Individual improvements critical to Hornets’ success

Wednesday, June 3, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Over the past half-decade, player development was a key component of the Hornets’ rise from an 18-win club in 2004-05 to a division-title winner just three years later. In fact, from 2003-04 through 2007-08, New Orleans had at least one player finish in the top 10 of the NBA’s Most Improved Player vote five consecutive years.

That streak came to an end in 2008-09, with only Rasual Butler displaying significant progress among New Orleans’ role players (incidentally, Butler finished tied for 25th place in the Most Improved balloting, with one third-place vote). If the Hornets are to return to their previous status as a divisional championship contender, they will need some of their young complementary pieces to develop at a more rapid rate next season.

“We actually had some players who regressed this year,” Hornets president Hugh Weber said. “They started the year as better players than they finished. You can’t let that happen.

“Our players need to get better, and not just our young players, but also the players we acquire in free agency. We need to make that a focus for our team. That’s part of who we are in our culture, across our organization. We have to focus on getting better. We will put more resources and more time and effort into that.”