New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he did not receive a contract extension or a vote of confidence from team management this season.
However, three core players — power forward Anthony Davis, point guard Jrue Holiday and forward Ryan Anderson — indicated on the way out to their offseason that they’d like to see Williams return. He has a year on the four-year extension he signed in 2012, but sources have said the team had to show improvement for General Manager Dell Demps and Williams to keep their jobs.
The Pelicans were 45-37 this NBA season and made the playoffs as the eighth and final seed in the very competitive Western Conference. They finished fifth in the Southwest Division, in which all five teams made the playoffs.
Holiday said he hoped all the momentum built would continue.
“I know (the Pelicans) have been building for a while,” he said. “I hope there won’t be too may changes.”
Asked if he meant management or roster changes, Holiday said: “All of the above. I think we have a good thing going.”
Holiday missed half of the season for the second consecutive year with an injury to his right lower leg. To a lesser extent, Anderson, the Pelicans’ key player off the bench, also experienced a second season in which an injury limited his contributions. However, the team continued to improve behind personnel moves by Demps and Williams’ coaching of an ever-changing lineup.
“(Williams) didn’t have an easy job, and he hasn’t since he’s been here,” Anderson said. “We don’t have a ton of guys with experience. We brought in (point guard) Norris (Cole), who has playoff and winning experience, but we’re relatively a young team. ... (Williams) did everything he could to make this team successful.”
Davis said Williams has been an asset through a rebuilding process. One of Williams’ strengths is as a teacher and developer of talent, and in his third season Davis became an All-Star starter who garnered consideration for the Most Valuable Player award. Role players Alexis Ajinca and Luke Babbitt also showed improvement.
“He has meant so much on the court, helping me read defenses and get better offensively, working with me doing drills, pushing me to be great,” Davis said. “He’s a great coach. He takes so much heat, but he doesn’t let it bother him. He focuses on his goal, which is the team and making the organization better, and that’s what he’s done since he’s been here.”
Davis said Williams also is more than an X-and-O’s coach.
“He tries to give you life lessons, as well,” Davis said. “He played in the league, coached for other teams, so he knows a lot that goes on within the league. In certain situations … he gives you a word of advice.”
Holiday said stability will be the key to building off the what the Pelicans accomplished this season. When the team experienced injuries that affected the team’s strength and chemistry, Williams kept things together, he said. He said the team continued to embrace Williams’ message even through difficult times.
“We had our times where I’m pretty sure everybody had doubts or felt like ‘Why us?’” Holliday said. “But at the end of the day, I think we stuck with the system.”
The trio said Demps continually improved the roster as the season wore on, adding forward Dante Cunningham, guard/forward Quincy Pondexter and guards Cole and Toney Douglas.
“They did an excellent job bringing in Quincy, Dante and Norris to help us get to where were are from were where were this year,” Davis said.
Holiday said he wants to get the screw taken out of the rod in his surgically repaired leg. “I’m going to talk to the doctor soon,” he said. “That’s my first priority. They don’t have to (have it removed). I want to. I don’t think it’s necessary any more. They put the screw in to hold the rod. The rod’s not coming out.” … With the USA basketball team not playing this summer, Davis said he is headed to an offseason of much rest. “I’m drained,” he said. “This is the first summer I have nothing to do. At that same time, you say you want to be great, so I’m going to watch film, see what I have to do to get better and work on my game. (International basketball) helped me tremendously, so it’s going to be interesting” … Anderson, who had a career-threatening neck injury in the 2013-14 season, said he relishes the chance to build strength and endurance for the first time since the summer of 2013.