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Jose Alvarado shines in FIBA World Cup play

The Pelicans point guard tallied 42 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists and six 3-balls in two games for Puerto Rico

New Orleans Pelicans v Phoenix Suns - Game Five Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Several months after concluding a sizzling NBA rookie campaign, Jose Alvarado has made fans take notice again in recent days.

Puerto Rico took part in a couple of World Cup qualifier games and Alvarado, who joined their men’s national basketball team in April, distinguished himself immediately with several stellar individual performances.

Although Puerto Rico fell 83-75 to the United States on July 1, Alvarado poured in 20 points and dished out four assists in his international debut. Then after moving into the starting lineup against Mexico, Alvarado was even better last night, dropping a line of 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in a 97-87 overtime victory.

Having finished in the top three of their group with a 3-3 record, Puerto Rico is moving onto the second round of the Americas Qualifier, with their next matchup coming against Brazil on August 25. Seven of the 12 teams from the Americas will eventually move onto the 2023 World Cup.

So how did the New Orleans Pelicans point guard look in action? There’s several highlight reels floating around that focus on his scoring, but to gain a better sense of Alvarado’s minutes, I decided to watch the matchup between Puerto Rico and the United States in full.

After getting over the bewilderment of Gary Browne drawing the start over Alvarado, it was great to see the San Juan crowd cheer Jose on loudly as he stepped onto the court for a first time approximately four minutes in.

He reciprocated the fans’ gesture by making his presence felt immediately.

Note Alvarado’s celebration upon his first score because that intensity stuck around. Seconds after, he’s clapping loudly on defense, noticeably pushing the pace after every change of possession and talking to teammates, opponents and referees ... a lot.

The play-by-play announcer commented that Alvarado’s insertion was like a shot of espresso. He wasn’t wrong. In addition to the supplied energy, check out these heady plays that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the Pelicans.

First, a charge taken against the 6’6 George King.

Next, this baseline screen of John Jenkins led to an open look and make from deep for Puerto Rico.

Lastly, every highlight package requires at least one Alvarado steal.

Immediately after this lay-up in transition, Alvarado attempted a patented Grand Theft Auto steal where he hid in the baseline corner and then attempted to chase down the ball handler from behind as the ball was getting brought up the court.

Although the plan didn’t hit pay dirt this time, the tone was set. Alvarado’s relentless style on both ends of the court paid dividends for his team. More importantly to my viewing eyes, Jose was still Jose — recent NBA success of going from an undrafted player to becoming a playoff sensation of sorts hasn’t tempered his ferocity or effectiveness.

While Alvarado’s passion couldn’t propel Puerto Rico to a win over the U.S., it did so against Mexico.

After leading by as many as 18 points right before intermission, Puerto Rico hit an offensive wall in the second half. Thanks to draining three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and another in overtime though, Alvarado diffused a potential heartbreaking loss.

This is the most pivotal aspect of Alvarado’s game. His tenacity is never going to wane. He’s always going to pester opponents on the ball and have them guessing off of it. But if he can show that he can hit the perimeter jumper with regularity down the road, he’s going to have a very long and meaningful professional career — similar to JJ Barea, who happened to be honored for his Puerto Rican national exploits during halftime of the contest against the United States.

With Alvarado wrapping up his FIBA commitment yesterday, he is expected to rejoin the Pelicans this week and participate in several summer league games on the schedule. Who else can’t wait to watch what he and his teammates do in Las Vegas?!

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.