Early on in the media day Dell Demps summed up everything we need to know as Pelican fans.
Dell Demps: "There are going to be some good teams in the West that don't make the playoffs. But we want to be one of the teams that do."— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) September 29, 2014
The Western Conference is incredibly deep. All eight playoff teams expect to return. Phoenix, Denver, and New Orleans all have the playoffs on their mind coming into the season. Laker fans do too, but that's just cute of them at this point. 10 or 11 of the best 16 teams in the NBA will reside in the Western Conference once again this season, but only eight will see the post season. Who ultimately makes the playoffs is going to be a matter of new teammates gelling (not just in New Orleans but Houston, Dallas, Memphis, Denver, and Phoenix) and health. Speaking of health...
More Bad News
We already heard about Tyreke Evans injuring his hamstring on Saturday. Unfortunately that was not the end of the bad news on the team health front.
Holiday on how he's feeling health wise."About 75%." #PelicansMediaDay— Scott Prather (@Scott_1420) September 29, 2014
Holiday stressing how the Pelicans need to be healthy. Asked about Evans injury:"A hamstring is an injury you don't want to mess with."— Scott Prather (@Scott_1420) September 29, 2014
While there is reason for the Pelicans to continue to be cautious while increasing Holiday's workload to hear from his own mouth that he is only 75% seven full months after surgery to correct the stress fracture to his tibia is less than ideal. This is the media day, when players typically deliver hyperbole about being "in the best shape of their life" or putting on "20 pounds of solid muscle". Is Jrue simply a more honest kind of player? Possibly. But to hear that three of the six most important players are not 100% (Holiday along with Evans and Anderson) before a game that counts is even played is not positive news.
I'm told the Pelicans have hired Duane Brooks as athletic trainer. He replaces Jon Ishop, who was hired by the Detroit Pistons last month.— John Reid (@JohnReid64) September 28, 2014
Duane Brooks was the assistant trainer with the Saints.— John Reid (@JohnReid64) September 28, 2014
On the health front, the Pelicans now employ a new athletic trainer in Duane Brooks. I honestly cannot think of why the Pistons would hire Jon Ishop away from New Orleans considering the health history of this franchise.
Tyreke's Health and Position
Evans on coming off bench or starting:"Last year was first time coming off the bench. Think I played better starting" pic.twitter.com/hBgsSf0ozg— Scott Prather (@Scott_1420) September 29, 2014
Evans says he "definitely" thinks he'll play in the season opener #PelicansMediaDay— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) September 29, 2014
Jrue says Tyreke's best position is "on the court"— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) September 29, 2014
While Tyreke's per game performance dramatically increased dramatically once he was inserted in the starting lineup his per minute performance was just as good when Ryan Anderson was healthy. It would be a bit of a surprise to see Evans start opening night consider he will likely miss the entire preseason, but playing off the bench is in line with the initial diagnosis of missing 3-5 weeks.
Positionless Basketball or the 1980's?
Pelicans SF John Salmons:"The best quality in a coach is being able to adapt to your team." #PelicansMediaDay— Scott Prather (@Scott_1420) September 29, 2014
This will be fun to revisit. Let's do that immediately.
Monty Williams on Tyreke:"I don't think he's a small forward but he may spend time there..we want to get him on the floor" #PelicansMediaDay— Scott Prather (@Scott_1420) September 29, 2014
Dell mentions that Darius, Salmons, and Babbitt will have an opportunity to compete for mins at SF— Bourbon Street Shots (@BourbonStShots) September 29, 2014
Pelicans coach Monty Williams said PF Ryan Anderson could play some SF in certain lineups. But don't expect to see him there full time.— nakia hogan (@nakiahogan) September 29, 2014
Monty leaning hard on defining positions while Jrue talks about positionless basketball. Putting this rigid philosophy of basketball against the current NBA climate (and John Salmons's incredibly poignant statement) really shows the secondary challenge the Pelicans will have this season. Health will be the number one factor, especially with half of the rotation already less than 100%.
Second will be Monty Williams. Will he put the players in a position to succeed, or will he remain rigid in his schemes? Foremost among my concerns will be the defensive schemes and how he manages the rotation with Anthony Davis, Omer Asik, and Ryan Anderson. As I wrote earlier this summer, it will be difficult for Monty to create a new Unholy Trio. Anthony Davis (or any big man) hedging well beyond the three point line will be another flashpoint for discussion as the season goes on.
Playoffs is the Goal
Jim Eichenhofer for Pelicans.com has an article stuffed full of quotes from Monty Williams and Dell Demps on the goals of the franchise this season. Yes, the playoffs are the goal. No, missing the playoffs (without qualification) does not necessitate a failure.
It is important to note that the Pelicans have just two players over age 26 in John Salmons and Omer Asik. It is no surprise, then, that the Pelicans ranked first according to ESPN in under-25 talent. For a team that "mortgaged its future" they sure do have a lot of young talent.
With that, let's hear your opinion. Is it playoffs or bust (and fire everyone) for you? Explain your position in the comments!