Twitter Feedback: Monty hire, trades, draft workouts

Monday, June 14, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

This marks the first installment of “Twitter Feedback,” a new Hornets.com feature in which beat writer Jim Eichenhofer responds to team-related questions sent to his Twitter page (www.twitter.com/Jim_Eichenhofer) in much greater detail. Because let’s face it – sometimes 140 characters isn’t nearly enough.

From @Derik_Anderson: What’s your initial impression of the Monty Williams hire?
I agree with what many of the writers who cover the team have mentioned over the past week – that people who meet Williams in person will be impressed. He is very personable and seems to be able to relate very well to people from different backgrounds. Following his lengthy press conference in the New Orleans Arena, he spoke to the Hornets’ ticket sales staff and came off as someone who genuinely understands the importance of a few behind-the-scenes aspects of an NBA franchise. Later that evening, he was welcomed to New Orleans by several Hornets fans and spoke to them about how much he appreciated the support his teams in San Antonio and Portland received while he was an assistant coach. Williams seems confident in his abilities, but does not come across as cocky. In fact, he frequently poked fun at himself during interviews, describing himself at various times as a “knucklehead,” and “just a simple country boy” from Virginia.

I like his straightforward approach. He mentioned several times throughout the day that he believes in being as honest as possible with players. It’s something he thinks has helped the young players he’s worked with improve. The fact that Williams was an NBA role player – whose minutes sometimes fluctuated depending on the game and circumstances – might have given him a deeper understanding of how important it is to communicate with players. “My style is a bit old school,” he said. “I think you disrespect players when you don’t tell them the truth. I didn’t care for coaches who told me everything was OK when it really wasn’t. You don’t have to be disrespectful, but there are times when you have to take a guy aside and say, ‘That’s not going to help you win, and you’re not going to get better (doing that).’ ”

With all of that said, I don’t think there’s a way to “rate” a new coach until the regular season starts in October. Obviously, Williams understands that coaches are judged by wins and losses. He was very blunt about his perspective on his new responsibilities: “At worst, I’m going to get fired and criticized. We know that going into this job. My motivation also comes from seeing guys succeed, seeing guys get paid and being able to take care of their families, and seeing guys win. I have a vision of guys doing well already, and that’s a bit of a carrot to get to at this point.”

From @AndrewJuge: How much can you tell us about the team’s offseason plans? Should we expect some trades?
It’s impossible to know at this point how active the Hornets will be in the trade market. As I often say, the toughest part about predicting trade activity is that you don’t know what kinds of offers will come in from other NBA teams. One of the teams in the NBA Finals right now is the Lakers, who probably would not have won three consecutive Western Conference crown if not for a February 2008 trade that almost no one could believe at the time (Pau Gasol from Memphis). There were several contending teams, such as San Antonio, that complained loudly about that deal, saying that if they’d known Gasol was readily available, they would’ve been able to make a much more attractive offer to the Grizzlies than the Lakers did (Los Angeles dealt Marc Gasol, Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie and two future first-round picks). The point is that trades depend a lot on what other teams are willing to do.

Specific to the Hornets, they have a handful of players with one year remaining on their current contracts. Other teams who are interested in “expiring contracts” often only accept those in trades on the condition that they get to unload players with two or three years remaining on contracts. One real-life example of this was last offseason, when Minnesota acquired Antonio Daniels and his expiring contract from the Hornets in a trade, even though the Timberwolves made it obvious that Daniels was not part of their future plans. Minnesota was willing to deal Darius Songaila in the transaction, partly because Songaila had two years left on his deal at the time, instead of Daniels’ one year remaining. So the question I pose is: Does it make sense to trade expiring contracts but be forced to take on longer deals that will decrease your flexibility in 2011-12 and beyond? Or does it make more sense to ride it out and have an extremely large amount of flexibility when multiple contracts come off the books next summer? Also, what potential impact will a new collective bargaining agreement have on the NBA after the current CBA expires in summer 2011? As you can see, right now there are many more questions on this topic than answers.

From @snavetrebor: Is the list of players the Hornets will invite for draft workouts available to the public?
No, the Hornets do not publicize the names of invitees until the morning of each workout. That policy is in place mostly to protect players, who may decide – usually based on their agent’s advice – to back out of a workout at the last minute, for various reasons. There are also cases in which a player ends up missing a flight and therefore a last-minute replacement must be found. In many cases, the fill-in is a productive NCAA Division I player who lives in the New Orleans area and can get to a workout despite being notified at the last minute.

