Trevor Ariza summed up the New Orleans Hornets' start to the season rather succinctly.
"This is fun," the forward said. "Really fun."
It's always fun to be undefeated and Hornets find themselves 6-0 going into Tuesday night's home game against the L.A. Clippers. It is the best start in franchise history and leaves the Hornets as one of just two remaining unbeaten teams in the NBA with the L.A. Lakers (7-0).
Defense has been a big part of New Orleans' good start. They rank fourth in the NBA with a 99.7 Defensive Rating.
The most impressive part of the Hornets' start is that all six of their victories have come against teams that had winning records last season. However, point guard Chris Paul says no one should be surprised by the Hornets' start even if they were 37-45 in 2009-10.
"We've just got to keep playing," Paul said. "I'm not surprised just because we're all professionals. It doesn't matter what it looks like on paper, you just have to go out and play the game and that's what we're doing."
Monty Williams couldn't ask for a better beginning to his first head coaching stint. However, he downplays the record, saying the Hornets need to stay focused on daily improvement, particularly on the defensive end.
"I looked at the first 25 games of the season as all about us," Williams said. "We were going to find out how good, how bad, we were. That's still how I feel. I still don't know the answer."
Charlotte Suffering from Officiating Crackdown
The NBA has followed through on its threat to crack down on players who complain too vehemently about the officiating. However, the Charlotte Bobcats feel the league is going too far.
Guard Stephen Jackson was fined $50,000 for verbally abusing officials following last Friday's loss to the Pistons. However, Jackson, who had 13 technical fouls last season, insists he was talking to himself and that NBA officials apparently read his lips on videotape.
"I walked off the court, upset about the outcome of the game," Jackson said. "I guess they had a camera following me all the way to the tunnel, where I wasn't even in sight of the referees and (someone) read my lips."
Brown was bewildered in the same game when he was assessed a technical for yelling "Wow!" in reaction to a call. Brown also implied that one of the officials swore at Bobcats head athletic trainer Steve Stricker during their loss to the Magic on Saturday.
"Respect goes both ways and that's so important," Brown said. "It's great, it's important, but I want it to be fair both ways. I know I'm going to get in trouble for saying that."
Thomas Can't Let Knicks Go
The New York Knicks hired Donnie Walsh in 2008 to replace Isaiah Thomas following the Hall of Famer's disastrous six-year run as team president. Yet Thomas still dreams of leading the Knicks back to prominence. He told ESPN.com that he believes he will eventually return to his old job and deliver LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to New York as free agents in 2014.
"Knowing what I know about the game and the relationships that I have, I'm confident that if no crazy (stuff) happens, I think I can win in New York, and I think I was really close to winning in New York," Thomas said.
Thomas remains on friendly terms with Knicks owner James Dolan, who tried to bring him back as a special consultant earlier this season. The NBA rejected that move because of the possibility of a conflict of interest since Thomas is now a college coach at Florida International.
Thomas also implied that Walsh, who turns 70 next March, would retire after this season. That was news to Walsh.
"I think it's a choice that I make," Walsh said.
Boston Defense Thriving without Thibodeau
There were some analysts who thought the Boston Celtics' defense might suffer when assistant coach Tom Thibodeau left during the summer to become the Bulls' head coach. However, the Celtics rank third in the NBA with a 99.6 Defensive Rating.
"You can look at it both ways," center Kendrick Perkins said. "Right now we've still got a great defense, and he's not here. So you can say it either way. He had the same defense in Houston, too, but we did better here. We definitely appreciate what coach Thibs did, but I think it's pretty much the players who make the defense."
General manager Danny Ainge said he was confident Boston's defense would remain strong because of head coach Doc Rivers, the addition of former Nets coach Lawrence Frank to the staff and the players.
"The whole key to our defense is how much of an effort, night in and night out, we get and our players give it," Ainge said.
Forward Kevin Garnett said that ultimately it is Rivers who makes any strategy or scheme successful.
"Well, I always think it's the head coach," said Garnett. "It's assistant coaches' jobs to give the head coach ideas and thoughts. Ultimately I think that defense is a matter of personnel and focus. Doc's the one that came up with the practice plans, and the fact it became an emphasis is Doc. I'll just say I think that Doc and Thibs together did a very good job defensively."
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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