The New Orleans Pelicans held their 2016 Media Day on Friday and Dell Demps, Alvin Gentry and the entire training camp roster, outside of Jrue Holiday of course, held individual conferences for those in attendance. With so much information divulged in one sitting, this article will only peruse the most pertinent details, whittling it all down into a list of the ten most important things that were echoed throughout the entire proceedings.
1. Anthony Davis went there, folks. The resident superstar injected the newly decorated media room inside the Smoothie King Center with hope, maintaining his thoughts consist of nothing but going to work on behalf of the city of New Orleans.
“I love it here. I don’t plan on leaving. I guess I fit in the old-school category where I try and win it here, where I started my career. That’s always been a goal of mine. I’ve never thought about leaving here. People have their own opinions and reasons why they make their decisions and I have mine. I love it here. My goal is to bring a championship here.”
Earlier in the week, the Pelicans over/under win figure failed to even sniff playoff levels, so Davis’ words might have added some reassurance before the start of the season. In a present state of the NBA where Karl-Anthony Towns and his Minnesota Timberwolves are the Western Conference’s newest darlings, Davis stated that he’s ready to lead this group of new faces — I could almost sense a little more maturity in the 23-year-old’s responses. Maybe it was partially due to the general manager and head coach stating moments beforehand that this is undoubtedly Davis’ team, but I got a real sense that this new grittier, more defensively-orientated lineup could be just what the doctor needed for Davis’ career arc to move upwards again.
2. The Pelicans general manager seemed to indicate the organization has modified their mission statement. Demps reiterated several times the importance of “the process” rather than getting into specifics about the team’s playoff chances.
“I think all the teams in the Western Conference right now are setting goals to get to the playoffs. I think right now what we’re going to focus on is the process. That process is going to be our daily work: focusing on our defense, making sure we’re doing the right things — playing hard, playing smart, and playing the right way.”
Later in his Q&A, Demps stated, “Our goal is the process and putting ourselves in the position to win.”
Tyreke Evans says a blood clot in his calf complicated his rehab following knee surgery. pic.twitter.com/7TwdGz1kwy— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) September 23, 2016
3. Rocky rehabilitations will postpone the returns of both Tyreke Evans and Quincy Pondexter until sometime well into the regular season. Evans mentioned he had to deal with a blood clot in his calf shortly after his latest knee surgery, while Pondexter emphasized that 2 major knee surgeries were bound to result in a tedious recovery. Dell Demps mentioned that the next 2-4 weeks would give a better idea of when either player would be able to start thinking about a definitive timetable.
Interestingly the vibe in the room seemed to indicate that the odds might be in favor of Evans returning first. Listen to how Demps described Pondexter’s situation, one that Fletcher Mackel compared to Brandon Roy seconds earlier in a question.
“I think he’s going to make it back, seeing him work. I think he’s close. I think that he’s had some ups and downs and ultimately had to have a second surgery. But knowing his character and mindset, I’m betting on him returning.”
Can’t say Fletch’s quick assessment was off base, can you? 16 months have elapsed since Pondexter last competed in a game, yet his return still resembles the flip of a coin. On the other hand, Evans stated that his knee felt good, thanks to a lot of bike exercises, and his doctors realistically expect a December return. If it wasn’t for those stethoscope-carrying opinions, Evans said he would try and play in the season opener.
4. The front office claims they have done their due diligence in combating future injury. When asked specifically about the medical staff and training methods, Dell Demps replied the Pelicans have done their homework and should be good to go.
“We’ve done extensive research, reviewed and studied other teams in other situations, other sports, and I want to make sure that player care is of the utmost importance to us. We monitor the guys and their work loads. Unfortunately for us, a lot of our injuries have been contact injuries. There is nothing you can do as far as prevention. Moving forward, and even last year, we put a real emphasis on prevention. Sometimes it’s bad luck, but we’re going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that we have the highest healthy rate to play.”
