Ariza was catalyst for defensive improvement

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

When Monty Williams took over as head coach of the Hornets last June, one of his first orders of business was to improve the team’s defensive performance. During the previous 2009-10 season, shortcomings on that end of the floor contributed greatly to New Orleans missing the playoffs with a 37-45 record. While a new coach can upgrade a defense through X’s and O’s an emphasizing certain principles, he also needs capable personnel. In the NBA, if you can’t stop opposing scorers one-on-one, it doesn’t matter what kind of defense you play – you’re probably going to get obliterated.

Enter Trevor Ariza. There’s little doubt that the Hornets could’ve made the leap from 21st to fifth in points allowed per game. New Orleans was an inconsistent offensive team throughout 2010-11, but the Hornets’ ability to keep opponents under 100 points kept them competitive all season.

Here are a few additional quotes on the seven-year NBA veteran, who was NOLA’s third-leading scorer during the postseason, averaging 15.5 points in six games against the two-time defending champion Lakers:
On Ariza’s experience and leadership style:
“Guys have seen Trevor over the years, because he’s played in New York, Orlando and the Lakers. They remember the steals and big shots he made to help the Lakers win a championship. He’s brought a calmness that I think is contagious. He’s not browbeating guys, saying ‘look, this is what it’s going to be like!’ Trevor, when we go over pregame film, he’s lying on his back. For this team, his calm demeanor helps us, because there are guys who are nervous, probably more than they are willing to admit.”

On Ariza’s offensive game during the regular season:
“Obviously the one thing he’d like to do is shoot the ball better. The thing that people forget is that Trevor has the toughest defensive assignment every night – from Danny Granger to Kevin Durant, we put him on the toughest (scorer). That takes a lot out of your legs. There’s nothing wrong with Trevor. Guys go through these kinds of segments in their career. I know he wants to play better on the offensive end, and he works on his game. Guys who work usually have a quick turnaround.”

On the importance of Ariza driving to the basket on offense:
“If you go to YouTube and check out some of his dunks on guys, (the Jan. 1 slam over Washington center JaVale McGee) was one of those you could fit into the YouTube script. We sat down together and showed him some clips of how he attacks the basket and some of the things I liked about his game. Shooting can be up and down in this league, and you can’t do anything about that. But you can take advantage of attacking the basket, running the floor in transition, and I hadn’t seen that as much as what I would’ve liked to from Trevor. He’s made an effort to do that lately (during the middle portion of the regular season).”