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Didi Louzada focused on taking next step with New Orleans Pelicans

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The draft-and-stash candidate may be ready for a promotion to the NBA

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Since selecting the relatively unknown 35th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans have practiced a great deal of patience with Marcos (Didi) Silva Louzada. However, Didi seemingly met expectations in Las Vegas and on the international stage so it’ll be interesting to see where his developmental track takes him next.

Within his first five minutes of summer league action, Didi quickly outplayed his draft-and-stash status, displaying an aggressiveness befitting that of a lottery selection coupled with a decent arsenal of NBA-ready weapons. From his hesitation dribble to his euro and stepback, there were enough tools on display to grant the notion that the Pelicans have a future rotation player waiting in the wings.

With the world on lockdown, Louzada is further refining his game with Tatiany Valencio, a trainer and coach at the Anderson Varejao Institute in Brazil.

“It has been 4 weeks since we have started the workouts on a “real court,” Valencio told me via email. “He has shown a great change. He is really determined and focused. During every drill in our workouts, he goes 100%. He literally makes it look like he is in a real basketball game.”

This isn’t a surprise, given the tenacity Louzada exuded with the Sydney Kings in the NBL. Granted time to develop at his pace and learn the game from a veteran squad that included Andrew Bogut, Louzada shined when the lights were brightest.

With executive vice president David Griffin sitting courtside, Didi took over in the fourth quarter of the Kings’ playoff matchup with Melbourne United on March 1st. Down 16 points with just seven minutes to play, Didi scored eight points, including a go-ahead three-pointer with 40 seconds to play.

Not limited to the offensive side of the court, it was Louzada’s physicality and versatility on defense that helped the Kings get the stops they needed.

“You’ve got Didi Louzada who basically changed the energy defensively,” head coach Will Weaver said following the game.

“It was a really positive thing for us that Sydney was the team Didi ended up with,” Griffin said on a Pelicans Playback episode. “His development on a very veteran team that had the best record in their league the vast majority of the season, as a starter and defensive stopper, is exactly what we wanted. The future is very bright there as a potential three-and-D stopper who can guard multiple positions.”

As one of the younger players suiting up for the Kings, Louzada was relegated to a spot-up role for extensive periods of time. That didn’t stop him from standing out to his teammates and coach Will Weaver.

“He can stretch the floor,” teammate Jae-Sean Tate said in October “He can get to the basket and he’s a terrific passer.”

“Even with the language barrier, his ability to take away what the offense is trying to do and play disruptively, but do it within a team system and be as engaged as a help defender as he is on the ball, is pretty special,” Weaver said in October.

The Pelicans can afford to be patient with Louzada. They still have critical decisions to make on the futures of Frank Jackson, Kenrich Williams and Darius Miller. In addition, Nickeil Alexander-Walker may be looking at a greater role, provided his development continues as expected.

“We were able to get Didi really far ahead of the curve in his development,” David Griffin said. “Because we knew unequivocally that Will and his staff were going to do a phenomenal job.”

It should not be overlooked that the steady play of Josh Hart has provided Griffin more time to be as patient as need be while Louzada continues his studies of both the game and the English language.

“He gets tutoring multiple times a week and then we essentially have JP, his translator, with us on game days just as a backstop in case he needs further clarification,” Kings executive Chris Pongrass said. “The way we’ve seen him develop this season we’ve needed him less and less because his English has come so far.”

“His English had improved a lot,” Valencio wrote. “He has fluent conversations in the phone. And Didi has been watching movies and reading books in English to help him improve even more.”

Valencio is a personal trainer in Brazil with a degree from the Escola Nacional de Treinadores Brasileira. She watched him from a young age when he played at Franca and became associated with him through Anderson Varejao’s daughter, Izabel.

“Izabel and Didi are friends. Because of my work with her, he invited me to do the same with him.”

The duo has worked rigorously this offseason to maintain his strength and continue to develop and refine his agility and athleticism. She told me about some of the training he’s undertaken and how he’s working to improve his approach in workouts and games.

“We have been working on his conditioning and adding strength,” Valencio wrote. “We also have been working on his decision-making skills, to develop a faster reaction to whatever happens on the game. Didi is a very determined and focused player. When he does something ‘wrong,’ he easily fixes it.”

Obviously, the size (6’5”) and bulk that helps Louzada defend positions 1-3 is the starting point of becoming a dogged defender. Offensively, however, he uses that same set of advantages to bully bigs in the paint and create the separation necessary for looks at the rim.

“He is really strong,” Valencio wrote. “It is pretty hard to stop him without fouling him. {It allows him to get} really powerful infiltration to the paint.”

Despite Louzada’s skill set growth and glimpses of solid play in Australia, even Pongrass is unsure whether the Pelicans will bring Didi to New Orleans at the start of the 2020-21 season.

“I would assume that he will be part of [the summer league],” Kings chief executive Chris Pongrass told the Sydney Morning Herald. “A big part of why the Pelicans are so comfortable with having him stashed down here is because this is a great place for him to develop and be ready for the NBA. Alternatively, it’s up to the Pelicans as to when they call him up and whether that will be next season.”

Whenever that call comes, Valencio knows he’ll be ready.

“Didi is ready, physically and mentally.”

The Pelicans will have a plethora of decisions to make during the next offseason, including on what to do with four upcoming selections in the 2020 NBA Draft, but Didi could pay plenty of immediate dividends if everything falls into place.