Alexis Ajinca joined Daniel Sallerson for today's edition of the Black & Blue Report, and when he found his breath (did he literally just finish a workout?), he mentioned several things of note.
First and foremost, Ajinca claims his off-season Achilles injury is "nothing major so I'll be ready for the season." That's good to hear because it's still unclear whether Omer Asik will be limited in any way. Back in July he pulled out of the 2015 Eurobasket tournament due to reoccurring back pain, issues that plagued him on and off throughout the course of last year. As you know, there haven't been any updates on his condition since the middle of the summer.
Ajinca is extremely happy not only because he got married this summer but for also signing a new four year contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. He admits free agency weighed on him some because he knows he belongs in the NBA, not just overseas. However, he doesn't sound the least bit complacent as he claims that he still has a lot of things to prove.
Alexis was happy with his progress last season, and he was especially proud of his aggressiveness and ability to have productive games after enduring streaks of very little playing time.
"Last year, I had no idea whether I'd be playing 10 minutes, 5 or the whole game. I had no idea of what was going on so I had to be prepared no matter what was going to happen. If I was going in for five minutes, I was trying to get as many points and rebounds I could get so I could stay longer on the court to help my teammates as much as I could. Sometimes it was working out sometimes it wasn't."
Ajinca claims he has focused on several areas this off-season. He worked on his consistency in the post to improve his efficiency, his cardiovascular fitness, and mentioned even something as specific as moving his feet a little more on defense.
According to conversations with Alvin Gentry, Ajinca is going to be counted on for a lot of things. AA is aware he is going to have to be ready to run due to the implementation of a new uptempo system.
Ajinca is excited by the team's path of continuity followed by Dell Demps and the rest of management.
"It (continuity) is great and very wonderful to have. The same team went all the way to the playoffs and I think we all are disappointed about how it ended, not being able to win at least one game. We are very disappointed and think everyone is going to come back with a lot of anger and be able to show people what we're made of.
Ajinca believes the playoff experience was important because it showed the Pelicans were a good team amid all of the various injuries suffered by a number of his teammates. The squad showed they could hang in there with the eventual champions, the Golden State Warriors, despite not winning a game.
Expectations will be higher this season, but Ajinca thinks New Orleans will be ready for them. It sounds like the team has higher goals, yet they'll be able to handle them after developing a stronger mentality following the postseason sweep.