In the first week of training camp, New Orleans Hornets head coach Monty Williams asked his squad that was gathered around him if anyone of them watched the presidential debate. Nearly all of them raised their hands. Then, Williams asked if they have spoken to their players’ union representative. No show of hands.
Williams reminded his young team that they need to be aware of their surroundings because our climate is changing, not just politically but also economically. They need to be aware of what is going on outside of basketball such as knowing their rights as players and details of the new collective bargaining agreement. Williams asked if any of them are aware of their union, and none of them seem to know. The coach also pointed to Roger Mason Jr., one of the main players during a very contentious negotiations with the league during the summer of 2011. Williams let his team know that Mason is a great source for anything union related, so they should take advantage.
Hornets camp is almost like a three-hour summer school session, with Williams playing the role of teacher and addressing a bunch of high school students. In reality, the Hornets are so young half of the team is only a few years removed from high school. The foundation of Williams’ squad are two 19-year-olds: Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers.
In his one and only season at the University of Kentucky, Davis was the consensus choice for college player of the year and powered the Wildcats to a national championship, in which he was named MVP of the Final Four. Rivers also played one season in college at Duke, and even though he didn’t have nearly the success Davis had the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers was one of the most dynamic players.
“We’re think of Austin (Rivers) and Eric (Gordon) as guys who can put the ball on the floor,” Hornets general manager Dell Demps told NBA TV. Demps firmly believes Gordon can become the leader of the Hornets, which is why he matched Phoenix’s $58 million offer sheet this offseason to keep the 6-foot-3, 215-pound shooting guard in New Orleans.
“I really want us to grow. That is the most important thing for us. We want to get better, and get ready for the future. We’re still in the early stages,” says Demps, who points to the fact that Gordon, center Robyn Lopez and forward Ryan Anderson are all going into their fifth seasons but are all under 25 years old.
Gordon remains sidelined with a knee injury but when he returns the Hornets will have a nice young talented nucleus that includes the 6-10 Davis, who has a unique skill set that is already NBA ready. “He’s definitely a power forward. He’s very long. He’s definitely one of the longest players I’ve ever played with,” Gordon said of the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 draft.
“His intangibles is crazy. He can block shots, he can rebound, and he can knock down that jump shot,” Gordon added.
The Hornets won only 21 games last season and was dead-last in the NBA in scoring. If Gordon can stay healthy, and Davis and Rivers contribute right away, the Hornets could be the surprise team in the Western Conference.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.