ESPN's Hubie Brown
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
One of the most respected television analysts in the NBA, ESPN’s Hubie Brown is a wealth of basketball knowledge, having been a head coach and broadcaster in the league for a combined total of four decades. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005. In addition to visiting cities around the country to call games for ESPN, the Atlanta resident has spent the first portion of the season catching a multitude of games on TV. He even attended New Orleans’ preseason road game against the Atlanta Hawks last month. Here is Brown’s assessment of the NBA and the Hornets at this early stage of 2012-13. We caught up with Brown prior to Wednesday’s ESPN game against the Philadelphia 76ers:
Hornets.com: What stories stand out to you from the first week of the NBA regular season?
Brown: First of all is the unexpected. We’re seeing some scores where teams that are predicted to not make the playoffs are beating top-notch teams. Also, all of the injuries to at least seven of the star players throughout the league. But I like what we’re seeing (in terms of surprising outcomes of games), because it means that coaching staffs are maximizing the potential of their kids, to the point where we’re seeing eye-opening scores, night in and night out.
Hornets.com: Speaking of young teams, what are your thoughts on the Hornets so far?
Brown: I like what I’ve seen. Without (Anthony) Davis, going into Chicago and beating Chicago, that was a very big win. That was a testament to your coaching staff and your players buying in, and then to be led by your frontcourt people was also outstanding, because you’re playing without Davis and (Eric) Gordon. You’re talking about two guys who, if they were (healthy) from the get-go, could possibly play in the All-Star Game. So even though you have the second-youngest team in the league, you have an excellent coaching staff here. I don’t blow smoke on coaching staffs. I see them work and I understand what they’re doing. When you put out the defensive stats that your team puts out every year that this coaching staff has been here, they are giving your team a chance to win every night, if you’re healthy. Because a) the defense will always be there night in and night out b) the shooting percentages for (opponents) coming in are minuses and c) you force turnovers and love to play (games with scores in the) 80s and 90s. This is a great style. Last year you had to overcome all of those injuries, 200-some games lost to injuries. This year, when you get Davis and Gordon matched in with the (other players) who are together for November and December, all young teams get better, because a) it’s youth but b) it’s also new (teammates). They get accustomed to the coaching staff, offensively and defensively. Young teams get better from January on, when you have a good coaching staff.
Hornets.com: It’s obviously extremely early in an 82-game season, but based on what you’ve seen so far, is it possible this team was underestimated? Many of the national predictions had the Hornets winning between 30 and 35 games.
Brown: Well, it’s very early. In November and December, they will have to hope they can be around that .500 mark. If they’re around that, if Gordon comes back in December, and Davis will have had two months playing with the team by then, you will have a dynamite nine-man rotation. And you’ll have more experience, because the guys who are getting additional playing time and quality opportunities now will give you more depth.
Hornets.com: What is your reaction to the improvements that Hornets players such as Robin Lopez and Al-Farouq Aminu appear to have made in the offseason? Did you feel both players had room to get better? Lopez has been in the league for four years; usually a player “is what he is” by then.
Brown: First of all, both guys underachieved where they were (with previous teams). Now you can say, did they underachieve because of a) coaching b) lack of work ethic or c) the offenses and defenses they played in were not conducive to their talent and physical qualities. Take any of those three ideas, and add in that all of a sudden both guys are playing over 30 minutes per game here with New Orleans. Minutes are always the key. But you don’t discount that the individual could’ve underachieved by himself. Attitude, maturity, age all are factors. But also, what did a coaching staff do for this individual player?
Hornets.com: Disappointed you’re not getting to see Anthony Davis play in person?
Brown: Well, I live in Atlanta, so I went to the (Hornets at Hawks) exhibition game (on Oct. 18), because I wanted to see him play in person. He was matched up with Josh Smith, and at halftime he had outscored Smith something like 15-6. He also had seven or eight rebounds. I was very impressed with how smooth and how talented he is. He’s only 19 years old – he’s still learning the game. I also went down to see (Austin) Rivers in person. But you don’t make major conclusions on young players (immediately). If they are hard-working and intelligent, they will understand their shortcomings when they come in the league. Then they’ll work hard to improve. If you look at the Hall of Fame and guys who have made All-NBA first and second teams, it’s interesting how many of them had to change their bodies or change their offensive game, because a) it was limited or b) they had to learn how to play going left or with their back to the basket. For perimeter guys, they have to learn how to shoot a higher percentage and adjust, because the NBA three-point line is an extra step beyond the college line. It’s a completely different game. Plus, NBA defenders close much more quickly on you than they did in college. There are so many things young players have to grasp. If they’re not reaching what people are expecting of them, now it comes down to their heart. You can do all of the scouting you want and see guys who are picked in the lottery and just automatically expect great things. No. You can’t look in their hearts. You can’t know how much they’re willing to give of themselves to get better. That’s the key to this business.