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New Orleans Pelicans display relaxed confidence on Media Day but plan to blitzkrieg the competition in due time

No DeMarcus Cousins. No Rajon Rondo. No problem!

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

DeMarcus Cousins is gone. So, too, is Rajon Rondo. However, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday both remain, and for at least on Media Day 2018, those two much talked about departures didn’t weigh down the expectations for the New Orleans Pelicans upcoming season.

Far from it, actually.

There existed a noticeable sense of urgency on Airline Drive one year ago, but yesterday the atmosphere was markedly much looser — an unfamiliar relaxed confidence seemed to waft through the practice facility’s media room.

Instead of listening to Davis issue a warning heard twelve months ago: “We have one year to figure it out,” his fun-loving personality immediately grabbed the spotlight, and Holiday, who stood feet away towards the back of the room, was ready to hand out a well-timed assist.

Once Davis finished fidgeting around in his chair, trying to fit that newly bulked up body into a plastic seat crafted for mere mortals — don’t forget, someone has to occupy a lot of minutes at the center position, he announced smiling, “Here we go.” But in the very next instance, he tapped on the microphone, stating, “Aww, this is fake...Does this work?”

After elicting his third laugh from the gathered crowd in the span of just a few minutes, Davis eyed a teammate standing with the video camera crew. “I’d like to shout out Jrue Holiday first in the back,” said Davis. “Jrue, what’s up brah?”

All of this came after AD had purposefully interrupted Alvin Gentry’s media segment, playfully wondering why he was still waiting on the Head Coach to wrap up his turn at the mic.

Sure, Davis went on to eagerly talk about his new teammates, show plenty of excitement and hope for the upcoming season and calmly dismiss concerns about his change in agent representation. However, the easy-going mood remained a constant — as evidenced by a few more jabs in Holiday’s direction.

First, Jrue’s current style of hair (individual braids that should lead to a 40-point average, if you’re wondering) was a topic, and then AD mentioned Jrue was playing in a weight vest the other day. “I don’t know why he did it,” said a mildly perplexed Davis. “But that’s Jrue. He’s different, he wants to win, and I’m glad he’s on our team.”

This laid-back approach — but with all eyes on the prize — set the stage for all those who followed.

Jrue Holiday joked about how he had less time to get out of shape this summer. In case the humor is lost, the Pelicans enjoyed a 3+ week playoff run that took a bite away from down time — a thing seldom experienced by New Orleans players. Holiday then got a little more serious and let us know that he is focused on improving his three-point shot and earning another All-Defensive First Team.

When it was his turn to take the podium, Elfrid Payton entered the room with a big smile and asked how everyone was doing. He proceeded to compliment a number of his new teammates for their offseason efforts, and then asserted his problematic defensive issues were going to become a thing of the past — how could they not when playing alongside two stud defenders in AD and Jrue?

Nikola Mirotic and Darius Miller decided to split their time using a single microphone, and they couldn’t help but share a few laughs, including after Mirotic had stated “I don’t have time for that” when referencing his image on the NBA2K video game. When it came time to discuss the proposed faster pace though, they gave thoughtful answers that indicated they have a healthy confidence in the strategy working for this roster.

In fact, every single voice asked questions in front of the media today gave their unique thoughts on the topic of playing at a faster pace than last season.

Jrue Holiday laughed when asked about a quicker pace, wondering if Alvin Gentry has mistaken the Pelicans for a group of track stars. Elfrid talked about how you might think you’re playing fast, but it’s probably not fast enough. Solomon Hill, however, took the time to really break down the goal of being the fastest team in the league and the logical reasoning behind it.

“Everybody has to play what works for them,” stated Hill. “If we played any other style of basketball, that wouldn’t fit who we are. That wouldn’t fit our coach and the system we want to implement. We found success being the fastest team in the NBA, and I think our goal is now if we had to match up with last year’s team, we would have to be faster than that team — and that’s what we do. We have to stick to our guns. We have to stick to what we know and how we know how to play, and it works with the guys we have on the court. I think Jrue was top 5 in miles ran. AD being a versatile guy — you know, I call him a basketball player because he can play any position you need him to play. And Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, they fit the mold of what we want to do here. So we have no reason to not play fast.”

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So excited about this season !! @pelicansnba

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DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo may be gone, but the New Orleans Pelicans hopes for prosperity in coming seasons did not leave with them out the door. Anthony Davis — just as everyone else in that locker room — is cognizant of what will bring success but needs to be accomplished first: playing at a faster clip than the team that dismantled the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs last year.

Hold tight, the Pelicans are planning on really taking flight!