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Evaluating Monty Williams Thus Far

First of all, I've wanted to write a lot more lately but finals and work are killing me.  There's something about not sleeping and killing myself over finals just to be finished with that and work retail dealing with customers during the holidays that makes me so excited to lead the life I lead.  But that's neither here nor there.  You don't want to read about me!  You want to read about the Hornets! 

As you're all aware, Monty Williams hasn't played Marcus Thornton this year.  Because of that, he's gotten a lot of criticism around this forum.  Rightfully so, I might add.  But let's not forget that at the start of the season, we were annointing Monty as the second coming and were ready to build him a statue outside of the New Orleans Arena.  A lot has happened since then and Monty's deserved his critics, but a closer look into this season will tell you how Monty's done in the first quarter of his first NBA season.

First of all, I have to get one thing out of the way and that's the Marcus Thornton situation.  Marcus had a bad offseason where he was just horrendous in the preseason, was forced into a reserve role and then saw that reserve role turn into a Brian Scalabrine role.  He had a reason to be frustrated; we as fans had reasons to be frustrated.  However, Marcus has potential to be great instead of very good.  I think Monty's handling of Marcus has been detrimental to this season, but if Marcus buys in, I see it being beneficial to him in the long run.  In other words, I see Monty's management of Marcus' playing time more as tough love than stubborness.  Now, why doesn't he criticize Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza or Willie Green for being offensively a work in progress?  Who knows.  But I'd say it's because Monty sees more out of Marcus than he does them.  Time will tell.

As is the case with any rookie head coach, let alone one who enters the job as the youngest coach in the league, we really had to wait until the start of the season to watch the team play and evaluate how the Hornets were going to execute on the court.  Monty assembled a good cast of assistants, although inexperienced themselves for the most part, and spent the entire offseason talking about a rededication to defense for the Hornets.  Now, we as NBA fans kind of roll our eyes when we hear statements like that.  A statement like "we're going to focus on defense" is as common as statements like "I couldn't do it without my teammates."  They always seem kind of half hearted and the politically correct thing to say; although we don't truly believe that they mean it.  But to start the year, the Hornets legitimately were a fantastic defensive team.

Coming from an impressive pedigree, we shouldn't be surprised that Monty is an dept defensive coach.  However, the swift rotations, the communication on the floor and the proper adjustments had the Hornets looking like a defensive force early on in the season.  It legitimately was the culprit behind the team's hot 11-1 start.  Near the end of that start, however, was a noticeable dip in offensive production for the team. 

Many people attributed it to Chris Paul being passive on offense or Monty's benching of Thornton, but you need to look deeper into the problems.  First of all, Chris Paul has only averaged 14 shot attempts a game.  It's not as if, even when he was dominating the ball the past three years, he hoists up a ton of shots a game, ala Kobe Bryant.  That's not his game.  Truthfully, I'm not sure if that's what Paul wants to do.  His passiveness on offense early in the year was met with good production out of Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor.  It's fair to say that their drop in production is the main reason for the decline of the offense.  Is it fair for Paul to, then, do more?  Sure we can ask it.  But Monty has a long term outlook on this team.  His deep rotations and management of minutes are with good intentions.  If those good intentions continue to result in defeats, it's reasonable to get upset.  But if the team is healthy come playoff time (something that didn't happen in 2009 when Paul and West had to play 42 minutes a game to keep the team afloat), no one here should complain.

Monty's sticking to what works and what's safe.  That should be expected.  Let's remember, people, he's early into his career.  Some of the moves he and Demps made have resulted in an average offensive team with below average offensive execution, but at his age and with his experience that's something that needs to be accepted.  I know none of us want to, but it has to be.  The only thing we can hope for is that Monty learns from it.  He's going to play it safe initially and I, for one, am fine with that. 

Are Monty's rotations annoying?  Yes.  Is his poor offensive gameplanning annoying?  Yes.  Is Monty twenty five games into his career?  Yes.  When you step back and take it all in, we should happy with a 15-10 start.  The big start kind of pads that record, but the 11-1 start has to be reason for encouragement going forward.  We know what the team is capable of.  Monty will make mistakes and we'll continue to be critical of it.  We're fans, in the moment that our team is losing, everyone is a screw-up.  But we also need to know that what makes us laugh, can make us cry.  When Monty was playing deep rotations and we were winning, it was a great coaching move.  When Monty's playing deep rotations and we're losing, he's an idiot. 

As always, let's just keep everything into perspective.  Monty's done a solid job thus far, and we have a lot to be giddy about with him as the coach going forward.