Former New Orleans Pelicans guard Brian Roberts, who is with the Charlotte Hornets, said his time with the Pelicans was a great learning experience for someone who came from playing professionally in Germany.
The New Orleans Pelicans play host to Charlotte on Tuesday night at Smoothie King Center.
“It was my first experience in the NBA,” he said. “I think that helped me to have the mindset to improve and take the next step. I miss it and it should be exciting tonight.”
Last year, Roberts' second in New Orleans, he proved invaluable when he moved into the starting lineup after point guard Jrue Holiday was lost for the season on Jan. 8. Roberts played in 72 games, but started 42. He averaged 9.4 points per game, but nearly 13 points as a starter, and was one of the league's more efficient players, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3/1.1 per game.
“To be able to step in and start so many games, play so many minutes, that's something you can't really teach,” Roberts said. “To have that under my belt, that's going to help me move forward in my future and try to develop my game even more. An opportunity arose, and I was able to step up and provide.”
However, the Pelicans' focus in the offseason was obtaining the center the team needed, Omer Asik, and the increased minutes Roberts played last season meant they would have had to pay double what was expected to keep him, in accordance with league rules.
Charlotte, who were the Bobcats last season, signed Roberts to a two-year, $5,586,940 contract. Roberts had scored 24 points in a game at Charlotte last season that impressed Coach Steve Clifford and team officials.
“Coach Clifford and I have talked about that,” Roberts said, “how I came up there and made it hard for them. They won the game, but that was a good memory, definitely.”
That convinced Clifford that Roberts was ready to help an NBA team, but Roberts already had been on his radar ever since he was an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic.
“I've always liked him because his first year out of Dayton (in 2008), we had him in Summer League out in Orlando, and I liked him then, just the way he was,” Clifford said. “You could tell then. I felt like he was close.”
It's early, but Clifford said Roberts is getting increasingly comfortable with the Hornets and playing better and better.
“He's a professional player,” Clifford said. “He's smart, he gets himself ready. He has a defined role, and he takes pride in it. So whether it's 18, 20, 16 minutes, he understands how to play in those 16 minutes.
“He both organizes and scores. He organizes and sets a tone for defense first. And, when he's in the game, we run plays for him because he's such as good scorer.”
Before Holiday became injured, Roberts didn't always have a set, defined role with the Pelicans, with Austin Rivers being in the mix at backup point guard.
However, he said he learned a lot about playing defense and structured basketball in the NBA under Coach Monty Williams.
Roberts, 28, likes his fit in Charlotte, though, and that Clifford believes he's a true pro.
“At my age, I feel like I know what what I can do to help a team, and that's what I try to do,” he said. “I like Coach Clifford. He allows you to play to your strength and he knows what's expected of you. It's a good thing.”
Of course, Roberts started his career with the New Orleans Hornets. By the time he signed with Charlotte in July, they had changed to the Hornets for about three months.
“I guess I'm supposed to be a Hornet,” he said, smiling. “That's basically how I look at it. So, that's what my mascot needs to be every where I go.
“It's pretty fun to have that as the first player to play for the Hornets in two different organizations. It's exciting, and it's a little trivia question I know I'll be a part of down the road somewhere.”