Byron Scott Tuesday post-practice Q&A

Tuesday, May 6, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

With his team leading San Antonio 2-0 in the series, New Orleans coach Byron Scott fielded an assortment of questions from reporters after practice Tuesday at the New Orleans Arena. Highlights from Scott’s 10-minute discussion with the media:

Q: Are you surprised by what has happened in the first two games, with how you’ve dominated the Spurs?
Scott: A little bit. But you’ve got to give our guys a lot of credit. They’ve been very focused on preparing for San Antonio. Our guys have been so active on the defensive end, and the mistakes we’ve made have been kept to a minimum. When you beat the defending champions by 18 and 19 points, it shows how good you are as a basketball team. But it also shows people around the league that what we’ve done this year hasn’t been a fluke. We are for real, and we’ve got a very good basketball team.

Q: Do you feel like you match up well against the Spurs after playing them six times?
Scott: I don’t know. I think the fact that we have some pretty athletic bigs, to match up with Tim Duncan, and we have athletic perimeter guys… we have been very intelligent as far as what we are trying to do. We’ve stated all along that we don’t have the best individual defenders in the league, but as a team, we’re pretty darn good. We’ve been doing a heck of a job of crowding spaces (on offensive players) and taking away certain things from certain guys. We have to give our guys credit for studying the tapes and knowing what the tendencies are on (Spurs) individuals.

Q: Was Game 2 the best your team has rotated defensively? It seemed like the Spurs didn’t get any open shots in the second half.
Scott: Well, they had a few (open shots). We saw on tape that they had a few too many. Our biggest thing is we want to contest every shot. That’s our gameplan. But the open shots that they had in Game 1 and last night, they just didn’t make them. If we contest, we make those shots a lot tougher.

Q: Why has your team become so hard to stop right now?
Scott: We’ve got a great point guard who makes great decisions. We surrounded him with individuals who can knock down shots. You’ve got to honor those guys (defensively). We’ve got an athletic big who can probably outrun any center in this league. And we’ve got a power forward who can play inside or outside. We’ve given a young point guard the tools he needs to be successful.

Q: Have you made better adjustments than the Spurs in the first two games?
Scott: I don’t think so. I just think our guys are executing the gameplan better. I think Tim Duncan said it best, that our players are just swarming around, rotating extremely well, and we’re rebounding well. On the other end, they’re not leaving Peja (Stojakovic) or Morris Peterson (open), so it gives (Chris Paul) or David (West) ample opportunities to get the ball in the paint.

Q: What is your assessment of how your team has played in the second half, where you’ve outscored the Spurs 56-33 and 60-41? Is it because you’re more athletic and they can’t get you into a halfcourt game?
Scott: We know we can’t beat them playing their style. But if we play our style, we think we have a great chance. We know we can’t dump it down inside, like they do with Tim Duncan. We have to get up and down the floor, create turnovers. We’ve come out extremely well in the third quarter. Guys have come out looking to attack.

Q: Do you feel like your team is earning more of a reputation for being a good defensive club?
Scott: Well, I think that’s just because everybody looks at us as a running team. We said from Day 1 one of our main goals was to be one of the top five defensive teams in the league. We were able to accomplish that. Each month we gotten a little bit better on the defensive end. In the playoffs, you get to hone in more on what other teams are trying to do. I think everybody believes that we’re one of the best defensive teams that is left in the playoffs.

Q: Before the playoffs you said you thought Peja Stojakovic would be the X-factor for your team. Do you feel that’s been the case?
Scott: I think he’s been fantastic. He’s a guy where, we knew if we had him as our third scorer, we’d be tough to guard. With David, CP and him, he’s been everything we thought he would be in the playoffs.

Q: Has Bonzi Wells been what you expected when you brought him here at the trade deadline?
Scott: He’s been more. He’s fit in extremely well with our guys. They all get along very well. He brings a toughness that we knew he would bring. Obviously he was a guy we thought could score for us in the postseason. He’s been a great teammate for these guys and a guy with playoff experience. He’s been in this situation a bunch of times and understands what it’s all about.

Q: You mentioned that nine of 10 writers you saw picked the Spurs to win this series. As an outsider, who would you have picked?
Scott: It depends. If I had a chance to be here every day with this team, I would have picked the Hornets. If I was an outsider looking in like you guys, I probably would’ve picked San Antonio. They’re the defending champions, they’ve got all the experience.
(But) I’m not blaming the writers. I’m glad they did that. [grins] Because it’s bulletin-board material for us. We have a young team that likes the underdog role and being doubted. It kind of serves us in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish.

Q: Do you think that view of your team changes after these two games?
Scott: No, I don’t think so. Because there are still people who think we’re going to lose this series. I think what we’ve done is get everyone’s attention.

