This isn’t a stage of a long building process for the New Orleans Pelicans.
It’s a simple timeline. One year.
That message was reinforced on Monday afternoon during the team’s annual media day event held at the Smoothie King Center.
From the top of the team’s operations to the role players, nearly everyone who was asked about the urgency of this season uttered the same message. The Pelicans have one season to make this work.
Outside of a five-year, $125 million contract awarded to guard Jrue Holiday this offseason, all of the Pelicans’ recent significant acquisitions will be unrestricted free agents at the season’s end.
DeMarcus Cousins, who the Pelicans traded for last February, is playing on an expiring contract and said he hasn’t yet thought about signing an extension or what the upcoming offseason could mean for him. Rajon Rondo, Ian Clark, Dante Cunningham and Tony Allen all signed one-year deals this offseason.
It puts a magnifying glass on training camp, which opens on Tuesday afternoon at the Ochsner Performance Center. There’s just no time to waste, and learning curve could be long.
“We have one year to figure it out,” Davis said. “We know. Rondo is one year and Cuz (Cousins) is basically one year. We have one year to basically figure it out. I think this is the year for everybody, anyway. DeMarcus came to me this summer and said he has to win. So, even just for him. He’s never been to the playoffs and he wants to get to the playoffs and he’s buying in.
“And the things he usually doesn’t do in the summertime, he did. Of course he lost a lot of weight, so he’s all in with us. So, we are just trying to win for him, honestly. If we win for him, then I think it could lead to some great things.”
The most important of those would be getting Cousins to re-sign with the Pelicans this offseason.
NBA All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins didn't hold back when asked about the escalating brouha…
If the Pelicans are able to properly connect those pieces and generate enough wins to reach the postseason, it would likely go a long way into keeping Cousins, Rondo and the rest of the current roster around for the long term.
As it stands, of the Pelicans’ five likely starters, only Davis and Holiday are under contract beyond this season.
“The urgency is there for sure,” Cousins said. “It’s not even about what year of a deal you’re on or anything like that. Everybody wants to win. That’s everybody’s mindset. It’s not about accolades or not about any stats. It’s about winning. I think everybody is at the point in their career where they just want to win. I think we’ll do anything we can to get that done.”
And the importance stretches all the way to the top of the organization.
General manager Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry are also working on the final year of their deals, meaning the entire tenor of the organization likely pivots based on the on-court success of this season. Neither spoke about their status on Monday, but each agreed there is an added emphasis on this season, considering the short-term nature of the team’s core.
And, the expectations are understandably high. In fact, Davis admitted this is the most talented team he’s played on, now entering his sixth NBA season.
Rondo took it a step further and said the Pelicans can compete in the highest echelon of the NBA. If that happens, this one year experiment could turn into a long-term solution.
“Realistically, the last couple of teams I played for, I couldn’t honestly say that I was trying to compete for a championship but I think we have the right DNA and the right makeup,” Rondo said. “We have a lot of guys who haven’t won, who are hungry. We have a couple of guys with experience like myself and Tony Allen, Ian Clark, who can bring our experience in how we won.
“I think we have the formula. We have to buy in and get on one page and let coach Gentry do the rest.”