A 25-point, eight-rebound game by Hilton Armstrong in Thursdays overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers was the kind of performance everyone had hoped to see from the 6-foot-11 backup center. Armstrong had been decent through the first three games of summer league, but Byron Scott and his coaches were looking for dominance against this caliber of competition.
The UConn product is the first to admit that hes been overly hesitant in his first two NBA seasons, one of the reasons he did not progress significantly in 2007-08, despite getting a much better opportunity to contribute. He discussed that subject during an interview at the Thomas & Mack Center:
Hornets.com: You scored a game-high 25 points vs. the Clippers, including a turnaround jumper that put the Hornets in front for good in overtime with 1:20 left. This game was probably the most effective youve been in the paint during summer league. What was the key to your productive game in the low post?
Armstrong: They came to me a lot today on the low block. I just tried to take advantage of the opportunities. Im trying to be more aggressive offensively. It worked out for me pretty well.
Hornets.com: How much has the coaching staff emphasized to you that they want to see you improve in that area next season?
Armstrong: Over the summer Ive definitely been working on my offensive game a lot. Im trying to get stronger, and be more solid (on offense). I feel like I need to take my time more, taking decent shots instead of (rushing) some shots that have been kind of weak. Im trying to finish shots before I get fouled as well. Im taking it very seriously this summer.
The coaches want to see me get better all-around, not just on offense. They want me to improve defensively, grabbing rebounds, hustling, being in better condition. Im also emphasizing getting better as a help defender. I know I can come into the game at any time, so I have to be ready.
Hornets.com: How much of your focus during this summer league is on being as aggressive as possible on offense, meaning taking as many shots as you can within the context of what the team is doing?
Armstrong: I know there have been times in the past throughout my whole career where Ive been open but still didnt want to shoot. But now I feel like I have to shoot. I know I can score. I have to believe in myself and actually do it, instead of just thinking about it and talking about it.
Earlier this week, ESPN.coms TrueHoop blog listed him as the biggest surprise of the NBA Summer League
. That was before Bobby Brown added his second game-deciding basket in just four New Orleans games so far in Las Vegas.
With the game tied at 76 in overtime, Brown drilled a 19-footer from the right wing to give the Hornets a two-point lead. After a steal by Adam Haluska of a Clippers pass, Brown dropped in two free throws with 17 seconds remaining to provide a two-possession edge for New Orleans.
Brown, the leading scorer in Cal State Fullerton men's basketball history, finished the game with 17 points and six assists. He remains the clubs leading scorer during summer league, averaging 15.8 points per game.
New Orleans afternoon was highlighted by Hilton Armstrongs 25-point eruption. Armstrong set the tone for his aggressive individual effort by tallying nine points in the first quarter, scoring on crafty spin moves and drop steps.
Other notes from Las Vegas:
Julian Wright turned in another rough one, going 4-for-13 from the field for nine points, along with five turnovers. On the plus side, he scored all of his points in the second half, including an alley-oop dunk to give the Hornets a 72-68 lead with 2:05 left in regulation.
Former Indiana Pacers center Courtney Sims helped keep New Orleans from getting blown out in the first half, netting 13 points. Sims beat the Clippers big men down the floor to score three buckets on fast breaks.
Brandon Bowman hustled his way to a 10-rebound game, including four at the offensive end. Hes proved to be adept at tracking down long rebounds in particular.
Hornets 2007 second-round pick Adam Haluska was quiet in 23 minutes, going 0-for-2 from the floor. Its been a frustrating week for the Iowa product, who is 4-for-22 overall on field-goal attempts.
New Orleans will scrimmage against Milwaukee and Portland on Friday. These interteam workouts are pretty informal, especially when you consider that Thomas Scott son of Hornets head coach Byron Scott served as one of the two referees in a New Orleans scrimmage earlier this week. If nothing else, it should be a good opportunity for us to chat with Bobby Brown, Julian Wright, the coaches and a few other Hornets folks. With as laidback as these scrimmages seem to be, we may be able to squeeze in a couple interviews when guys come to the sideline to get Gatorade.