Q: The Lakers are holding a news conference today, presumably to announce that Kobe Bryant has won the MVP award. Can you address the MVP race?
Scott: It’s been a great battle. Chris has done himself proud, and done this organization proud. Like Chris said the other night, just to be mentioned in that breath as an MVP candidate, is an honor. He turned 23 today, so hopefully he has a lot more years left in this league to achieve that goal. But I’m happy for Kobe – I’m a big Kobe Bryant fan. I thought if Chris didn’t get it, because of where this team has come from, that it should’ve been co-MVPs. But you can’t be real disappointed in the selection.

Chris Paul Blog Day

To honor Chris Paul’s 23rd birthday, the Hornets fan website At the Hive developed the idea to host a “Chris Paul Blog Day,” and asked numerous sites to blog about the 6-foot point guard today. We would like to thank At the Hive for organizing this event and inviting us to participate. Here is’s contribution to CP Blog Day:

By now, everyone is well-versed on the MVP-caliber season Chris Paul is having in 2007-08. Everyone’s probably pretty familiar with the statistics, including the fact that he became the first player in over a decade to average 20 points and 10 assists. But numbers tell only a small portion of the story of what the third-year point guard has meant to the New Orleans Hornets in the best season in franchise history.
Here are a few things you might not realize about CP3:

He’s the ideal teammate off the court.
When the Hornets go on road trips, Paul enjoys organizing group outings to the local bowling alley or theater. Everyone on the roster is invited, which often results in large gatherings of players, instead of everyone going their separate way or hanging out on their own in their hotel rooms.
When the Hornets are in New Orleans for homestands, he often invites teammates to his house for dinner, or to play video games.

Last fall, Paul was the ringleader when a significant number of players arrived in New Orleans weeks before they were required to report. The team bonding that took place then and the commitment shown to this season helped set the tone for a 2007-08 in which the Hornets have exceeded all national expectations.

He’s the ideal teammate on the court.
Paul is so consistent in this category that I can actually give you at least two examples from last night’s game that demonstrate what I mean. There was one play in the second quarter where Julian Wright got a little overzealous and threw an errant pass toward Paul that went out of bounds on the right sideline in the backcourt. Paul had a look of frustration on his face as he made a futile attempt to chase Wright’s pass, but as soon as he turned back toward Wright, his expression changed. He didn’t want the rookie to think, “Uh oh. I just screwed up and now the star of the team is furious with me.”

Along the same lines, during one timeout Tuesday you could see Paul standing near the scorer’s table, pumping up Melvin Ely, who hadn’t played in weeks prior to this series. Paul basically was telling Ely, “We believe in you and know you can help us.” Who knows what impact that made, but Ely did a nice job on both ends against Tim Duncan.

He “gets it.”
The team’s basketball operations staff raves about the way Paul treats people he encounters on road trips, such as arena workers in other cities. They say that there has been a noticeable change in the way road crowds react to Paul’s introduction in the starting lineup this season. He is becoming a well-liked player, not just for his highlight-reel drives and passes, but also because the word is traveling around the league about how he conducts himself away from the game.

Throughout his incredible third year in the NBA, Paul has had people telling him every day how great he is – whether it’s reporters, fans, whomever – but he’s mastered the art of deflecting that praise to his teammates. After Game 2 vs. San Antonio, when asked about how he held Tony Parker to 11 points, Paul immediately began discussing how Parker’s subpar game was due to the help defense provided by Morris Peterson, Bonzi Wells and Jannero Pargo. When fans started chanting “MVP!” for him in late January, Paul was frequently asked for his opinion of those cheers. He usually responded by smiling and saying that it was too early for fans to proclaim teammate David West the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

He’s made this one of the best places to work in the NBA.
I figured I’d close my Chris Paul Blog Day entry with a personal story. In summer 2003, I applied for the website writer job with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It would have been perfect timing to go there, because the Cavs had just drafted local high school hoops hero LeBron James a couple weeks earlier. Since I’m from western New York, it would have been perfect for me, because I could’ve moved to Cleveland and only been a few hours’ drive from family and relatives. picked Joe Gabriele instead (a very good hire, by the way).

Two years later, in the fall of 2005, I saw online that the same position was open with the Hornets. It meant moving halfway across the country to Oklahoma City, a place I knew very little about, other than that it had agreed to host the Hornets after Hurricane Katrina. The Hornets were coming off an 18-64 season, facing an uncertain future and in full-scale rebuilding mode. In other words, the job wasn’t nearly as good on paper as the one I’d applied for in Cleveland.

Look at things now. The Hornets were dreadful in that 18-win season, but they’re now poised to reach the conference finals for the first time in their 20-year history. Sure, LeBron led the Cavs to an NBA Finals appearance in 2007, but they’re going to have to go through Boston to get out of Round 2 this spring. And no offense to Cleveland, but I now live in one of the most exciting and warmest cities in America. After living in New York, I’m thrilled to report that I don’t even know where my ice scraper is at the moment.
There are so many reasons why the Hornets franchise is in infinitely better shape today than it was in 2005, when disaster struck the Gulf South region. But near the top of the list has to be the 6-foot point guard who has rapidly ascended to NBA superstardom.