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Increasing Corporate Knowledge

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Knowing the "Pelican way" could help New Orleans win big this year.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Corporate knowledge is a buzzword in the NBA now. Thanks in large part to the San Antonio Spurs and head coach Gregg Popovich. The earliest quote I was able to find utilizing the term came all the way back in 2010.

The Spurs search not only for raw athletic talent, but for personnel who has the temperament, humility, and drive to fulfill a specific role on their team. This self-awareness as an organization is the corporate knowledge that Popovich referred to in the San Antonio Express-News yesterday. Speaking about Tony Parker’s recent contract extension, Popovich remarked that, "Continuity and corporate knowledge have always been something that’s helped us over the years. We obviously think it’s very important, that’s why we did it (rewarding Parker with a lucrative contract extension)."

The same term can be found in Popovich's lexicon in 2012.

"That corporate knowledge that builds year in and year out is really invaluable I think," Popovich told a small group of reporters before Friday night’s game. "So they understand what the coach wants and the coach knows what he’s going to get every night. When players know what they’re going to get from each other, they feel responsible to each other."

48 Minutes of Hell, the Spurs ESPN TrueHoop blog, has an entire section dedicated to corporate knowledge. Players themselves even use the term.

"I never doubted," Ginobili said. "There were so many times it was supposed to be the last run. I always trusted the guys. Even though we were aging, we had corporate knowledge and new guys who could help push the same boat."

The Pelicans, up until this training camp, have sorely lacked for corporate knowledge. While no team (in professional sports) can compete with the continuity that the Spurs have established, New Orleans has greatly improved in this area. Let's see how the Pelicans (then-Hornets) roster has evolved in the past three seasons.

2012-2013 - Introducing One Another

It is important to note that the 2011-2012 team, Year One After-CP3, did not have a functional training camp. A typical training camp and preseason schedule runs nearly the entire month of October. Due to the NBA lockout the beginning of the season was delayed until Christmas Day and training camps did not open until December 9th. That free agency also began on December 9th (and the CP3 trade did not take place until the December 15th) limited what Monty Williams could install and the players who were available to practice. For these reasons I will not consider the 2011 Training Camp equal to a standard training camp.

October 2012 was a promising time for the then New Orleans Hornets. Anthony Davis was coming in and the hype was at a fevered pitch. Unfortunately Eric Gordon continued to battle knee problems and was unable to participate in training camp. Gordon would not play until December 29th and sat out the second game of back-to-backs for much of the season. Jason Smith was the only player on the roster who attended the 2010 Training Camp, the only actual camp Monty Williams and company had in New Orleans up until this point. The lack of experience in the New Orleans basketball culture is startling.

Camps Minutes
Jason Smith 2 2049
Greivis Vasquez 1 1706
Al-Farouq Aminu 1 1477
Lance Thomas 1 630
Ryan Anderson 1 0
Robin Lopez 1 0
Anthony Davis 1 0
Austin Rivers 1 0
Brian Roberts 1 0
Roger Mason 1 0
Darius Miller 1 0
Xavier Henry 1 0
Hakim Warrick 1 0
Eric Gordon 0 310

Few teams with a head coach entering his third year have ever had so little experience with one another. Monty Williams has often been quoted that he did a lot of teaching in practice. Just five players on the opening day roster had ever played a minute of real NBA basketball under Monty Williams and his coaching staff.

2013-2014 - Starting to Feel Each Other Out

Despite another summer of heavy roster turnover the newly minted Pelicans were much more familiar with each other and the coaching staff. Just one season together for most of these players dramatically increased the "corporate knowledge" so valued in an elite organization like the Spurs. Jason Smith, franchise greybeard, continues to lead the way as the longest tenured New Orleans Pelican.

Camps Minutes
Jason Smith 3 2925
Al-Farouq Aminu 2 3543
Ryan Anderson 2 2503
Anthony Davis 2 1846
Austin Rivers 2 1418
Brian Roberts 2 1324
Lance Thomas 2 1276
Eric Gordon 1 1574
Jrue Holiday 1 0
Tyreke Evans 1 0
Anthony Morrow 1 0
Jeff Withey 1 0
Greg Stiemsma 1 0
Arinze Onuaku 1 0

While a significant improvement is evident, this is in no way comparable to the years of experience that teams like the Spurs have together. Multiple players expected to play a big role (Holiday, Evans, Morrow) are brand new to the franchise. Eric Gordon, despite being with the team for three years, participated in his first real training camp. Tyreke Evans was injured in the first pre-season game. The opening day roster has much more experience together; but not a lot compared to their contemporaries.

2014-2015 - Like Old Comrades?

This season the team will know each other quite well. Much of the team (eight, to be exact) was hear for last year's training camp. Another two (Luke Babbitt and Alexis Ajinca) were acquired mid-season and have some experience in the Pelicans particular vernacular and process. Fully ten players have experience with Monty Williams and his coaching staff. The plays, the terminology, the defensive calls, and the expectations.

Three additions (John Salmons, Omer Asik, Jimmer Fredette) have been around the league for a while. It is not a coincidence that Monty Williams himself  or coaches he has worked with (Tom Thibodeau and Mike Malone) have experience with these veteran additions. While certain situations may be treated differently, many scenarios will have similar expectations if the words or phrases used are different.

Camps Minutes
Anthony Davis 3 4204
Ryan Anderson 3 3298
Austin Rivers 3 2757
Darius Miller 3 1417
Eric Gordon 2 3631
Tyreke Evans 2 2028
Jrue Holiday 2 1143
Jeff Withey 2 684
Alexis Ajinca 1 951
Luke Babbitt 1 473
Omer Asik 1 0
John Salmons 1 0
Jimmer Fredette 1 0
Russ Smith 1 0
Patric Young 1 0

While many have pointed out that Eric Gordon is now the longest tenured Pelican, Anthony Davis is the one with the most experience on the court under Monty Williams. A total which does not include AD's time with Team USA; where Monty is an assistant. No player on the roster knows what Monty wants better than Anthony Davis at this point.

People (like myself) wondering why the team would make a point to retain a Darius Miller at times fail to see the value this franchise (built by two men with experience in the San Antonio organization) places on continuity. Yes, a "higher upside" wing may exist outside of Darius Miller to be the 10th or 15th roster spot. Miller, however, does not need to be taught how the Pelicans want things done. There is value in that corporate knowledge.

Building Blocks

The margin between a playoff berth and another lottery pick shipped out of town is going to be small. There are a number of things we can see Dell Demps and the front office values. They value having a big center to protect Anthony Davis. See Robin Lopez, Greg Stiemsma, and now Omer Asik. They also value continuity.

The backlash against the Pelican rebuilding method continues to be rehashed. The core that Demps and company intend to build around is here, although not all of it may be kept. Eric Gordon is the most likely to go, and Tyreke Evans is oftentimes listed right beside him (even though he's a bargain). Some of these players are going to remain though; building blocks of a new long term method of constructing a roster.

Everyone knows Anthony Davis is the cornerstone. The rest of the foundation is probably already here as well. That's why Dell Demps keeps on going after "young veterans". Players who can grow and develop beside the superstar. Just because no one has tried it before does not mean it won't work.