Sixty-three games into this lockout-shortened season and what we’ve learned about Hornets coach Monty Williams we already knew after the second game.
He’s the right man for the job, the rare individual who can take a bad situation and get the most out of it.
The Hornets have 20 wins, seven coming in the past 10 games, and it’s hard to think any other coach would have gotten even that much out of this band of inexperienced youngsters.
How tough has this season been?
New Orleans players have missed combined 204 games due to injuries.
The Hornets have signed five different players to 10-day contracts.
They’ve used 26 different starting lineups, averaging a new one nearly every third game.
And yet, the team continues to play hard. It continues to fight on a nightly basis for that next win.
Not a single player on the team has thrown in the towel or been willing to tank the season because they’re not in the playoff hunt.
That is a reflection of the head coach and the kind of players he’s looking for to bring into the fold.
“No matter what we do or who we play against, we’re going to play the same way,” veteran forward Trevor Ariza said. “Coach has done a great job of teaching this young group how to consistently play on the defensive end and working towards playing hard on both ends every night.”
Then again, we knew this when the Hornets beat Boston in the second game of the season. We saw a glimpse of him culling every bit of ability out of his players that he could get in that win.
Williams won’t win any coach of the year award. The Hornets have, after all, won only 20 games.
But he has won the collective respect of the league, of his peers and of those who have followed the Hornets this season and last.
Look at other teams the Hornets are competing against. Charlotte has lost 18 straight, Sacramento is 2-8 in its past 10 games, Golden State is 2-8 in its past 10, the Wizards are 4-6 in the past 10 and Cleveland is 3-7.
At 7-3 in the past 10 games, the Hornets join Miami, Indiana, Boston, Atlanta, the Knicks, San Antonio, the Lakers, the clippers and Memphis as the only teams playing that well.
The common theme with the others? They’re all playoff teams.
Williams credits his assistant coaches for staying on top of the players on and off the court, for helping him manage games and for doing just about everything in their ability to keep the Hornets moving forward despite every trap they faced this season.
“They’ve really been instrumental in working with me to push the guys to make sure that we don’t tank or make sure we don’t start playing that old NBA thing and just give up on the season because we’re not going to the playoffs,” Williams said.
It’s also about the players.
On Thursday night, the Hornets finished up their home schedule in front of one of the largest crowds this season for a game that wasn’t against the Lakers or Clippers.
What those in attendance saw and what they cheered for were players that could make the city feel proud. There was no give up despite an early deficit and there was no give in when a late lead vanished.
The players know they need help, but they’re not willing to throw games to get it.
“We know it’s a business but there’s a lot of guys in this locker room playing to sustain a family,” guard Greivis Vasquez said. “I’ve got a kid. I’m playing to show the world my game and especially coach. There’s a lot of guys here that ain’t got nothing guaranteed. That’s why we go out there and fight.”
Those involved at the behest of the new owner with the vetting process should leave Williams alone along with his coaching staff.
Because while the present might not be great, the future appears to be.