Handful of trades, chemistry sparked improvement

Monday, May 9, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

From virtually the moment general manager Dell Demps sat down at his desk for the initial time last July, the first-time NBA general manager actively pursued trade opportunities. The approach came largely out of necessity. By the stage of the offseason when Demps was hired, the 2010 NBA Draft had already taken place and a vast majority of major NBA free agents were already signed.

Demps proceeded to pull the trigger on five notable trades over the next four months, moves that allowed New Orleans to add starters Trevor Ariza and Marco Belinelli, as well as reserves Jarrett Jack, Willie Green and Jason Smith. In hindsight, those transactions beefed up the Hornets’ starting five, while also giving them a deeper rotation that helped resolve some of the persistent problems the second unit had experienced in recent seasons.

“Almost everything we’ve done has worked out and has been pretty positive,” Demps said, when asked specifically if he regretted any trades during his 10-month tenure on the job. “I think when you look at any move you make, you wonder what if? But I’m not good at looking backward. I’m into moving forward. There really isn’t one thing or trade we made that you look back on and say we shouldn’t have done it.”

When an NBA team commits to a significant roster overhaul like the Hornets did last summer, there is often a legitimate concern that it will be difficult to get all of the new parts on the same page. That potential problem appeared to be quickly erased when the regular season began, though, with New Orleans starting 8-0. Team chemistry clearly was one area that helped New Orleans improve from 37-45 a year ago to a 46-36 mark and a Western Conference playoff berth.

“I’m happy with our group and our guys. It was fun watching a team that was put together in such a short time,” Demps said. “I thought we found our chemistry on the court. I thought guys understood where each other were supposed to be, and sometimes that takes years. I thought the guys were able to put it together quickly, and I was really impressed with how they became friends. It was good for me to walk downtown and see three guys sitting together, watching a ballgame (on TV) together. Or on the road, all sitting in a restaurant, with eight or nine guys having dinner watching games. I thought the guys really liked each other, and that really showed on the court at times.”