Alvin Gentry can remember the postgame meal, lingering past 3 a.m. at a steakhouse in Cleveland.
He can remember the parade route that ran by his home as the Golden State Warriors celebrated their NBA championship last season, and the look on the face of Warriors owner Joe Lacob.
Gentry — in June an assistant coach at Golden State, now the head coach in New Orleans — can remember it all. But he didn’t get much chance to savor it.
“I was in the parade, and the next day I was on the plane flying here,” Gentry said. “So all my energies now have been in this team and how can we get it better and what we can do. You never really had a chance to just truly enjoy the championship and be in that environment and be in that city where you actually won it and be able to celebrate it with the fan base that you have.”
Gentry won’t have much time to savor that championship Tuesday, either, when the Pelicans open the regular season at Golden State.
But he will get a moment to relive it.
The Warriors will receive their championship rings before the game, reminders of their run to the title last spring and one more chance for Gentry to have fond feelings about the team he’ll then try to beat.
The friendly vibes won’t last long. Gentry is certain he’ll take some grief from his current players when he joins his old ones for a ring ceremony.
“I’m sure Anthony (Davis) will have something to say,” Gentry said. “I’m sure he’ll have something to say, and I would imagine Norris (Cole) and everybody else will, too. But it’s good. I’m looking forward to going back there. But to me, it’s still all about playing the game and how we can compete with these guys.”
Competing with the Warriors is a “monumental task,” Gentry said, and the Pelicans will have to do it without a complete roster. Because of injuries, New Orleans will be without at least four rotation players — guards Cole and Tyreke Evans, forward Quincy Pondexter and center Omer Asik — with center Alexis Ajinca and forward Luke Babbitt uncertain to play.
Led by MVP Stephen Curry, Golden State won 67 games last season and marched through the playoffs, starting with a first-round sweep of the Pelicans. The Warriors did it running an up-tempo system that — like the one Gentry is implementing in New Orleans — owes a debt to Mike D’Antoni’s “7 Seconds or Less” Phoenix Suns of the mid-2000s.
The Warriors’ pace — they led the league in possessions per 48 minutes last season — taxes transition defenses, an area in which the Pelicans struggled through the first six games of the preseason. They showed marked improvement in their final tuneup against Miami, but slowing Golden State is “a while different beast,” Gentry said.
“I know exactly what we have to do,” Gentry said. “But executing that is a little bit like the Jordan Rules. The Jordan Rules sound great, but executing them against Michael was a little difficult.”
Adding to the challenge: Opening the season in one of the NBA’s best home-court atmospheres on a night Warriors fans celebrate their first league title since 1975.
“I expect a crazy atmosphere,” Pelicans guard Eric Gordon said. “They get their rings, and you can tell that there’s starting to be a little rivalry between us ever since the playoffs.”
The pregame celebration is set to include Warriors coach Steve Kerr, but the game won’t. Kerr, recovering from back surgery, has taken a leave of absence from coaching, and assistant coach Luke Walton will coach Golden State on Tuesday and likely on Saturday, when the Warriors visit New Orleans for the Pelicans’ home opener.
Kerr’s absence dampens the night a bit, Gentry said, but he’s looking forward to the game and to receiving his ring.
It’ll spark fond memories, though the Pelicans likely will bring him back into the moment quickly.
“We’ll definitely poke at him a little bit for it,” forward Dante Cunningham said. “But that’ll be after the game once we win.”