New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he liked Luke Babbitt and the work he has done in transforming his body while also working on his skills to be able to play more of a small forward role.
When Eric Gordon was injured, Babbitt was inserted into the starting lineup at small forward, and the team had its biggest victories of the season — home and away against Oklahoma City and Houston and at home against Cleveland and San Antonio. He shot an eye-popping 51.4 percent on 3-point attempts, even though he had taken just 70 shots. Since Gordon returned, however, Babbitt went from starter to 5:12 of playing time against Washington, none against Charlotte and 4:43 against Memphis.
“It’s tough,” Babbitt said, “but we knew that when Eric came back, things would change. I didn’t score a lot of points, but I felt that I was pretty efficient.
“But what can you do? I know I have to stay ready, and I just hope (Williams) will continue to call on me.”
Williams’ change in the Pelicans’ playing rotation, then its starting lineup, may signal a change in the team’s personality and how it plays games.
However, it also may mark a change in how Williams sees things as a coach.
Even before returning home from a bad road loss at the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, Williams had been tinkering with the lineup. However, he clearly was thinking about not only whom to play but in some way why he was playing them.
“The tough part for me is that I get so emotionally attached to guys who bust their tails for you,” Williams said.
That usually starts in practice and player development work, when players work on their games with assistant coaches and lift weights. In those sessions, players can earn a chance to play. They then can keep playing time by how they play in games.
Now, Williams obviously is looking for immediate results before the season begins to slip away in the tough Western Conference where it is tough to make a late run to make the playoffs.
“We’re just going to have to go with eight or nine guys and find a rhythm,” he said.
A.D. in front
For the third consecutive week, Anthony Davis led Western Conference front-court players in voting for the All-Star Game.
Davis was at 922,381 votes, nearly double that of second-place Blake Griffin, the Los Angeles Clippers power forward.
Davis is averaging 23.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and a league-leading 2.9 blocks, with 21 points-rebounds double-doubles, which also leads the league.
On the one hand, Davis is taking things in stride, always leery of letting the slightest amount of overconfidence. On the other hand, he seems appreciative that he is third behind LeBron James and Stephen Curry in the voting.
“That’s pretty cool to be recognized like that,” he said. “A lot of fans voted for me.”
With Davis approaching one million ballots, he was asked how many times has he voted for himself and whether he’d enlisted friends to do some.
“I don’t vote for myself,” he said. “Nobody told me they voted for me. Of course, my parents, but that’s about it.”
Of course, the top two shot-blockers on the Pelicans are Davis, who has 98, and center Omer Asik, who has 26.
Third on the list may be a surprise. Jrue Holiday has 22, which leads point guards and is eighth among all guards. Told that, Holiday, shrugged.
“I didn’t know that,” he said. “I’m just contesting shots.”
Five times, he has had two blocks in a game this season, most recently at Charlotte on Wednesday. His best block performances, however, came against Oklahoma City on Dec. 2 and against Houston on Jan. 2. Against the Thunder, he blocked two of Russell Westbrook’s shots, including one at the rim. Against the Rockets, he blocked 3-point attempts in the left corner by point guard Patrick Beverley and in the right corner by Corey Brewer, 6-8.