Pelicans End of Season Press Conference Transcript

Monday, April 22, 2013

    

Mickey Loomis (Opening statement)
We’re not happy, we’re not satisfied with the 27-win season, but we saw a lot of positive things from this team. Things that we needed to see in year one of building a championship-caliber basketball team. We saw the acquisition and the development of a core of young players – Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopez, Greivis, Brian Roberts, they are all players that improved significantly during the course of the season. We saw the beginning of the culture and values that we wanted to establish for our team, playing hard all the way to the end. Having players with intelligence and high character and being involved in our community. We saw a team that fought adversity all season long. Eric Gordon from the beginning – missed 40 games. Jason Smith missed 30 games. Anthony missed 18 games. We were full strength for only 22 games this season. I believe our record was 11-11 during those 22 games. Yet there was no complaining that we were shorthanded. It was never used as an excuse. Our guys just went out there and played hard every night. We learned a lot from this first season, from myself and our ownership. I think most importantly we absolutely have the right coach in Monty Williams. He’s everything that we’re looking for to lead our basketball team. We absolutely have the right general manager in Dell Demps. He and his staff made a number of significant moves in this last offseason, and we’re looking for to having a great offseason plan from him and his staff and from Monty as well. And finally on the behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Benson, Rita and our ownership, we want to thank all of our fans who were so steadfast in their support for the team. We have a great future in front of us. There are great things to come. We have a new identity in the New Orleans Pelicans. We’re going to have a great new practice facility in Metairie and we’re going to have an improved arena. And most importantly we’re going to have a team that our fans and city can be proud of.

Group media availability (Dell Demps/Monty Williams)

Do you anticipate Eric Gordon being here next season? Will you entertain any trade offers for him this summer?
Demps: We’re always going to look at every opportunity to make the team better. With Eric Gordon or any other player, if a situation presented itself, I think we have to look at it. When you win 27 games, you’re always looking to get better. I thought it was tough on Eric coming back from injury, not having training camp, missing a number of games, not being able to play in back-to-backs. I thought that he really tried to fight through the situation. There were some times he played with pain, and he had some offseason issues with his ankle. To say if I anticipate him being back – I don’t know if that’s something I can answer right now, or him not to be back. We’re going to sit down and evaluate every situation and opportunity. But for a guy to come back from injury like that, I thought he had some ups and some downs, but I still think his future is bright as an NBA player.

Which players will have structured offseason workouts?
Williams: Actually all of our guys. We believe that any NBA player who wants to get better… the door is open here in New Orleans to be a part of our program. They may not be under contract with us, but we feel like an open gym is a great invitation and it says a lot about what we do here. All of our young guys are going to be back, doing foundational things, in about three weeks, as far as weightlifting and working on specific parts of their game. But even the guys who aren’t under contract, they have an opportunity as well to be around. So we don’t want to close the door on anybody. We feel like that creates a great environment, when we have a lot of guys in our gym. A guy like Al-Farouq, he’s a free agent, but he still has an open invitation to be around our coaches. We’re going to do everything within the rules. We certainly want to make our gym available to every player.

Do you have a firm date for summer workouts beginning?
Williams: We just put the schedule together last week, where we went over our summer schedule, up until the start of (next) season. We have it laid out for all of our players. And it changes – guys have weddings and different family events that they have to be a part of. But we do have a schedule, and it starts in about three weeks.

What are the specifics of that schedule?
Williams: It varies. It might be two or three times a week. To start, it’s usually three or four days a week. We usually give guys the weekend off. But guys can come to us and say (they have an obligation to attend). We don’t want to get in the way of what guys have to do in the summertime. Our program is pretty focused in the summer. We always say the summertime is about the players; the season is about the team. Right now we have to make sure we do everything to make our players get better as individuals.

Did you have to encourage any players to attend these sessions?
Williams: No. It’s a weird deal. You guys know better than I do. Before I came, before Dell and I got here, nobody stayed here in the summertime. Now we have guys who live here in the summer. So we don’t have to (encourage players) as much anymore. We’ve been able to encourage guys to even get together and go to a different city, like San Antonio last year, where the coaches really didn’t have a lot to do with what the work they did on the floor. It’s getting better. Is it where we want it? Not yet. But we certainly believe our practice site and that atmosphere on Airline (Drive) is going to have a lot to do with it getting better.

What type of player personnel is needed to help this team next season?
Demps: I don’t want to tip my hand right now. There are a lot of other teams who will listen to this press conference. I don’t want them to use that against us. What I’ll say is that Monty, Mickey and I will all sit down and really evaluate the team and address those needs. We’ve got three ways we can do it – draft, free agency and trade. We’re going to look at every opportunity we can to make this team is the best possible team we can make it moving forward.

