In the two seasons he spent away from the sidelines, Stan Van Gundy wasn’t plugged into the college game. So, it wasn’t surprising that he didn’t have a great deal of influence on the New Orleans Pelicans’ draft preparations.
“I was not involved in the process, I’m just being honest,” said Van Gundy during his post-draft press conference. “I wasn’t here very long, I hadn’t watched college games during the year, Griff and Trajan kept me informed on guys. I knew very early on taking the job that they loved Kira, so that I knew, but it wasn’t like I was involved in the process and giving them input or giving them my recommendations on who they should draft or anything else.”
He’s been on the job for only a month now, and other tasks have been his priority.
“I’m trying to get ready, get a staff hired, get a system in and all of that, and meet with our players.”
The Pelicans are in transition. With the Jrue Holiday trade, nearly every vestige of the Monty Williams/Alvin Gentry/Dell Demps era is gone, with Darius Miller being the last one standing (for now).
Training camps open on Dec. 1, just ten days from now. Free agency begins tonight, with New Orleans having nine players officially on the roster (Holiday deal has not been finalized); 11 if George Hill, Eric Bledsoe, and first round draft pick Kira Lewis Jr are included and Jrue removed.
Re-signing the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player, Brandon Ingram, is the Pelicans’ first priority, and extending super-sub Josh Hart may not be far behind.
Various teams project these players to land max contracts after free agency begins tonight in 3+ hours:— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 20, 2020
*Pelicans restricted free agent Brandon Ingram
*Max extensions for Boston's Jayson Tatum and Utah's Donovan Mitchell from the draft class of 2017
*The Lakers' Anthony Davis
The team also has to find depth in the frontcourt and on the wing. However, that responsibility will be left to David Griffin and Trajan Langdon as the coach focuses on the on-court product.
“One of the reasons I was so attracted to this job is that I think Griff is very good at what he does, I think Trajan is very good at what he does, I trust those guys on player personnel, and when they ask for my opinion I give it, but at the end of the day it’s going to be their decision on trades and free agency,” he said.
“I have great trust in that, and what it allows me to do, especially when we’re going as fast as we are, is it allows me to spend 90-percent of my time on meeting with my coaches, because we’re new to each other, and starting to really come together on how we want to play on the floor, what our system is going to look like. I’ll give opinions, but I’m really putting my trust in those two guys.”
While some might view the short time frame between the start of camp and the start of the regular season (Dec. 22) as a disadvantage, Van Gundy embraces it.
“I’ve talked about this with guys; a lot of what this season is going to be about, I don’t care players, coaches, [the media], anybody involved in the NBA, it’s about adaptability,” Van Gundy continued.
“It’s not going to be what it has been. I don’t care if it’s (the media), or the players, or me, if you want to sit there and complain because it’s not what you want and it’s not what the season should be, if we can’t get ourselves ready to play because it’s not as much fun, because there’s not enough people in the building, you can have a lot of self-pity and never be ready to play. This is all about adaptability.”
Adaptability isn’t a word that’s been associated with the Pelicans. But Griffin and company have been hard at world to change the perception of the franchise. Whether it’s been the front office’s approach to building the roster, or it’s aggressive pursuit of future assets, the Pelicans are preparing to be competitive in an ever-changing basketball landscape for years to come.
Stan Van Gundy is demanding the same of his players, staff, and himself.
“Every day, you’re going to come in and it’s going to be different,” he said. “For us to be good, we have to have the mindset of we are going to be ready to compete anytime, anyplace, under any conditions, and I have spouted that to them already, and will continue to, because that’s the reality of this whole situation, and I’m not going to make excuses for myself or my coaching staff and we’re not going to make excuses as a team.”
That’s beautiful music to the ears of Pelicans fans. And if there’s one thing that New Orleans knows, it’s music.
Getting 48 minutes of effort is the goal. Accepting no excuses for anything less is the start.
Let’s get this thing started.