It took a while for point guard Brian Roberts to stop calling himself a Hornet. Scratch that plan.
“I tried so hard not to say ‘Hornets’ in New Orleans getting ready for the Pelicans,” said Roberts. “It’s a reversal now.”
The 6-foot-1 Roberts signed with the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday to be Kemba Walker’s backup. So he’s the first (and maybe last) player to be a Hornet, then a Pelican, and then a Hornet in consecutive seasons.
The New Orleans Hornets became the Pelicans last season.
Roberts reached the NBA the hard way. He went unselected in the 2008 draft after finishing his college career at Dayton. He played four seasons in Israel and Germany before signing with New Orleans in 2012 following a strong summer-league performance.
“Coming out of Dayton I wasn’t mentally ready for the NBA,” Roberts said. “I needed the time overseas to (improve) not only physically, but mentally as well.”
What did he need mentally?
“Confidence, understanding the game and understanding at my size (how to optimize) my point-guard skills,” Roberts said. “There’s nothing like game experience and I got a lot of that.”
The summer after he went undrafted Roberts played for Orlando’s summer-league team, coached by now-Hornets coach Steve Clifford. Clifford said there’s persistence about players like Roberts that he finds attractive.
“There’s a work-ethic part and they have a deep love of the game,” Clifford said. “To have that kind of determination, they bring a lot of those characteristics to a team.”
One of general manager Rich Cho’s goals this offseason was improving the Hornets’ shooting. Roberts fits that agenda. He led the NBA in free-throw percentage last season, at 94 percent, and shot 37.2 percent from 3-point range his two seasons in New Orleans.
Also Roberts started about half the Pelicans’ games last season after Jrue Holiday suffered a season-ending leg injury. He averaged 9.4 points and 3.3 assists last season.
“Organization, pick-and-roll game and (long-range) shooting,” Clifford said of Roberts’ attributes.
“I also like that he had the chance to play as a full-time starter. If your (starter) goes down, you want the backup ready to play a bigger role. He’s experienced in playing against starters in starter’s minutes.”
Roberts said he chose the Hornets over interest from the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies.
The Hornets are expected to re-sign Jannero Pargo later this week to be the No. 3 point guard. Clifford said the remaining roster addition he’d like to see is a third center behind Al Jefferson and Bismack Biyombo.
“I think that we could use another center,” Clifford said. “We’ll look at playing (Cody Zeller) some at center, but that’s not his natural position.
“You never want to go into a game with just two point guards or centers.”