"We need to play blue collar desperate." pic.twitter.com/7OYGH0TEF6— Kevin Barrios (@kevinbforbounce) September 23, 2016
5. Alvin Gentry laid out three main goals for the Pelicans: playing blue-collar desperate, being the best conditioned team and playing unselfishly. He later clarified the blue-collar phrase didn’t connote anything negative, using it to describe the Golden State Warriors and how that team noticeably emits this type of mentality.
During his time at the podium, Demps had mentioned, “We have a lot of guys who made it the hard way. They had to grind their way to have success. Our fans are going to appreciate seeing that on the court.”
If it hasn’t occurred to you yet, the theme surrounding this new roster will be a vastly improved effort level. The likely reason the general manager failed to directly contemplate postseasons was because the Pelicans have a desire to first fulfill a number of interim steps. That the 2014-15 trip to the playoffs was more akin to a fluke because as we learned last season, the team’s foundation was very unsteady and in need of major repair.
6. Two of the more exciting free agent acquisitions, Terrence Jones and Lance Stephenson, have not been promised anything by the New Orleans Pelicans. Demps made no bones about it.
“You know, nothing was promised to those guys. They’re going to come in, compete and it’s going to be how they fit in, their contributions. They both participated in our offseason voluntary workouts and they both actually looked good in the workouts. We’re hoping to get the best versions of themselves, and if so, I think that will be good for the Pelicans.”
Buddy tries to be a step ahead by discussing every situation or potential situation with the vets. pic.twitter.com/taT90dvwD3— Kevin Barrios (@kevinbforbounce) September 23, 2016
7. Alvin Gentry: “I think Buddy is going to be a typical rookie. There’s going to be nights where he plays extremely well; there’s going to be nights where he struggles. That’s no different than any other rookie in this league the last 50 years. Even LeBron had his moments.”
However, Gentry would go on to add that Hield is an extremely hard working kid who has too much talent to fail, anticipating one day that the former Sooner will be a very good player in this league.
According to the man himself — and after he had poured himself an orange soda from the media’s refrigerator — Hield stated that he has worked on his entire game since the conclusion of the 2016 Summer League. In addition, he claims to consistently be in the ears of all the veterans, picking their brains for any and all useful knowledge. If there’s one thing you should know about Buddy, he’s all about the preparation.
8. When Dell Demps was asked to talk about the correlation between multiple All-Stars and team success, he offered an interesting rebuttal.
“When you look at the whole history of all the successful teams, there have been different combinations. Sometimes it’s the teams with the most talent; sometimes it’s the teams that have the great fit and make great chemistry. When we put this group together, we think it does compliment Anthony. Obviously everything starts with him.”
Later, Anthony Davis brought up the success of last year’s Boston Celtics, indicating perhaps the personnel are buying into a sort of the-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts theory.
In prior research, I vividly recall reading that most championship teams had more than one significant different maker on the roster. Now, that does not necessarily mean the Pelicans must possess another all-world offensive player. Oftentimes great teams were partially buoyed by an NBA All-Defensive team candidate.
Omer Asik says last year left a bad taste. pic.twitter.com/aLRaujB9WZ— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) September 23, 2016
9. Alexis Ajinca believes he’ll emerge as the Pelicans starting center this season. As he wrapped up his conference, he uttered, “I will be a starter this year. You’ll see.”
It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility as I covered last month how Ajinca could surprise in a bounce back campaign. However, it must be noted that a healthy Omer Asik could foil those plans. The Turkish-born player claimed that he never felt 100% last season and was fully aware of his shortcomings, including on the defensive side of the ball. His career could also rebound some after not having to deal with back issues this offseason which had plagued him a year earlier.
10. Davis notified the media that Lauren Holiday had delivered a baby girl earlier in the week. Although this certainly qualifies as good news, Pondexter let us know that it’s still apt to pray for the Holiday family. Demps had stated that Jrue’s wife was in the stages of preparing for surgery.
During his impending absence, Tim Frazier told Jrue Holiday that he’ll hold the fort down until the Pelicans starting point guard is able to return to the team. Demps seemed mildly hopeful of the occurrence of such a prospect.
“We’re also excited to see Tim Frazier. You know he shot the ball actually well last year, and he gave us good minutes. He’s been playing very well in our offseason programs.”