LAS VEGAS — There’s no doubt about who the Pelicans’ summer league team runs through.
Cheick Diallo and Quinn Cook are the only two full-time members of the Pelicans playing in Las Vegas, and the pair has proven to be the team’s most reliable options.
The tandem was on full display in Sunday’s 84-82 last-minute loss to the Atlanta Hawks at the Cox Pavillion.
It’s precisely how Pelicans coaches hoped their summer stint would unfold, with the two players the team is most invested in showing off their development and ability.
“They’ve been here before and they’re a part of us and they’re doing a good job,” summer league coach Jamelle McMillan said. “They’re trying to carry this team and put other guys in position to be successful and help everyone out to free some guys up. I was really pleased with what we were able to do with our effort, especially from those two guys.”
Diallo notched his second consecutive double-double, scoring 23 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and swatting three blocks, following up on his 27-point, 10-rebound outing in the team’s summer league opening loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday.
Meanwhile, Cook piled up a game-high 25 points, converting 12-of-18 shots and dishing out five assists and pulling in five rebounds as part of his most complete effort.
It’s no surprise the duo’s rapport is one of the Pelicans’ brightest spots this summer, considering they’ve been carpooling together to the team’s facility for the past several weeks to hone their games.
“We have great chemistry,” Cook said. “We were the first two back after the season, and we are in the gym twice per day pushing each other. He calls me every night to make sure I’m always ready to head to the gym or vice versa. We have a great relationship and we are the two leaders on the team and our coaching staff wants us to command with our actions and our voice.
“I think we’ve been doing a pretty job with that.”
The duo performed steadily, even if it was largely an afterthought to most inside the arena. Instead, the focus was on the Hawks, who delivered on a series of dazzling dunks to repeatedly bring the crowd to its feet.
DeAndre’ Bembry even took the opportunity to complete a rare 360-degree slam on a transition basket.
Still, the Pelicans never buckled under the array of highlight jams, not allowing Atlanta to generate significant momentum from the rim-rattling spectacles. Diallo even answered back with a highlight of his own, throwing down a dunk over the outstretched arms of Hawks’ first-round pick Taurean Prince.
It was an exclamation point on his second consecutive standout offensive outing, and was a particularly impressive after a sluggish start, which included committing four fouls in the first five minutes of Sunday’s game.
“Cheick gets in his own head on occasion and I think that’s the biggest thing he needs to work on, is to play through things and not get too excited or too anxious,” McMillan said. “Once he settled down, he was very effective. If we can get him starting the game that way, he’ll be okay. Cheick is fine and his activity was good.”
The next step for the tandem of Cook and Diallo is tally a win. Two late-game losses have frustrated them, but McMillan said he was far happier with Sunday’s defeat, pointing to Cook’s drive-and-kick set up a Isiah Cousins with a wide open 3-pointer, which he couldn’t finish.
“We are trying to do everything we can to get a win,” Diallo said. “Today was a big game for us, but it seemed like we weren’t ready at the beginning to win. I can speak to my end, in the first half I wasn’t good and it took me until the second quarter to really bounce back.”