Demps calls Belinelli trade a win-win for both teams

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

The Hornets began Wednesday with four players on their roster who would most accurately be described as small forwards: incumbent starter Peja Stojakovic, rookie Quincy Pondexter, veteran reserve James Posey and three-year former lottery pick Julian Wright. By the end of the day, two of those players were gone. Posey was part of a four-team trade that landed Trevor Ariza – also primarily a 3 – while Wright was dealt to Toronto in a transaction that netted Raptors shooting guard Marco Belinelli.

Given that Toronto appeared to have an excess of players at Belinelli’s position, the deal seemed to make a lot of sense for both clubs. Furthermore, new Hornets head coach Monty Williams has often spoken lately about his team’s need to add at least one more shooting guard to the mix. In essence, prior to Belinelli’s acquisition, the lone New Orleans two guard was Marcus Thornton. Belinelli also provides perimeter shooting, an area where the Hornets were deficient in 2009-10. The three-year NBA veteran connected on 38.0 percent of his three-point attempts last season and is a career 38.8 shooter from beyond the arc.

Although the current Hornets regime was not in place at the time, Belinelli delivered one of his most impressive games as an NBA player in July 2007 against New Orleans. The native of Italy poured in 37 points in a summer league game, after being drafted 18th overall that year by the Golden State Warriors. His career-high in an official NBA game is 27 points, which he tallied in a Dec. 2008 game against the Atlanta Hawks.

During a conference call with season ticket holders earlier tonight, Hornets GM Dell Demps said the move benefited both teams, particularly based on the previous composition of each roster. Demps indicated that the Raptors had been interested in acquiring Wright, who was never able to solidify a consistent role in his three seasons with New Orleans. The former Kansas standout began 2009-10 in the Hornets’ starting lineup, but was quickly moved out of the rotation after he and the team began slowly under former head coach Byron Scott.

Ariza brings defensive prowess, intensity

Among all of the members of the New Orleans Hornets organization, perhaps no one is more qualified to delve into detail about what Trevor Ariza brings to a team than brand-new VP of player personnel Gerald Madkins. On Madkins’ first official day in his new job, the Hornets announced that they had acquired Ariza in a trade from the Houston Rockets, where Madkins spent the past two seasons. Ariza signed with the Rockets as a free agent last summer, averaging a career-best 14.9 points per game in 2009-10.

Madkins observed the 6-foot-8 forward/guard last season and came away impressed with Ariza’s on-court production and intangibles. One of Ariza’s most prominent strengths is his ability to play one-on-one defense against high-caliber opposing wing players at the 2 and 3 spots.

“When you have a guy who can match up with the Kobes and Paul Pierces (on defense), those kinds of guys, I think it only helps your club,” Madkins described of Ariza. “Hopefully we can get Trevor to a point where he’s competing on a nightly basis with those guys… He’s known around the league for being a lockdown defender. I had a chance to work with him last year. His reputation is well-earned. He will definitely provide a defensive presence to this organization that they may not have seen.”

Madkins also was extremely complimentary of Ariza’s attitude and approach to improving his game. Over a six-year NBA career, Ariza has gone from a somewhat sporadically-used role player (with New York and Orlando) to a well-respected starter. In 2008-09, he was a key cog to the first of two Los Angeles Lakers championships.

“He’s very intense and is all about winning,” Madkins said. “He’s a team-first guy. He’s going to make the sacrifices on the court that don’t show up in the statistics. He’s a guy who’s going to dive on the floor and (guard) the toughest offensive player on the floor every night. He’s hard-nosed and tough. Folks here in New Orleans who like hard-working guys, they’re going to gravitate toward Trevor, because that’s what he does. He plays at the highest level with energy and effort on a nightly basis.”