The New Orleans Pelicans starting lineup is static.
Their finishing one isn’t.
While the three faces of the Pelicans — Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday — are nearly always in place when the game reaches its fever pitch, it’s unclear exactly who will be with them, particularly at point guard.
While veteran starter Rajon Rondo would seemingly be the obvious choice, due to his name recognition and famous passing skills, he’s logged nearly half of the “clutch” minutes as Ian Clark over the past 10 games, and hasn’t been a fixture in the Pelicans’ most relied-upon units.
Clutch minutes are those occurring when a game is within five points in the final five minutes.
And on some nights, the Pelicans choose to eschew both Clark and Rondo, playing Holiday at point guard and inserting either Darius Miller or Dante Cunningham into the wing position.
There’s no particular pattern to it and coach Alvin Gentry admitted there’s not even a concrete plan entering the game. The choice is dependent on both opponent matchups and the flow of what’s transpired.
“It’s has a little bit to with both,” Gentry said before Saturday’s game. “The matchup is important, but we really like to have our best defensive unit out there sometimes. And, obviously, Jrue as a (point guard) is really good. But, we do it by feel.
“We don’t have any preconceived notions, like, entering the game, about who is going to finish. We do it by feel.”
It’s part of a season-long issue with Rondo, who carries one of the Pelicans’ worst net ratings. In his 749 minutes on the floor, New Orleans is 4.7 points worse than their opponents per 100 possessions.
It’s the worst net rating among any Pelicans who have played more than 150 minutes. Meanwhile, New Orleans is 2.1 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents when Clark is on the court.
Rookie guard Frank Jackson has suffered a rough entry into the NBA.
But, it appears the No. 32 pick in last summer’s draft is on the verge of returning to the court after recovering from a pair of foot surgeries.
Gentry said Jackson was expected to return to practice earlier this week, but an illness kept him off the court for at least another few days.
“He was going to be able to practice (Friday) but he actually got physically sick,” Gentry said. “It’s just a normal flu bug, nothing serious. He’s going to start to practice some and not do much of the physical things, but be able to go through drills and some things like that. We will eventually try to get him back into the flow.”
Once available, it’s still undecided whether or not Jackson will spend most of his time in the G-League or on the Pelicans’ bench.
“We haven’t made the decision but we want him to play in some competitive games, so (the G-League) might be an option,” Gentry said.
Tyreke Evans made his first appearance in the Smoothie King Center since signing with the Memphis Grizzlies this summer.
Evans served four years with the Pelicans before he was traded to Sacramento as part of the DeMarcus Cousins deal. In New Orleans, he averaged 14.8 points and 5.6 assists, serving as one of the team’s primary ball-handlers.
However, his production tailed off in the past two seasons after a series of injuries to his right knee required three surgeries within a yearlong span, shortening his availability and explosiveness.
Now, healthy, Evans is back to his productive ways, averaging 19.6 points and 5.6 assists, his best numbers since winning Rookie of the Year in 2009-10.
“Tyreke is a unique guy and he plays through all kinds of injuries,” Gentry said. “Even when we had him here, there were probably games where he shouldn’t have played and we tried to convince him not to play. But, that’s just not who he is.
“Obviously, when he’s healthy you can see the kind of level he can take your team to. But, it’s all part of the NBA and all part of the game. Unfortunately for us, he wasn’t as healthy as he is right now.”