John Calipari joined Sean Kelley on the latest edition of the Black and Blue Report and he weighed in on the state of the New Orleans Pelicans. After watching the group of players who were in attendance this past week, Calipari was quite hopeful and positive with his remarks, comparing the current Pelicans squad to the Oklahoma City Thunder from six years ago.
“This happened... I think it was five or six years ago. The Thunder came up and did the same thing. Those guys went two-a-days, just like this team. They did a lot of team building, just like this team. This morning they did yoga and they did it as a group. They’re playing against each other; they're doing drills. If you’re going to be a good team, especially in the West, it’s got to be player driven.”
During the last NBA lockout, the Thunder spent time at the University of Kentucky, displaying a similar togetherness and determination that Calipari witnessed this week from the Pelicans. The coach applauded Anthony Davis in particular for his leadership when responding to Kelley’s question about the perceived roster fit issues.
“Well, what I’m seeing right now,” said Calipari, “you know you would always like one or two more guys — that’s every team or every coach. But what I’m seeing, when you start and you have the beginnings of two All-Stars and now your guard play just got better. They had a team dinner last night that everybody went to. I mean when you have a culture of Anthony really being aggressive when they’re doing drills together and maybe getting on a guy or two if they’re going through the motions. I’m just sitting here and saying I’ve seen this act before when I saw the Thunder come in. And it’s kind of like they’re slowly changing the culture and they want to put winning first. And we’re all willing to do this to win. We’re here, we do not want to lose — that’s the first step to winning."
Coach Cal also mentioned Rajon Rondo, stating that he thinks the new point guard has a good handle on what the Pelicans are seeking to accomplish on the floor. Plus, he was effusive in his praise of both Jrue Holiday and Frank Jackson. Calipari feels Holiday is a ridiculously good player whose talent is overlooked while he believes Jackson is going to be a terrific professional in the league thanks to his shot-making ability.
Calipari acknowledged the competition in the Western Conference is going to be incredible in 2017-18, and as it is the case with most teams, the Pelicans are going to have to largely remain healthy. However, he was impressed by the group’s camaraderie this week, and this commitment shown by the majority of the team to take part in the voluntary workouts is a very important step for the team seeking to enjoy plenty of success.