What impact did the Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor trade have on your cap situation?
Demps: We made the decision last year to trade those two players and go with a young group that set us up for the future. We actually had to take two steps back to take two steps forward. Because we worked really, really hard to get that opportunity to use that cap space this summer. We really want to maximize that opportunity. We have some big decisions to make moving forward. But when we did make the decision to have a young group and have a young core, it was all for this summer and the future moving forward.

Is there greater pressure to rebuild quicker than there was, say, five years ago?
Demps: I think your competitive spirit makes you want to do that, but also you have to be smart. You don’t want to rush the process. We’re going to have some opportunities. The one thing about free agency is you know the guys you want. It’s almost like college recruiting. We’ll have our target list of players we’d like to acquire, and hope to attain them. If you don’t attain them, you have to go to Plan B, Plan C, Plan D. We’re ready for that.

Will Austin Rivers be a part of the summer league team?
Williams: We’re going to evaluate that at a different time, with myself, Dell and Mickey sitting down and talking about it.

I know you guys are focusing on the future of the team but just out of curiosity, what would you like to see the mascot be or maybe the name of the dance team. You guys got any ideas?
Demps: That’s out of my realm. I get a lot of questions on that end and I go back and forth. That’s way over my head.

Are any players facing medical procedures this offseason as far as surgeries, cleanups, that sort of thing?
Williams: Not right now. At the end of the season, a lot of guys are dealing with soreness. There’s a period after the season where they take some time off and they may feel like they’re OK and they don’t need it. We haven’t gotten through that period yet. Most of our guys were in good shape but that doesn’t mean in two or three weeks a guy can’t come back and say, ‘Hey, I’m still feeling this,’ and may have to have something done. We’re just not past that period yet.

How much of a physical and mental jump in their growth will the rookies have next year?
Williams: I think it will be – I don’t want to put a grade on it – but that first summer is usually a time where you can sit and think about the season without the pressure of playing and that’s when guys really take a jump as far as understanding what it takes to play in this league at a high level. They’ll watch the playoffs. They’ll watch guys they had success against. They’ll watch guys who kicked their butts and be able to understand that it’s going to take a different level of work physically and mentally to get to that point. And the things we stressed to them all year long, they may hear it from other coaches or hear it from a different source this summer and they come back and realize we weren’t trying to be right, we were just trying to be effective in helping those guys get better. From that standpoint, I do think they’re going to make a jump just because we have good guys. All of our guys are high-character guys. Not perfect, but high-character guys that want to get better and that’s why our gym is moving in the right direction. For me, as a head coach, I kind of felt like I had to bring some of our guys along a bit slower until they were able to handle the grind of the season. I think now is a time for them to buckle down and understand that the work that they’ve done before isn’t enough and they have to do a lot more this summer to get ready for next year.”

Dell was saying before that sometimes you’re at the mercy of free agency and the draft in getting the right kind of player in helping the franchise rebuild as quickly as you’d like. In terms of self-evaluation once the season is over, when you look back on this season and the last as head coach, what do you see that you need to improve on most?
Williams: We don’t have enough time. I don’t mince a lot of words when it comes to me getting better as a coach but I’m always trying to do things necessary to become a better coach. I’m excited for some of the things Mickey has lined up for me as far as being around different voices and learning from people a lot more than I do. I feel like I’m always going to be there trying to improve as a coach. During the season, I talk to a number of coaches, whether it be (Gregg Popovich), coach (Larry) Brown or Nate (McMillan). This summer I’m going to do some different things, maybe talk to some guys in different sports. Last year I got the chance to sit down and listen to (Tony) LaRussa and it was eye-opening some of the things he said that I was able to use this year. They were simple things. I’ve got to get better. I’ve always said that since I’ve been here. I’m going to continue to try to do that. That’s not going to change. Hopefully our players can benefit from that.

When you sit down with coaches from other sports, is it more about learning how to deal with professional players as opposed to X’s and O’s?
Williams: When you sit down with other coaches, especially (not) playing in the same sport, they’re not going to give you X’s and O’s. There’s one person, well two, Doc (Rivers) and Pop and we all kind of share X’s and O’s at times. For the most part, it’s about handling situations, handling different types of players, handling the media – which I still haven’t figured out. All of those things will help us become a better team. I have to humble myself and understand that there’s a ways to go en route to becoming the best coach I can be.

Any thoughts on what happened in so many fourth quarters when you were leading three, four, five, six minutes to go, sometimes by double digits, and couldn’t close it out?
Williams: I think about it a lot. Obviously it’s easy to sit there and blame it on youth or blame it on whatever the players did. The bottom line is not just them all the time. I’ve got to do my job as well and I’m not going to hide from that. At the same time, we’re not playing against teams who are not trying to win. You look at a lot of those games, we were playing against pretty good teams. Some of those games, you feel like we could have pulled them out but we had planned on that before the season even started. It’s funny how you guys never asked about how’d you guys beat Boston, Denver and Memphis in a row. Everybody always brings up how we lost games in the fourth quarter when we were up by double digits. That always comes around. Those are the things that we talked about last year before the season started. We said, ‘Man, we’re going to have some times where we’re going to have some games we’re going to lose that we could have won.’ The bottom line is that falls on me. I’m not going to run from that. In order for us to be the team that we’re going to be some day, we’ve got to get better in those situations.

