Buddy Hield draped his jersey around his neck, forming a cape after Tuesday’s practice.
It’s a fashion statement the Pelicans’ first round draft pick out of Oklahoma has been doing for some time now.
This, of course, was his first time doing so as a pro as the Pelicans’ summer league team held its first practice.
“I’m about to save New Orleans,” the media savvy Hield responded, flashing his big smile, when asked about his attire.
The Pelicans may very well need a super hero or two (or maybe four or five) to have a chance at sniffing the playoffs the way things are stacking up in the Western Conference during this wild free-agency period.
Golden State got even better Tuesday (as scary as that sounds) adding former New Orleans Hornet David West, just one day after the team pulled off the blockbuster of the summer by luring Kevin Durant.
Unless the 1992 Dream Team makes a comeback, the Warriors will be the overwhelming favorites to win the West.
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz — who both, like the Pelicans, missed the playoffs this past season — have also improved.
So once you throw them in the mix with perennial contenders like the Spurs and the Clippers, the Pelicans’ best shot at making a deep playoff run might be by asking NBA commissioner Adam Silver for permission to play in the Eastern Conference.
OK, that’s not happening.
So maybe Hield will have to save the city after all.
Fortunately for him, he doesn’t have to be Superman or Batman.
The team already has that in Anthony Davis.
Hield will just need to be Robin, a sidekick to one of the best players in the league in a city starving for a return trip to the playoffs.
It’s a city Hield seems to be falling in love with just two weeks after the Pelicans called his name with the sixth overall pick.
The seafood is much like that he ate back home in the Bahamas.
The heat is similar, too.
But he said he got a feel for the people (and boy, were there a lot of them around) last weekend with the annual Essence Music Festival in town.
“Everybody shows mad love,” Heild said. “It’s just like home. Everybody is embracing you and expect big things from you. I like to see the love of the people. … I dig it down here. I love it.”
He loves the city.
And the city has been loving him back.
Folks around town already recognize him, even without his No. 24 cape.
His big trademark would be a dead give-away even if he tried to wear a disguise.
It’s a smile that he’s always worn, but one that has gotten even wider the past two weeks for the 22-year old kid who still is probably pinching himself.
“I’m just still in shock,” Hield said. “This hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m still living the dream. I’m still speechless every time someone talks to me about it. I’m still working, because I know where I’m at.”
Hield wasted little time making an impact in his first practice.
And it hasn’t just been with what he does with the basketball in his hand, but what he does before the balls are ever rolled out onto the court.
“He has just been vocal, right from the beginning,” said Robert Pack, the Pelicans’ summer league coach. “The first huddle, he was talking to guys and getting guys going. That energy is infectious. You get a guy who is talking who is supposed to be a leader of this summer league team and very energetic, and it rubs off on everybody.”
His coaches like him.
His teammates like him.
The city likes him.
And if his first two news conferences (along with his history) are any indication, he’ll be a media favorite as well.
He’s just as comfortable answering questions as he is draining a 3-pointer.
He got good at both the same way.
“Practice,” Heild said.
He finished his interviews and headed toward the locker room, perhaps to remove his cape and change to civilian clothes, transforming back to Chavano Rainer Hield, his given name.
But really, does Hield ever really change from the person we see?
He says no.
“I’m always a people’s person,” he said. “I’m always around everybody.
“You have to enjoy the moment, because you never know when you’re going to get it again.”