. They’ve had their way with us on (our) defensive end. We’ve got to run more, speed the game up and give them some different looks. We have to do a lot to beat this team. It may take perfect quarters for us to win.”

On Hornets’ performances vs. Lakers in 2010-11:
“At times we played them close, and Kobe and Gasol just took over. What can you do about that? You live with it and move on. We didn’t do enough to win the (games). We did enough to hang in there. That’s what we can’t play for: hanging in there. We’ve had that mentality…. I wouldn’t say we’ve done enough to win. I’d say we’ve done enough to hang in there, and that’s just not good enough.”

On areas Hornets may have advantages vs. Lakers:
“We may be faster than them. Their bigs are lumbering bigs – they’re 7-foot-8, 300 pounds. I mean, those guys are huge. So we have to take advantage of our speed. We’ve got to get (defensive) stops though. That’s what we haven’t been able to do versus their team.”

On how Hornets’ matchup vs. Lakers isn’t only difficult one in Western Conference:
“Everybody wants to talk about our series, but do you think Dallas is excited to play Portland? And vice versa? All of these series are going to be tough. We may be the one that may be outmatched more than any other series, but we’ve been outmatched all year long.”