The process for scheduling workouts is actually much more complicated than I originally believed when I started writing for the Hornets in 2005-06. In some cases, an agent whose player is projected to be picked in the top 10, for example, will advise the player to only work out for NBA teams picking in the top 10. In other instances, agents try to avoid having their player work out against specific other prospects at the same position who are ranked lower. Think about it: if you’re projected to be the No. 10 pick in the NBA Draft, you may not have much to gain by working out against the projected No. 20 pick. If that hypothetical No. 20 pick significantly outplays the No. 10 head-to-head, the No. 10 could potentially see his status drop among NBA talent evaluators.

Furthermore, throw in the fact that agents and players try to arrange their flights in a way that makes logistical sense, and it becomes a puzzle-fitting scheduling game between teams and agents. If a player is scheduled to work out for Portland on a Monday, for example, it wouldn’t make sense to agree to a Tuesday workout in Orlando due to the 3,000-mile flight. However, if Sacramento or Golden State call to work out that player the next day, it becomes much more feasible.

James Anderson of Oklahoma State was here Saturday and said he had seven workouts scheduled in the next seven days. I can only imagine what Anderson’s flight schedule looks like and how much of a challenge it was for his agent to be able to book that many consecutive days of traveling, while trying to avoid an unnecessarily lengthy trip or two. Anderson also indicated that he was working out exclusively for teams picking in the 10-20 range, making it even more complex to coordinate his workout schedule.

From @calixboxing: The Used to Bees are the best! Do they do birthday parties?
If you’ve never attended a Hornets home game in New Orleans, the Used to Bees are the senior dance team that began performing in 2007-08. According to Honeybees manager/choreographer Ashley Deaton – who also oversees the Used to Bees – “they are available for appearances and are often requested to perform for festivals, charity events, parades, etc. Birthday parties are no exception. They love to perform and look forward to every opportunity to show off their moves.” To book the Used to Bees for an appearance, you can e-mail Deaton at ashley.deaton@hornets.com.

What You Didn’t Ask… But May Want to Know
Where will the official Hornets draft party be held this year?
The Hornets are actually hosting a pair of draft parties on Thursday, June 24, one on each shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The Northshore party will take place at La Carreta’s in Mandeville. The Southshore bash is at Acme Oyster House in Metairie on Veterans Boulevard. ESPN’s telecast of the 2010 NBA Draft will begin at 6 p.m. that night. New Orleans has the 11th pick of the first round, but dealt its second-round pick in last June’s trade with Miami that landed Marcus Thornton.



Have a Hornets-related question? Ask on Twitter


OK, so it took me roughly a year after the initial explosion of Twitter popularity in the NBA during the spring of 2009, but I finally broke down and launched my own account (www.twitter.com/Jim_Eichenhofer). During the previous year I had sporadically been “borrowing” the team’s official Twitter account (www.twitter.com/hornets) to relay breaking news, but in order to more efficiently disseminate information, it made sense for me to have my own page.

I have several ideas to try to capitalize on the interaction that Twitter enables NBA teams to have with basketball fans. The first I’d like to roll out aims to take advantage of the substantial access I have to various levels of the New Orleans Hornets organization. Over the next several months of the offseason, I’m encouraging fans to submit Hornets-related questions to my Twitter page. I will select the most interesting queries, take them to the person in the organization best qualified to answer (in some cases, that might actually be me!), then compile the Q&A’s into periodic articles that will appear here in the Big Easy Buzz blog.

A few things to keep in mind if you’d like to submit a question:
1) Though there are frequent exceptions, during the summer months, Hornets players generally are not in New Orleans, so – at least in the offseason – it’s much easier to get answers to questions from other segments of the organization (executives, broadcasters, mascots, community relations, the dance teams, marketing decision-makers, ticketing). When players report to NOLA for training camp in the fall, we will integrate them more significantly, but until then, there are plenty of topics to address.
2) Questions that are of obvious confidential nature cannot be answered. For example, it is not possible to respond to a question such as “Which player do the Hornets hope will be available when they pick during the NBA draft?” or “Which players are the Hornets attempting to trade for this summer?”
3) Be respectful. Yes, you may view the New Orleans Hornets as a “glamorous” NBA franchise with several well-known players and front-office executives you might frequently see on television. But they’re still actual PEOPLE. Please keep that in mind when you submit questions.

At the end of these Twitter Feedback articles, I’m planning to tack on a section called “What You Didn’t Ask... But May Want to Know” that will delve into some of the current issues that were not addressed. I will try to shed some light, for example, on hot topics being debated on popular Hornets message boards or other social networks that we’ll be monitoring, including the team’s official Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Hornets).
So get your questions ready and ask away. Don’t be shy.