Here are my questions and the answers from Jim at http://www.hornets.com/:
Question: Playing devils advocate here – Williams and Paul will be forever linked and compared with one another. Tell my why you would rather have Derron Williams on your team instead of Chris Paul?
Answer: At this point, with Chris being in contention for MVP and leading the Hornets to the best season in franchise history, after two straight non-playoff seasons, I would be lying if I said I’d rather have Deron Williams. Obviously, Deron Williams should take no offense to that. Chris has just been that good. I think Deron Williams is a fantastic player and probably isn’t getting enough credit for the season he’s having. But I think if Utah had been 39-43 last season, like the Hornets were, Williams would be getting more attention for sparking a major turnaround.
Williams has the size advantage on Paul and is still probably a better shooter (though CP’s mid-range shot is becoming automatic these days), but other than that I’d give the edge to Paul. With that said, though, the gap between these two guys is not that wide.
After Year 1, everyone said Utah made a mistake by not taking Paul. After Year 2, even Paul acknowledged that Williams deserved more acclaim than Paul, because Williams had led Utah to the Western Conference finals, while Paul had not even been in the playoffs at that point. Year 3 obviously goes to Paul, but who knows what could happen in Year 4? Plus, who knows what will happen in the upcoming playoffs? That will affect people’s perceptions of these guys tremendously.
Question: If you could draft one team from the players on the Jazz and Hornets only who would you pick for each position plus 2 bench guys?
Answer: I hate to bail on this one, but I’d rather not say which Jazz player(s) I prefer to Hornets players, especially since I have to talk to the guys in the Hornets locker room on a regular basis.
This isn’t really an answer, but it’s interesting that both teams’ top two players are at point guard and power forward. It makes for some tremendous matchups at those spots. Plus, all four guys are still young, meaning this New Orleans-Utah rivalry could become a great one in the Western Conference soon. I know our fans really look forward to these games and view the Jazz as one of the Hornets’ biggest rivals, especially among teams that aren’t even in our division.
Question: If the Hornets can keep the number 1 seed, would you rather see Denver, Golden State or Dallas get the 8 seed and would you least want to see get it?
Answer: We addressed this at length in our blog on Hornets.com (shameless plug: it’s called Big Easy Buzz and anyone is welcome to participate in it... even Jazz fans) the other day. There are many different opinions on this, but I think the consensus among fans is that Denver would be the best matchup. Golden State seems to be the team that scares Hornets fans the most.
If I had to briefly summarize the reasoning, it’s because of the Nuggets’ penchant for porous defense. On the other hand, the Warriors frighten me partly based on what they did in the playoffs last year. They are such an explosive, unpredictable team that I can’t imagine anyone would be thrilled about having to match up against them in the first round. Golden State also won in New Orleans this season, ending the Hornets’ nine-game win streak. Denver was routed in its lone trip to the Big Easy.
Question: Considering that most of the key players on your team are playoff virgins, what would you consider a successful run?
Answer: That’s a tough one to answer, because at the beginning of the season the team’s goal was just to make the playoffs. Now that they are in the unexpected position of possibly earning a No. 1 seed, it’s hard to gauge what would be rated as successful or unsuccessful. I think most fans would probably say it would be an unsuccessful postseason if the team loses in the first round. Other than that, and even if that does happen, I don’t think there will be many people around here using the word “disappointing” to describe this season. It has already surpassed all expectations. Plus, with the Western Conference being so difficult, the Hornets could be in the strange position of being a No. 1 or No. 2 seed but picked by some analysts to lose in the first round. This quote from David West the other day summarizes the uniqueness of the situation: “We obviously are the underdog. Nobody is going to pick us to win our series, so we’ll go in free-flowing and full of energy. We have nothing to lose and I don’t think there is going to be any pressure on us.”
As far as the playoff experience of the Hornets, there is no doubt that these guys have no experience together. West is the only player who was on the team the last time they made it (2004). But the idea that the Hornets are completely untested may be slightly overstated. New Orleans has several key contributors with multiple trips to the playoffs in their past, including Peja Stojakovic (59 playoff games), Bonzi Wells (36), Jannero Pargo (21), Morris Peterson (19) and Tyson Chandler (12). Among the Hornets who’ve been in the nine-player rotation recently, only Paul, second-year big man Hilton Armstrong and rookie forward Julian Wright will be new to the postseason. Also, third-string point guard Mike James was a key reserve on the 2004 NBA champion Detroit Pistons and has appeared in 29 playoff games.
I had a chance to answer some questions for the official NBA site of the Hornets. Hopefully they will be able to respond in kind later today. Below is a transcript of the proceedings as well as a link to the interview on their site. Enjoy!
Hornets.com: With only a week remaining in the regular season, what will be the biggest keys to success for the Jazz in the 2008 playoffs?
Kassing: Defense, defense, defense. When the Jazz buckle down and put forth the effort on defense they can be scary good. The few games that come to mind are the recent win over San Antonio and the game in Boston. During both games the Jazz were really active on defense and showed that they are capable of beating anyone. Hopefully you will get to see it first hand on Tuesday night there in New Orleans.
Hornets.com: What are the most prominent areas where the Jazz have shown improvement or regression since the 2007 playoffs, when they were a surprise participant in the Western Conference finals?
Kassing: I would say that our three-point shooting has been a real improvement this year especially with the addition of Korver. Overall our two-guard spot has become very solid for us with Brewer and Korver, and even C.J. Miles has contributed when called upon. Offensively we are just very efficient and can be deadly when the threes are falling. Defensively we have regressed and I can’t really say why. Maybe Derek Fisher was able to direct the effort better on the floor or maybe our guys got a little greedy for offensive stats. It’s quite frustrating as a fan to watch it.
Hornets.com: Who would you choose as the biggest “X-factor” for Utah in the postseason, a possibly under-the-radar player who will be key for the Jazz?
Kassing: Jarron Collins and Jason Hart – just kidding. Seriously I think that it is Memo Okur. For some reason opposing teams tend to forget about him on the perimeter and he can just flat out kill you when he’s open. When he wants to he can be a pretty good defender as well. I would also say that if we get anything at all from Kirilenko it would be a bonus. As a fan we do not expect much out him anymore so when he has a good game it’s a big surprise.
Hornets.com: Utah has one of the largest discrepancies between home and road success in the NBA. Nearly every team is better at home than on the road, but how do you explain the Jazz’s drastic differential?
Kassing: I think that we have narrowed it down to being Jerry Sloan’s fault. He must not properly motivate them to play well on the road because it seems like we have been losing to the worst teams in the NBA for years now. The road record is a bit deceiving however because we have done pretty well against the better teams in the league, it’s the non-playoff teams that give us heartburn. We honestly feel more confident about going in to play the Hornets than we would the Timberwolves.
Hornets.com: Overall, what do you think would qualify as a successful postseason for the Jazz? Reaching the West finals again? Advancing past the first round?
Kassing: If we can make the Western Conference Finals again I would deem that a success. The talent is there to win it all, but it’s going to be incredibly hard to win any series this year.
Hornets.com: Lastly, which player is your blog endorsing in the MVP campaign? Chris Paul, perhaps?
Kassing: Hmmm, this is a hard one. Chris is having an excellent year, MVP-worthy for sure, but we tend to think that our boy D-Will is a little better. Call us homers, but I am sure that you all feel the same so I just can’t bring myself to voting for him as the overall leader. I can’t vote for Kobe either. LeBron is putting up some serious numbers so he has to be there, but I think I would give it to KG right now. He has made that biggest overall impact on his team and seems the most valuable to me.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Here are my questions and the answers from Jim at http://www.hornets.com/: