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.