Monty Williams Q&A on Black & Blue Report

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

New Orleans Pelicans fifth-year head coach Monty Williams visited with the Black & Blue Report, Pelicans.com’s daily podcast show, on Thursday. Here is a comprehensive transcript of Williams’ entire interview with host Sean Kelley, the Pelicans’ radio play-by-play broadcaster.

  

Are you still in New York?

Williams: “Yes were still in New York. We have one more game and then we head to Gran Canaria to get ready for some really good competition, but right now we’re still in New York and having a good time and getting a lot of work in.”

 

Anthony Davis had another good night (Wednesday). He’s looked very good the last couple of games for you guys. 

Williams: “Yeah AD has been probably our best player since camp started. He along with James Harden and Steph Curry have really carried the weight. Kyrie Irving is in that category too. But AD has been really good. His game is developing in ways that he didn’t and we didn’t realize it would. He’s a talented person. He’s understanding how to play at a high level playing with really good players.”

 

What is he able to do now that maybe I didn’t see last year even?

Williams: “Obviously AD can do a number of things on the floor. He’s got the ability to shoot the ball consistently. He’ll miss a shot and he’s really, really upset about that because he puts a lot of work into his shot. We spent a lot of time working on his handling of the ball this summer. Understanding defenses is something that’s going to be a bigger deal for him as he gets doubled or maybe even tripled teamed. He’s still doing the things that make him AD: run the floor, play a pick-and-roll whether he pops or dives. One thing people haven’t seen is he can guard a lot of smalls when you switch pick-and-rolls. He’s put some good muscle on so he’s a lot stronger around the basket. When we played against Brazil, he and Kenneth Faried really dominated the paint. AD’s a lot stronger than he was before, so he’s finishing around the basket even better.”

 

Your time with him this summer and seeing him grow again in another offseason, does it change the way you’re going to ply him in the NBA schedule? Has it opened your eyes a little bit or was this the growth you’ve expected?

Williams: “We’ve planned on him getting better at a faster rate than we did before. This isn’t anything that we’re surprised by. We watch him work all the time. We plan out his schedule. We try to help him as best we can. We’re not surprised by this so I don’t see us having to change anything with him.  It’s a matter of our team playing together and everybody understanding how to play off of him. It’s going to be a big deal for all of our guys understanding how to play with an elite player like AD.” 

 

Does his game translate very well to the international game? It seems like there’s a little bit different style of play between what you all see in the FIBA side as opposed to the NBA side, and maybe I’m off and you’ll set me straight. But do kind of know where I’m going with this?

 

Williams: “What I think helps AD in the international ball is that he can stay in the paint. A lot of the shots he’s blocking or the helps on defense are because he can sit in the paint and he doesn’t have to worry about illegal defense. Offensively, it’s the same kind of basketball. I mean this in a good way. He’s out there playing with Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, James Harden and I think it helps us because I think Jrue is on that level as well. He may not be looked at that way from the NBA but Jrue is a high-level guard. He’s used to playing with guys like that. You can’t double him as much as he sees during a normal NBA season. I think the other guys are benefitting from playing with AD as well. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a fit, but when you have that many talented players on the floor, it makes it easier for you to get off. You just don’t do it as consistently because all the guys can score.”

 

You mention Curry and Harden too. Team USA has dominated in their exhibition schedule here. As you mention the competition really ramps up when you head for Spain eventually at the end of the month. Gauge the readiness of Team USA for the World Cup. 

Williams: “Well, we still have to make a few cuts. Once Coach and Mr. Colangelo do that, we are going to be even better because we are going to have more time to focus on 12 guys as opposed to 16. The reps get a lot better in practice; the focus is going to go up a lot more because guys know they’re on the team. I think we’re going to be even stronger. Our practices will be more focused on what we’re going to do to win a gold medal. Obviously the competition is pretty stiff overseas. We beat a pretty good Brazil team in Chicago and that was a game we were really concerned about just because of their bigs and their experience. We handled them pretty well. I think we’re going to get better. That doesn’t guarantee anything. But we have a lot of potential on this team and some really good players.”

 

I’m looking at the list of 16 players. I’m wondering how difficult it’s going to be to get from 16 to 12 when you have a roster like this.

Williams: “Yeah it’s not easy because all the guys can play and if a guy gets released, it’s unfortunate that it looks like he got cut. But it’s not the case. I sit in the meetings and add my input in the mix, and listening to Coach K and Mr. Colangelo just giving me a different perspective on how you build your team. You don’t look at it, especially in an environment like this, as cutting a guy. You’re looking at the best fit for the team and how we play. That’s the unfortunate part. We’ve had these guys for a few weeks and they’ve really worked their butts off to make the team. Not everybody can play but that doesn’t mean they can’t play. Unfortunately we’re going to have to strip it down here soon. It’s been a really good camp having all these high-level guys on the floor. Getting to know a lot of these players has been a treat for me. I’ve learned a few things about coaching, dealing with players, and different things that can help our team.”  

 

It would be hard anyone who’s not a part of the Team USA basketball family to fully understand the emotion after what happened to Paul George. Has that situation been a piece of adversity for this family or has it been a galvanizing factor in your process?

Williams: “We’ve had so many injuries in the NBA. I think guys just know how to deal with it. You feel bad for Paul and you feel bad for his family. You know he wants to play on the team. Once he gets the care and the things he needs to move forward, you’ve got to move past it. It doesn’t diminish what happened to Paul.  All of us, who have played, have either dealt with a bad injury or something that kept you from playing for a while. It’s part of the process of being an NBA player.  Even Paul said that.  He’s like ‘We need to move on. I got to move past it and so does everybody else’. This is a part of the game. I don’t know if it galvanized us. If it did, it was short-lived because it’s just like anything else - you can only use momentum for whatever period of time. Once the games start coming, our motivation is to win a gold medal. That overrides everything else.”

 

I’m anxious to hear your thoughts about being at West Point before your game last night against the Dominican Republic.

Williams: “It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I’ve been so blessed to do a number of things in my life.  To go to West Point and meet Generals and Lieutenant Generals and so many people who have served our country for a long, long time. It gave me a greater perspective and appreciation for people in my family who have served, the men and women who serve. Everywhere I go when you see someone in the airport or you live in the neighborhood with someone who serves in the armed forces, being at West Point made me appreciate those people so much more. I had the fortune of having dinner with General Dempsey and Lieutenant General Caslen a couple nights ago.  And I was amazed at General Dempsey.  He grilled me, tips and questions about how we run our team, how we treat our families, how we deal with coaches.  So many questions, I should be asking him questions. He was asking so many things at how do I look at this or how do I look at that. I was blown away at his humility. A guy who the President calls on a regular basis and gets advice and he’s trying to get advice from me.  That was eye-opening. The cadets at West Point were amazing. The discipline, the attitude, the sacrifice that they all share and have is pretty cool. Our guys were impacted greatly. AD and I had a really good time being there.  It was one of those deals where I wish we could bring our team there to West Point just to see it and understand a few things that we try to teach but also to have an appreciation for this country we live in and the men and women who protect and serve so we can do the things we do.”