Nikola Mirotic did not have time for a practice or even a shootaround before his New Orleans Pelicans debut.
Mirotic met with some members of the Pelicans before their 118-107 loss Saturday in Minnesota to “learn some plays” through watching film, as New Orleans’ newest forward described the pleasantries.
Mirotic’s formal introduction to his new organization — just hours before his debut and two days after being traded — was made over brunch in Minnesota.
“I’m really happy,” Mirotic told FOX Sports New Orleans’ game broadcast in his first media appearance before Saturday’s game. “Just to be a part of this great organization, (I am) just looking forward to start playing and giving them the trust they put in me. (I'm) really excited.”
Mirotic admits he doesn’t know New Orleans’ offense quite yet. Without a practice, how could he.
Luckily for him, according to Alvin Gentry, the Pelicans' system mirrors what Mirotic studied in Chicago, where he spent more than three seasons before being shipped to New Orleans in Thursday's multi-player trade.
Let the 6-foot-10 stretch forward’s 18-point, 12-rebound double-double in his debut speak for itself.
His transition — to essentially be an adhesive sowing together the remainder New Orleans' potential playoff-bound season in the wake of DeMarcus Cousins' injury — should be smooth as he slides into a fertile situation for a versatile big.
“I don’t think it’s going to take that long,” Gentry said. “Our offense is very similar to what they do in Chicago — with the dribble handoffs and trying to free up shooters with dribble penetration.”
“Yes, it’s similar,” Mirotic said following his double-double Saturday. “I was playing with (Rajon) Rondo there in Chicago. I know how he plays. A lot of transition, a lot of simple plays, try to play with the pace. … I felt comfortable. I felt great.”
Before his second game as a Pelican at 7 p.m. Monday against the Utah Jazz at the Smoothie King Center, Mirotic is entering New Orleans’ system with much to learn. But no new skills are needed.
Sure, it's expected to take time for Mirotic, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and a slew of serviceable guards to manufacture some real chemistry.
But New Orleans’ offense is uniquely designed for bigs to coexist. Quick-triggered shooters circulate around them on the perimeter to stretch defenses and allow the bigs to operate freely.
As it was display Saturday, even without a single practice to lean on, Mirotic appears to be equipped to grasp the Pelicans' scheme.
A big? Check. Shooter? He’s averaging 47.3 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from 3-point territory this season, both career highs. Check check.
It's why New Orleans sought him, the multifaceted big, as Feb. 8's trade deadline nears.
“I think he’s got size,” Gentry said. "Obviously, I don’t think you can ever have too much shooting on the floor. We wanted to add shooting simply because it makes the game easier for AD and DeMarcus. … It was just a situation where we felt what we liked to do and what he can bring to the table was a good fit for both parties, really.”
Mirotic may not be familiar whatsoever with New Orleans’ system, but the 220-pounder from Montenegro enters this organization with admiration for one teammate and an established friendship with another.
The friend? As previously mentioned, Rondo, who played beside “Niko” as Chicago Bulls last season.
“He’s my guy, and we had great chemistry in Chicago,” Mirotic said.
The admiration? For Davis, New Orleans’ all-time leading scorer and rebounder in franchise history.
“First of all, it was a privilege for me to play against him,” Mirotic reminisced. “Anytime I was guarding him, I was super excited. You know, it was a great matchup for me. Now, playing by his side is a dream come true, seriously. There's a lot of things to learn from him. He's obviously the best big guy in the league, so I’m looking forward for that.”
Mirotic was asked about playing with Davis in his debut by reporters in Minnesota.
“When we were playing the pick-and-roll, everybody was with Davis," he said. "I was wide open twice, and they found me, which is really good. I’ve got a lot to learn. But I’m excited to be here.”
The New Orleans Pelicans (28-24) return to the Smoothie King Center at 8 p.m. Monday against the Utah Jazz (24-28). Here are three things to know:
1. AWAITING EMEKA
Veteran center Emeka Okafor, who the Pelicans signed to a 10-day contract Saturday, did not play in Saturday's 118-107 loss at the Minnesota Timberwolves. Okafor, 35, has not logged an NBA minute since 2013 with the Washington Wizards before being sidelined with a neck injury.
2. DYNAMITE DAVIS
Anthony Davis' past five games have been nothing short of All-Star worthy. Davis has averaged 31.2 points and 12.0 rebounds since Jan. 26, including 43 points Friday at Oklahoma City and 38 on Saturday at Minnesota.
3. MITCHELL THE MACHINE
The Pelicans have had few answers for Utah rookie guard Donovan Mitchell. Following a 41-point opener against New Orleans on Dec. 1, Mitchell has averaged 32.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in two games against New Orleans.