NEW ORLEANS — With his team coming off a devastating loss Wednesday, New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams said Friday he was as concerned with its physical state as he was with its mental outlook when he canceled practice Thursday.
“The guys just needed a break,” he said. “There was a lot going on. (Rookie guard) Austin Rivers breaks his hand, Jason was having surgery, you lose a tough game like that. I thought the guys just needed a break from the gym for a day.
“Plus we had so many guys banged up. (Point guard) Greivis (Vasquez) is dealing with an ankle issue, (rookie forward Anthony Davis’) shoulder is still sore. … (Forward) Ryan (Anderson) has a neck (injury) from last week when he got cracked. So those are the things as a coach I have to weigh, getting healthy and trying to give guys a day off for their bodies.”
Psychologically, Williams said, it may have been better to have had a game the next night after the loss to the Lakers, in which the Hornets (21-41) blew a 25-point third-quarter lead.
However, after a day of healing, they were back at work Friday in preparation for Saturday night’s game at Memphis (40-19), which coincidentally is the first of back-to-back games. The Hornets play the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday at New Orleans Arena. New Orleans beat both the last time it played them.
Williams said the Hornets’ focus in practice Friday was on execution on both ends of the court as they move forward. Rivers said he thought the Hornets were fine mentally as they went though a training camp-type scrimmage.
In the Grizzlies, the Hornets will try to bounce back against a team it beat 91-85 on Jan. 27 as rumors regarding the trade of talented forward Rudy Gay swirled around it.
The Grizzlies also are trying to hold on to a prime playoff spot — fourth — and have been hot of late.
Since the trade, which brought veteran small forward Tayshaun Prince, power forward Ed Davis and shooter Austin Daye, the Grizzlies had won 10 of 11 games heading into Friday’s game at Cleveland, losing only to the rolling Miami Heat on March 1.
Prince and Davis have been particularly effective. The presence of Prince lends itself more to the Grizzlies’ identity as a strong defensive, grind-it-out team. And, Ed Davis has played well the past two games filling in for starter Zach Randolph, who sprained his left ankle in the first minute of the loss to the Heat.
Center Marc Gasol has played well of late, also, getting 24 points and nine rebounds against Miami, then following that with 12 points, five rebounds and a career-high 11 assists two nights later in a win vs. Orlando.
Before the meltdown against the Lakers, the Hornets lost a 17-point third-quarter lead in losing to Orlando at home in the previous game and were blown out at Oklahoma City by 45 points in the game before that.
In what could be an omen to the Hornets, Memphis went on a 24-0 run during the second and third quarters in outscoring Dallas 33-2 to overcome 25-point deficit and win 90-84 on Feb. 27, the game before it played Miami.
“Tayshaun is a throwback small forward, so they still have experience,” Williams said. “The guy has won a championship (with Detroit in 2004). … Gasol is playing at a high level, and (point guards Mike) Conley and Jerryd Bayless are playing well, and Daye gives them some shooting. … So that’s different than the last time we played them.”
The last time the Hornets played the Trail Blazers (28-32 heading into Friday at San Antonio), on Feb. 13 at the Arena, New Orleans ripped through them 99-63, its largest margin of victory this season. Davis led the way with 21 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
In the aftermath of the loss to the Lakers, Williams has been second-guessed for playing Davis, the overall top pick in last year’s draft, only 25 seconds into the fourth quarter. Williams said he wanted Anderson, one of the NBA’s top 3-pointer shooters, in the game because he opens up the court for drives to the basket.
Rivers said Friday he will have surgery on his fractured right hand, after all.
He said he thinks the injury occurred when he tried to steal the ball from Lakers forward Antawn Jamison near the start of the second quarter. The surgery will take place in a few days.
The Hornets signed guard Terrel Harris, 6-foot-4, to a 10-day contract Friday to take Rivers’ place. Harris, who played collegiately at Oklahoma State, was waived by the Miami Heat on Jan. 5. He played in seven games, averaging 1.4 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.1 minutes per appearance.
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