NEW ORLEANS -- Morris Peterson walked out of the Hornets shootaround, spied a group of Toronto media and gave hugs all around.
Mo Pete may be in a different uniform and a different area code -- he even has changed to No. 9 -- but the man himself hasn't changed a bit.
Easily one of the most popular Raptors to take the court in Toronto, Peterson was a free agent this off-season and without a defined role in Toronto, opted to join the New Orleans Hornets. His choices came down to the Utah Jazz or New Orleans, but Peterson acknowledged the decision was an easy one.
"One thing is my mother is from this area, she grew up 45 minutes away and that kind of weighed in," Peterson said. "When I went out to visit Utah, I did that basically out of respect for the organization. I had to see what they were talking about because I respect coach Jerry Sloan so when he shows interest you have to take that seriously."
It came down to comfort and for Peterson that was The Big Easy.
"Having grown up here a little bit, coming down here in the summertime, I just felt more comfortable," Peterson said. "It also gives my family a chance to see more."
Oh, and then there's the draw of the local menu as well.
"I've been eating good," Peterson said when asked how he is doing.
"Lot of gumbo and a lot of shrimp."
On the court, Peterson's decision to opt for New Orleans looks better with each passing day.
His team was 20-10 going into last night, matching its best start in franchise history and widely is considered one of the top five teams in the league.
Individually Peterson has a defined role and he gets to play alongside Chris Paul who already is among the top point guards in the league and still climbing.
"I knew Chris Paul was good, but I didn't know he was that good," Peterson said.
"One of the things that surprised me is a guy of his calibre, you look at a lot of all-stars and are in the position he is in, every time I come to the gym he is always in there. I try to get there early and he's beating me there. He's always first and always the last guy. He takes it very seriously and that surprised me for a guy who is only 22 years old. It's unbelievable watching a guy like that develop. I haven't seen a kid like that ever."
Best of all, Peterson says he now knows exactly what is expected of him.
"I like my role," Peterson said. "Coach has made me more comfortable as the season has progressed. My job is to go out there and stop their best player every night so that's my job and I understand my role on this team. That's what I like. I like being able to understand my role and just go out there and do my job."