Three years ago, the New Orleans Hornets seemed to be a team on the rise. With Chris Paul at point guard and some talent surrounding him, they took the San Antonio Spurs to a Game 7 in the Western Conference semifinals and seemed like they could become a contender.
Three seasons later, Paul needed to score 33 points and add 14 assists to beat the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the first round just to remind everyone that they are part of the picture. The Hornets lost in the first round two seasons ago and didn’t even make the playoffs last year, so nobody really gave them a chance to beat the Lakers in the first round. They still aren’t the favorite, but they certainly opened some eyes with Game 2 looming tomorrow night.
Chris Paul joined ESPN Radio with Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo to discuss the team’s reemergence, breaking down the Lakers’ defense in Game 1, how they’ll prepare for Game 2, how they limited Pau Gasol, the time between games in the NBA Playoffs and to compare his game with that of Derrick Rose.
Was the Game 1 win like a re-emergence onto the radar?:
“No, not at all. I think it’s one of those things where we had a really good season in our eyes. We’ve overcome tough situations all season long. We lost David West, but one thing about our team is we have a lot of resilience and we showed it.”
But in the flavor-of-the week sports world, wasn’t this a reminder of what the Hornets and Chris Paul can do?:
“Coming off an injury, this season’s been tough for me. I’ve had my ups and downs … but one thing about the playoffs is it’s special. You really have to show up to play and my teammates have confidence me and we really played well.”
What did they do to stop the Lakers’ pick-and-roll defense in Game 1?:
“Just trying to attack in different ways and not allowing those guys to really spread the court on me and make me give the ball up. I’ve been in the Western Conference for six years and I play against the Lakers four times a year so I pretty much know their gameplan. I just tried to stay in attack mode as much as possible.”
How do the Hornets prepare for a championship-atmosphere Game 2?:
“I’m sure we’ll watch film, see some things that we did well and see some things we didn’t do well. It’s the playoffs and the one thing about it is it’d be nice if we could start off like the last game ended, but it doesn’t work that way. Each game starts back over 0-0 and it’s a new game, new situation.”
On limiting Pau Gasol:
“We just tried to make it difficult for him. I think Aaron Gray … was our Player of the Game. He didn’t allow him to really get deep post position and we just kept fresh guys on him as much as possible. He is probably the best center in our league as far as post moves and things like that, so you have to throw different strategies at him.”
Is it hard to have to wait so long between games, especially given the team’s solid start?:
“Yeah, we wish we could’ve played Game 2 right after the game [Sunday] night. But it’s good so we can go back to the drawing board and see what we need to do.”
Comparing his game to that of Derrick Rose:
“Very similar … but his explosiveness is unreal. I tell kids in my camp and stuff all summer that I wish I could get into the lane and take off on people and dunk, because when you’ve got that ability to dunk, nobody jumps and tries to block your shot. What he’s doing right now is unbelievable. He’s really leading that team.”
Listen to Chris Paul on ESPN Radio here (Interview begins at 9:20)