When a basketball team talks rhythm, typically it’s a figurative concept.
When a player tells you he’s in a groove, it’s more about baskets and dribbles than bass and treble.
For the Pelicans, though, practices under new coach Alvin Gentry are literally hitting the right notes. The first-year New Orleans coach has brought a new approach to practice: He lets players pick music that plays during parts of the team’s daily workouts.
It’s a concept Gentry brought with him from Golden State, where he was associate head coach to Steve Kerr last season. The NBA champion Warriors adopted the idea of music in practice from Pete Carroll, coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
“(Carroll) just said that it’s a new generation of players, and every single one of them listens to music, and they listen to the same music,” Gentry said. “He just said he thought it made his practices go great and have much more energy there, so we tried it last year and it worked well, and so why not do it here?”
Pelicans practices were a no-music zone under previous coach Monty Williams. But this season, players take turns choosing musical selections that play during specific portions of practice.
“I think our guys really appreciate it,” Gentry said. “We play it, unless we’re teaching something. We try to play it through all the shooting drills and warmups and things like that.”
So far, playing the hits has been a hit for Pelicans players.
“When he said music, of course we’re not gonna disagree with it or say no,” forward Anthony Davis said. “It just kind of gets you in that competitive mode, just like before a game when they have music in the layup lines. It kind of gets your mind ready.”
The music comes from a variety of genres and artists, Pelicans spokesman Matt Ryan said, and at the end of Monday’s practice, players wrapped up their shooting to a selection of hip-hop tracks.
Gentry mentioned Drake as an artist he’s come to know as a result of the daily playlists players pick.
“We have different guys every day,” Gentry said. “We have a different playlist. Thank God for Spotify, I guess.”
Davis has yet to take his turn playing DJ, saying jokingly that his musical selections would be “too explicit” for practice.
Still, Davis can see — and hear — the benefits of pumping up the volume.
“When you come in and you hear your favorite rapper or singer or whoever bumping in the speakers, you just kind of bobbing your head and vibing to the music,” Davis said. “It just takes your mind to another level, like, ‘All right, I’m ready to practice now.’ I guess that’s the method behind it.”
Gentry said he’s learning about his players’ musical tastes in practice, but Davis said his coach is most engaged by the musical selections he makes himself.
“See, Coach just waits for Throwback Thursday,” Davis said. “He just waits, like, ‘Thursday’s my day,’ so he puts on Al Green and all this. That’s usually the days when we have bad practices.”