Hornets.com 1-on-1: Denvers Melvin Ely
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com
October 29, 2010
Hornets.com chatted with former New Orleans frontcourt reserve Melvin Ely, now a member of the Denver Nuggets, prior to Fridays Western Conference game. Ely, who spent the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons with the Hornets, was out of basketball last season, but has returned to the NBA.
One of the most personable and engaging players in the league, Ely spoke about his experiences in the Big Easy and how emotional he was to claim a roster spot in the league after missing 2009-10. Ely is also the former author of the popular Hornets.com blog Ely Elaborates.
Hornets.com: After spending the previous 20-plus years of your life on a basketball court, what was it like last winter to not be a part of the game?
Ely: It absolutely stunk, every minute of it. Knowing thats where you really want to be, and that you dont feel like youre done playing or ready to retire. I actually found some other stuff to replace that time. It turned out to be a great experience in another way, because I got to be a dad. I had a baby boy, and his birth was right around the time I shouldve been signing somewhere overseas. So I just decided to stay (in the U.S.) and be a dad. I also got to be around my first-born (son). Not being on the court sucked, but being a dad was way better. So it was a good trade-off.
Hornets.com: After being away, how ready mentally were you for this season to start?
Ely: [smiles] Oh, man. I dropped 35 or 40 pounds. I did nothing but run. If you ask any player how hard it is to get back into the league after taking a year off, theyd probably tell you, Its impossible. So this is a blessing, a real blessing. I worked hard and stayed in Las Vegas where I live, became a family man, and never lost my routine. I woke up at 8 in the morning and worked out for four hours every day. Sometimes for more than that. This summer was big, because where I work out at, a lot of NBA scouts and coaches go there. I ended up being noticed by a couple teams, including Denver. Even getting a couple invites was a big deal to me, because after sitting out and watching the games, it was a blessing.
Hornets.com: What was your reaction when you found out last week that you made the final Nuggets roster?
Ely: I was actually so happy that I couldnt stop tearing up. Everyone was laughing at me, because I did it immediately. I found out in front of all of the guys (Nuggets teammates), and I was tearing up. They understood why I was doing it, but you know how it is, guys still have to have jokes and laugh at you about it. But yeah, I started tearing up. Everyone congratulated me and I appreciated it.
[smiles] It was kind of scary, because before I found out I made the team, there was an article in the Denver newspaper that said George Karl expects (Gary) Forbes and Ely to make the roster. Well, theres a big difference between expected to make the roster and on the roster especially when youre the one whos in the middle of it! [laughs]
Hornets.com: I think people would understand your reaction, based on how few players are able to leave the NBA for even one season and then make it back
Ely: Yes. A dear friend of mine (from Chicago), Antoine Walker, he was out a year and tried to come back. And I know people look at him way differently than they do someone like me. I mean, he was an All-Star, and look at me. For me to be able to do it, and for him not to do it, was a big shock. It actually made me count my blessings even more, because he used to be an All-Star not too long ago. Looking at it that way, it made it feel even so much better.
Hornets.com: We cant let you go without talking about a few non-basketball topics, as you did when you were here doing your Hornets.com blog. Youre a huge Chicago Bears fan. I know its early, but with every team in the NFC having at least two losses, who do you see coming out and getting to the Super Bowl?
Ely: Wow. I dont know, but I wouldnt count out the Saints at all.
Hornets.com: Do your Bears have a chance?
Ely: Do you want my honest opinion? The way we played last week (a home loss to Washington in which Chicago QB Jay Cutler threw four interceptions to Redskins DB DAngelo Hall), no. But hopefully, yes.
You know, before the NFL season, I couldnt believe they let us get Julius Peppers, and I was talking crap to everybody about how good we were going to be. [laughs] I was wearing my Bears hat, but trying not to take it too far. Im like every Bears fan I always believe were going (to the Super Bowl). But Im also a realist if we play like last week, there wont be a chance in heck.
Hornets.com: What was your favorite part of living in New Orleans for those two seasons?
Ely: Living here was great. All of the culture, all of the entertainment New Orleans has to offer. It was never boring. Matter of fact, last night I walked outside our hotel and was watching a band play on the street. They were marching up and down the street, and I followed them for about two blocks. The experience of living in New Orleans is like no other. I miss it a lot.
Hornets.com: I heard you would like to go into sports broadcasting when youre done playing?
Ely: I do. [points to nearby courtside broadcasting tables] I will be taking somebodys job sooner or later. [laughs] I was thinking about focusing on it last year, but I thought about it and realized that I wasnt done playing. Hopefully two or three years from now, I can get into it and do some stuff in Denver while Im there. Im trying to get somebodys job! [smiles]
Hornets.com: Your blog on Hornets.com in 2008-09 was one of the most interesting ones from a player Ive seen. What was the feedback like that you received on it?
Ely: Oh man, everyone loved it. It seemed like every time I walked around the city, somebody was asking me about my snakes or asking me why I cut my hair. I miss it. You know, I really didnt think I was a popular guy here, I swear, but everyone knew about my cars, my trucks, my snakes, everything. It was pretty cool. That was part of New Orleans that I loved. Even though I played basketball, there was always other stuff to talk about with people. It was a beautiful thing, because when you play for the Hornets, youre part of the city down here. They make sure they take care of you.
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