Hornets Try to Develop Early Chemistry at Voluntary Workouts

Hornets players at workouts

September 5, 2012

Other than the five players who joined him in the same NBA uniform during the 2011-12 season, Jason Smith was unfamiliar with every other current member of the New Orleans Hornets prior to this summer. He’d played in games against the likes of Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick, but had never even been introduced to any of them.

“These are all guys I’ve met for the first time,” Smith said recently of the team’s large group of offseason acquisitions, prior to a voluntary workout in which 11 Hornets players were present. “They’re all new faces to me.”

With eight brand-new Hornets on the 14-player roster, one of the biggest training-camp challenges will be to develop on-court chemistry. There’s an old NBA adage called “Know Your Personnel,” which basically means that it’s imperative for players to be knowledgeable of the strengths and weaknesses of their teammates. To use one example, if a center is extremely uncomfortable handling the ball away from the basket, a point guard needs to recognize that he shouldn’t throw that big man a pass while the center is stationed at the three-point arc.

Figuring out those kinds of small but important details are part of why Hornets players decided to converge en masse in New Orleans, weeks before training camp officially begins Oct. 2.

“We wanted to get everyone together,” Smith explained. “We wanted to get the chemistry going early, rather than later. Because you don’t want to go into the first five or six games not really knowing what a guy’s going to do on your own team. It’s really about knowing that a guy is going to go this way or that, or what he’s going to do in practice, or the work ethic he’s got. It’s kind of seeing what everyone’s made of.”

Prior to the obvious disruption necessitated by Hurricane Isaac, the Hornets had enough players to conduct five-on-five scrimmages in the Alario Center. Of the 14 players on the roster, the only three who were not on hand were Roger Mason (whose wife was about to give birth) and rookies Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. Davis and Rivers were attending the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program in New York.

Mason, Davis and Rivers have all recently returned to New Orleans to join their teammates in another series of voluntary workouts.

“We’re just committed to the team,” said third-year point guard Greivis Vasquez of the 100 percent participation. “We wanted to be here. We want to get better. Plus, we’re young. We want to get used to each other and start out fresh. We’re trying to get a feel for each other and build chemistry.

“It’s going to be a tough season – the Western Conference is always tough. We’re trying to become a family.”