COMMENTARY | Through March 30, seven NBA teams have more wins this season than the New Orleans Hornets have combined over the last two seasons. On many teams, this rampant losing would lead to grumbling, complaining, and discontent among players. However, Hornets coach Monty Williams is holding his team together with a unique brand of tough love that is clearly leading to successful player development.
A quick look around the NBA shows how remarkable the Hornets' lack of drama is. Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, Brandon Jennings, and Josh Smith are just a few of the NBA players who have made headlines this season for internal disputes with teammates or coaches. Despite Monty Williams employing questionable rotations and benching players for not hustling on defense, Hornets' players do not air their dirty laundry in public.
Part of the credit for the character of the Hornets players in New Orleans has to go to GM Dell Demps. Monty Williams and Demps are clearly working in lockstep in New Orleans in building the kind of team each wants. Williams is a defensive-minded coach who wants players who can handle tough instruction like men without pouting or whining to the media.
The player who has received the brunt of Williams' ire this season is SF Al-Farouq Aminu. Despite incredible athleticism, Aminu occasionally doesn't defend well and takes questionable shots on offense. In fact, Williams has benched Aminu periodically this season. However, he has taken everything in stride and Williams' coaching has helped Aminu achieve career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks per game.
With respect to how Monty Williams has helped his game this season, Aminu said, "At first, I didn't understand everything I needed to do. I don't want to get carried away because I've had some good games, but I've taken some steps in the right direction. I just think you're learning the things you need to do to become a pro."
The one Hornet who doesn't seem like a Monty Williams player is Eric Gordon. Despite the injuries, not playing in the second games of back-to-backs, and poor play in the fourth quarter, Williams has never wavered in his public support of Gordon. While other Hornets such as Jason Smith and Greivis Vasquez have fought through injuries this season, Gordon's teammates have never called him out in the media or questioned Williams' support of him.
Speaking on Gordon earlier this season after a Hornets win, Vasquez said, "That's why he's a big-time two guard in this league. That's what they do. They win games at the end."
But the Eric Gordon enigma isn't the only sign that the Hornets have complete respect for Monty Williams. Despite shooting 44 percent on three-point attempts, Roger Mason has never complained that struggling rookie Austin Rivers got more playing time than he did. Lance Thomas has never complained that he doesn't play more despite defense being his strength, which is what Monty Williams preaches. And despite being second in the NBA in made three-pointers, Ryan Anderson apparently has no problem coming off the bench for the Hornets.
The NBA is a business and winning is the most important thing. But in the absence of winning seasons, playoff berths, and division titles, New Orleans fans should be proud of the high-character Hornets representing their city. And if Monty Williams' plan comes to fruition, then fans will soon respect the Hornets coach as much as his players already do.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. Patrick has followed the Hornets since they moved to New Orleans and has covered the team since 2010. He was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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