October 31, 2011

Some of the Hornets biggest fans happen to work right across the street from the Hive. During the winter months when the NFL and NBA regular seasons overlap, its common to see numerous New Orleans Saints players watching from the New Orleans Arena seats, fervently supporting the citys professional basketball franchise.

Saints fifth-year wide receiver Robert Meachem is one of his teams most avid basketball fans. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is also often cited by teammates as a high-caliber hoops player. Meachem sat down with late last week to discuss his basketball skills, as well as fantasy football owners and what its like to be a recognizable Saint living in New Orleans. Youve been mentioned by teammates as the best basketball player on the Saints roster, other than perhaps Jimmy Graham. How do you describe your hoops game?
Meachem: Im like a (pass-first) point guard. I dont have a problem getting 13 or 15 assists a game. To me, thats the same thing as getting 20 points. Graham mentioned that youve frequently challenged him to a one-on-one basketball game. What kind of strategy would you use against him?
Meachem: [smiles] Strategy? Id just use my quickness against him and make him have to use his feet. Hes going to be able to shoot over me because hes about 6-foot-7. The main thing is to try to keep him out of the low post. It would be a tough deal, but I see it almost like a boxing match. Once you figure out someones strengths and specialties, then youve got them. So why hasnt a game come together yet between you guys?
Meachem: Theres just not enough time right now. Its probably going to happen during the offseason. Were actually trying to get a celebrity basketball game together where its the (Saints) wide receivers vs. the defensive backs. But Ill probably play Jimmy in the offseason. Ive asked everyone Ive interviewed so far this question, so I might as well get your opinion as well. Whos the worst basketball player on the Saints?
Meachem: [scanning the locker room] Well, I havent seen everybody play. But Ill probably go with Garrett Hartley. He just doesnt look like hes built like a basketball player. This locker room has a total of three players who went to college at LSU or Alabama (Devery Henderson of LSU; Mark Ingram and Roman Harper of Alabama). As a former Tennessee Volunteers standout and impartial SEC observer, what is your prediction for Nov. 5?
Meachem: To be honest with you, LSUs defensive coordinator, coach John Chavis, is one of my guys. He was there when I was at Tennessee. So Im actually for LSU. Also, Jordan Jefferson is going to become a great wide receiver. In the summertime down here, he called me and asked a few questions about training. I helped him out. He seems like a nice kid. So I think LSU will get this game. How much trash talk have you heard from Henderson, Ingram and Harper about that game?
Meachem: I havent heard anything yet. But its coming. [smiles] Its definitely coming. Time for a couple questions from Twitter followers. From @BigJoeOnTheGo: How much do you still follow the Vols?
Meachem: I follow them quite a bit. Yes, were having a bad season, but its a rebuilding season. I think Coach Dooley is going to do a great job getting those guys back to where they need to be, and having those rivalries with Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Those rivalries are going to come back.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Matthew Reagan, Star Telegram Heres one from @TonyTwoDat. Whats the area where the 2011 Saints team has made the biggest improvement in comparison to the 2009 Super Bowl team?
Meachem: Honestly, I think we have more talent than we did in 09. Everybody took a different approach to this season. The approach we took, going to Tulane to work out together in the offseason, I think that helps. When the Saints scored a franchise-record 62 points in the Week 7 victory over the Colts, you had two catches for 27 yards. Did you field any complaints from fantasy football owners?
Meachem: Yes. Everywhere I go, people say Meachem, I cant start you if youre only going to get me 20-something yards! I need you to get me some touchdowns. I just tell them that if God gives me the opportunity, I will do my best. [smiles] Wait how often does a fan come up to you and say Hey Robert, youve got to have a big game Sunday! I started you on my fantasy team?
Meachem: You pretty much have that a lot. But nine times out of 10 you dont know if theyre (telling the truth by saying theyre) starting you or not. [laughs] I really dont worry about the fantasy stuff. I hope everyone that has a team does well, but when Im on the field and playing, Im definitely not thinking about that! The ball always seems to get spread around between all of the teams receivers.
Meachem: Yes, exactly. Its hard for us to have that big (statistical) game. Right now, Jimmy is that guy having big games, but every week, that guy can change. Speaking of the teams receivers, if a race were held between all of you, who would win?
Meachem: It depends on the distance. In the 40, I would probably win. Ive got the quick-twitch speed. But if we had a longer-distance race, it would be between Devery Henderson and (rookie) Joe Morgan. OK, last question. As one of the longer-tenured members of the current team, how often do you get recognized in public in the New Orleans area?
Meachem: Its not like the NBA or Major League Baseball, because we wear helmets. But there are quite a few times when I go to Wal-Mart with my wife and my baby where were there for a long time. So now my wife tells me I cant go with her anymore. Or she says I cant go inside the store. [laughs] Because Im one of those type of people where if you ask me to sign something or take a picture, Im going to do it.

Sometimes when we go out to eat, people will stop by and say hello. But its a great thing, because youre putting a smile on someones face that day.

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