Do you feel that you need more experience and talent among your backup players as far as building depth, and are there any players you are looking at?
Williams: We don’t want to say too much because other people are listening. But, if you look around the league the teams that are winning in the playoffs all have experience and depth on the bench. That’s what everybody strives for. We wanted to go young this year and tried to give some guys an opportunity to play with the hopes that those guys may end up being the guys that improve that aspect of our team. I think everybody is in that mode right now. If you look at the playoffs in some of the games that are close, there’s a rotation change and all of a sudden the lead goes from four to 12 or four to 15 and a lot of that is depth on the bench.

Demps: Can I comment on that right quick? The one thing that I have to say... Monty did a great job of, he said he gave some guys an opportunity off the bench this year. He gave everybody an opportunity this year. That’s tough, especially when you have a young team that’s inexperienced and you put every guy in that position so we can evaluate them. That first go-around, it takes time for these guys to learn. You can tell them a thousand times. I would go to practices and watch the film session and he would tell them and show them exactly what they are supposed to do. Sometimes they just have to get in the game and figure it out, and mistakes happen. Sometimes, you get caught up in the moment. He gave everybody an opportunity, and we have a really good understanding of every guy on our team this year. There are no what-ifs. We have an understanding and that’s a credit to him. He put every guy in a position in crunch time to play. I don’t think anybody could say that he didn’t do that, and I think that is a big part of having a young team; understanding what you have. There were situations where people were asking ‘How come this guy didn’t play?’, but in the big picture we have to see what everybody can do. I take my hat off to him for that.

How important is it to get much more athletic with this team?
Demps: It’s an athletic league, and we will address that. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we don’t want to take any shortcuts. We are going to get this thing right. It’s a process. Would we have liked to win a few more games this year? Yeah, but we understood that it was going to be a process and we knew that we were going to face challenges. We put a team that was new and young (on the floor) and that’s a tough combination in the NBA.

How important is this offseason to the growth of Greivis Vasquez?
Williams: Greivis is no different than Anthony (Davis) or Robin (Lopez). I think all of our players have to understand that, and I said this to all of them in Dallas after the last game, I said ‘the work that you’ve done to this point isn’t enough.’ That’s a reality for all of us, coaches included. Greivis certainly got better this year and he played well for us. He surprised us. We didn’t think he was going to have this kind of season, and yet he knows he has to get better. (He has to get better at) understanding situations, getting better on the defensive end, but that’s no different from anybody else on the team. Greivis played a ton of minutes for us, a lot was put on his shoulders and he did a good job.

How much difference do you think the more punitive luxury tax will help teams like you guys?
Demps: When I look at the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, I look at the rules and try to find a way to maximize them for us. I think each team is different. We’ll have a number of options that we’ll look at, but I look at it as an opportunity. I’m a guy that looks at the glass and calls it half-full, and so we’ll look at it as an opportunity.

So you don’t think it’s going to be that much different for the teams around the league that are considered the big spenders?
Demps: Well, they have the different rules that came in with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and I think that will change, but as far as how I expect it to affect us is hard to anticipate. You can’t control how other teams are going to spend. It seems like even the big spenders are looking at it now because the penalties that are in place. It’s just hard to anticipate.

Monty, what did you learn about yourself this year and where you need to grow?
Williams: I don’t really spend a lot of time evaluating myself. I usually hear it from other people. As a young coach in this league, I’m going to sit down and talk with Pop, Nate and Doc and different coaches and ask them. I usually ask those guys to be brutally honest with me about where they think I am. I’ll sit down and talk with Dell and Mickey, but I’m certainly improving as a coach I feel like. This year was not only a year of evaluation for the young guys, but I’m sure I was evaluated as well on how to build a program and I found out that it is really tough. The one mistake I made was assuming that guys knew something when they didn’t. We decided about two months into the season to go back to ground zero, and make sure we taught everything from the ABC’s even if we had to repeat it to guys. That’s the one thing that I wish I would have done in training camp. Having an understanding that some of our guys might not know that there’s an eight-second rule, as opposed to a 10-second rule in the backcourt. We had one of our guys throw the ball in the backcourt in the fourth quarter and there was five minutes left in the game, and the guy just didn’t know the rule. I assumed that our guys knew the rule. I made a huge mistake there, assuming that guys knew everything about the game. You can’t do that with young players. Going forward, we’re never going to allow that to happen again. I don’t care how long you’ve been in the NBA or how long you’ve been playing basketball, we’re going to make sure we start at ground zero and make sure every guy knows every rule in the game.