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New Orleans Pelicans flash potential to delight of crowd in Saturday’s open scrimmage

Yes, we’re talking about practice!

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans-Media Day Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Cousins lighting up the scoreboard from behind the three-point line, Cheick Diallo hitting a quarter-winning buzzer beater and multiple New Orleans Pelicans throwing down vicious dunks, were all just some of the sights and sounds witnessed by a raucous crowd inside the Smoothie King Center during Saturday’s practice open to the public.

Following the execution of several drills, the Pelicans participated in three different scrimmage sessions against one another, and to the delight of onlookers, the players exhibited plenty of energy and large portions of entertaining basketball.

In the first go-around, the anticipated starters — Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo, Holiday and Cousins — were joined by E’Twaun Moore, and this group went on to demolish the reserves by a score of 31-15. Cousins led the charge, hitting from the outside as well as scoring several buckets near the rim against Diallo.

Anthony Davis moments after exiting the scrimmage with a minor shoulder issue.

The second and third games saw the starters separated...well until Davis momentarily exited the arena due to a right shoulder issue. Although he failed to return to competition after rejoining the team on the court, Gentry informed the media after the day’s play concluded that AD’s issue is nothing to worry about going forward — There simply was no reason to bring him back into an exhibition game.

New Orleans head coach, who also served as the emcee of today’s event and was responsible for really energizing the crowd, noted plenty of positives.

“I still think we’re a really unselfish team,” said Gentry. “I think guys still try to pass the basketball. I think we got some bigs that can play out on the perimeter, as you can see — especially with DeMarcus when he’s shooting good shots. He’s a terrific three-point shooter. AD is a terrific three-point shooter. We have a good, good leader in Rondo, who can put people in the right spots and things like that. There are a lot of things that were very positive that we can build on.”

Some miscellaneous notes:

  • Davis and Cousins proved yet again that they can be an effective unit on the floor in this era dominated by small ball teams. The shooting, passing and defense were all evident, but media row was perhaps most impressed by Cousins level of conditioning. His activity and agility were leaps and bounds greater than anything witnessed last season.
  • The pace of action and more ball/player movement in half-court sets were obvious. Rondo and other decision makers always seemed to find an open man on the perimeter or a cutter slicing through the lane in most instances.
  • After several unspectacular viewings in practice earlier in the week, Holiday shined brightly, making his share of shots from the outside and inside the paint, when either opportunity presented itself. Perhaps more importantly though, Jrue is having fun. After throwing down a fast break dunk, he displayed some rare emotion by roaring some animated words in the direction of the crowd during a subsequent timeout.
  • Jordan Crawford couldn’t miss during the early shooting drills but was relatively quiet from a scoring standpoint throughout the scrimmages. Yet, there’s no cause for alarm here because he did bring something else to the table, leading the reserves from the floor general’s position. Crawford pushed the pace well and made solid decisions with the ball — we might be looking at the team’s third point guard on the depth chart.
  • Darius Miller and Ian Clark started coldly, but at least Clark’s shot showed signs of life later.
  • The two best dunks of the day belonged to Diallo, when he hammed it all over Tony Allen, and Cliff Alexander, when he literally sent Rondo backwards a good ten feet.
  • Dante Cunningham did not play due to a hip flexor issue, but Gentry stressed the injury is very minor.
  • Alexis Ajinca is away from the team as he and his wife are preparing for the birth of his second child.

The New Orleans Pelicans will practice Sunday and Monday before hosting the Chicago Bulls in the first preseason game on the schedule on Tuesday.