Plenty of interesting sound bites today from Hornets coach Byron Scott, who addressed the media following this afternoon’s practice at the Alario Center. You can read the entire transcript below, but the most noteworthy point from Scott’s remarks may be that it’s possible Hilton Armstrong could be supplanted in the backup center role.
Scott mentions the option of going to Melvin Ely or Chris Andersen vs. the Spurs. Neither played a minute in the Dallas series; Andersen was inactive for all five games. Given that Spurs star Tim Duncan is the low-post scorer that the Mavericks simply do not have, the odds that we’ll see Ely or Andersen some in this series figured to increase anyway. The Hornets may need the extra fouls against a Spurs team that gets into the paint more frequently than the jump-shooting Mavs.
Scott also comments on how much Jannero Pargo’s performance factored into the trade with Houston and dealing Bobby Jackson; the fan support the Hornets have been receiving in Year 1 of the full-time return to New Orleans; and the firing of Avery Johnson.
Q: What will be the focus of the team’s defensive efforts against Tony Parker?
Scott: One thing about Tony Parker is he’s made a living in his career getting to the basket. He’s the best point guard in the league as far as scoring points in the paint. Our main focus is to try to keep him out of there as much as possible. That’s why we put so much emphasis on transition defense, because once he gets the ball, he’s a one-man fast break. We have to do a good job of making sure he shoots contested jump shots all night long.
Q: How important is it for Tyson Chandler to stay out of foul trouble, considering he’s going to be spending parts of games defending Tim Duncan?
Scott: It’s big. It’s a key to us being successful in this series. It’s crucial that he stays out of foul trouble and crucial that we understand what we’re doing on the defensive end. And when Tyson does pick up one or two fouls on Tim, we have to understand that we have to bring double-teams more quickly.
Q: What was your impression of how Hilton Armstrong played in the Dallas series? What would you like to see out of him against San Antonio?
Scott: He was OK. I would have liked him to play a lot better, and I expected him to play a lot better. I wasn’t particularly pleased with how we played in the whole series. I thought Brandon Bass had his way with him, so that’s an area of concern, obviously. I have to talk to him and Melvin (Ely) and (Chris Andersen) and see which of those guys off the bench is going to give me the best opportunity to win games.
Q: What has Jannero Pargo meant to your team? When you made the trade of Bobby Jackson to Houston, was that a vote of confidence for Pargo?
Scott: Definitely. It was showing that we had a lot of confidence in what Jannero was capable of doing. We knew then that his minutes were going to go up. We knew then that he was going to be able to do the job and play a significant role. Normally if JP plays more minutes, he’s more productive. We felt confident he could do that, and obviously he hasn’t let us down.
Q: Coming back to New Orleans was a big step for the team. There probably were those on the team who were wondering how you were going to do in a smaller market after Katrina. What have the fans shown you this year, and how excited are you that the season ticket sales are going like gangbusters?
Scott: Obviously the fans have been fantastic. What they have shown all of us is that they can support this team. That’s the bottom line. We’ve put a pretty good product out on the floor, and I think they’ve recognized that and appreciated it. They’ve been cheering their heads off. Since January, the fans have been coming more and more to the games. After the All-Star break, the enthusiasm and the sellouts have been fantastic.
Q: Do you see any on-court similarities between the way your team plays and the way the Spurs play?
Scott: Well, you try to model yourself after teams and organizations that have been successful in this league. They obviously are probably the team that everybody in the NBA looks at as one of the best in the business. We just tried to make sure that we could put a team together that could compete with the likes of a San Antonio. This year, going into the season, one of our main goals was to feel like we could compete with the big three (of the Western Conference), San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas. Last year we were 0-11 against them. We thought it would be vital to have a pretty good record against them in order for us to make the playoffs (in 2007-08). I think we were 8-4 against those teams, so we had a pretty good record.
Q: Are you going to have to pay special attention to Manu Ginobili? He’s a big threat off the bench.
Scott: Yes. Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker – all three are fantastic basketball players. They’ve got great role players in Bruce Bowen and Michael Finley. Robert Horry, even though he’s probably close to my age, is still able to make shots, especially when it counts. We know the big three they have are proven, experienced and have been in every big situation that you can possibly be in. They understand what it takes to win a championship. We have to do a good job of taking care of one of those guys. We can’t let all three of them have a big series. If they do, then we have no chance of winning.
Q: The last time you played the Spurs was still not long after San Antonio had made the Kurt Thomas trade. What has he brought to them?
Scott: Toughness, a defensive presence and a guy who does all the little things. Kurt is a perfect fit for that team: He can make the outside shot, he’s a heck of a defender in the post and he’s a physical player. He brings a different element to the team. He’s like some of the guys they’ve had in the past, such as (Fabricio) Oberto, but (Thomas is) just a little more polished.
Q: Were you surprised at what happened to Avery Johnson after all the games he won in Dallas?
Scott: I’m not surprised by anything anymore with coaches getting fired. Avery had an unbelievable run in Dallas. Two years ago he was Coach of the Year and in the NBA Finals. I’m not surprised, but I’m a little disappointed, because I thought he deserved – with all he’s done the last couple years – another year at least, to give him a chance to adjust to the changes they made (with their roster). I feel for Avery, because he’s a terrific coach and obviously a terrific person.
Q: Does that give you pause, being the Coach of the Year this year, that you could be up one day and down the next?
Scott: No, not really. I’ve already been through it, leading a team to the Finals two straight years and then being canned. Like I said, nothing surprises me.