The Hornets definitely did not look like a nervous group at Sunday’s practice, about 36 hours before what players are calling the biggest game of their NBA careers. At one point late in the practice, several Hornets were cheering on Byron Scott, as the fourth-year head coach twice attempted to dunk the ball. Scott didn’t quite accomplish what would qualify as a legitimate “slam,” but he was able to get the ball to creep in over the rim (I haven’t seen it yet myself, but team staff says on a good day the 47-year-old Scott can still dunk).
Later, Jannero Pargo had the entire team erupting in laughter, when his attempt at a 180 slam went haywire. When the 6-foot-1 reserve guard caught a self-pass off the floor and spun toward the basket, he couldn’t get enough elevation to dunk, causing him to be stonewalled by the front of the rim. His momentum carried him backward, so as he tried to catch his balance, the result was a cartoonish stumble onto the floor. Several Hornets were so amused by Pargo’s spill – he was uninjured – that they ran across the New Orleans Arena hardwood while laughing uncontrollably.
After dusting himself off and grinning about his pratfall, Pargo engaged rookie Julian Wright in a one-on-one halfcourt game. Nothing unusual about that – except both players were only allowed to shoot left-handed. Not sure who ended up winning, but the vet was leading the rook 5-2 at last report.
No, the Hornets aren’t treating Game 7 (Monday, 7:30 p.m. on TNT) like it’s an apocalyptic moment, even though it’s accurate to say this is the most important game in the team’s 20-year history.
Scott checked in with the media for about 10 minutes at the end of Sunday’s entertaining practice. Here are a few highlights:
Q: David West sat out much of Saturday’s practice. How did he look today?
Scott: David looked good. We tried to monitor him. He wanted to do a little bit more than he did today, but we just didn’t feel it was worth it. He did everything (every other Hornets player did) in practice, but we just shut him down with about 10 or 15 minutes left.
Q: Should the players do anything differently to prepare for Game 7?
Scott: Guys are very superstitious. They have their routines that they do on gamedays. We might have some guys who normally take naps who can’t do that tomorrow because they can’t sleep with this being a Game 7. I don’t think anyone should do anything different. Do what you normally do.
Q: Are the players anxious after having such a long break between Game 6 and Game 7?
Scott: I think most of them wanted to play today. It was good that we had another day of rest for DWest, Tyson and all of our guys. We feel the rest will benefit us and give us fresh legs. We know (the Spurs) will have fresh legs too, but we hope that with the crowd here and how it’s going to be here, it will give us that much more energy.
Q: Do you expect to give your starters extended minutes again, considering this is a win-or-go-home situation?
Scott: Well, I was joking with them earlier, that they should get some work in today, but they’re going to play 48 minutes. [grins] But no, we know that’s not possible. We can’t play our starters 48 minutes at the level we want to play. We hope that the guys coming off the bench can give us something. This is the perfect time to step up, it’s Game 7. I’m looking for at least one or two guys to come in and give us something.
Q: What do you expect the atmosphere will be like in the New Orleans Arena tomorrow night?
Scott: I’m waiting to see how the fans are going to be, because in the last game they were just unbelievable. The home crowd energizes us, especially a young team like we have. Sometimes when you’re a little tired, the crowd can carry you.