The road is looming, but the Pelicans have a week to enjoy the comforts of home.
Alvin Gentry wants his team to make the most of it.
“We’ve got to start establishing ourselves at home, and then as we do that, I think our confidence can get to the point where we can also be successful on the road,” New Orleans’ coach said Sunday. “But everything in this league starts at home. You look at most of the teams that win 50 games in this league, they win almost 30 games at home, and then they’re .500 on the road.”
The Pelicans are one of only nine NBA teams to have played fewer than 10 home games so far. They’re 4-5 home and 1-10 on the road.
New Orleans will host Boston on Monday and Washington on Friday at the Smoothie King Center and then will hit the road for a string of road games — at Chicago, Portland, Utah, Phoenix and Denver — that starts Saturday and continues through Dec. 20.
“It’s an important week for us,” Gentry said. “It’s important for us to establish ourselves and have good feelings when we go on the road.”
Beating the Celtics and Wizards would go a long way in that direction, but the days the Pelicans don’t play are almost as critical. Gentry called a week at home with days between games to practice “really, really, really important” for the Pelicans, whose roster and rotations remain in flux as players return from injury.
Guards Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole played last week for the first time this season, and while Gentry appears to have settled on a starting lineup — and mostly on a rotation of backups — Evans and Cole are still getting up to speed.
New Orleans practiced Saturday and Sunday and tentatively is scheduled to practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, a rare string of three straight days when Gentry said he can put Evans and Cole in offensive situations and give them defensive reps to help them get settled.
“Usually that’s not the case,” Gentry said. “We got lucky in that we have this stretch where we can have a couple of practices.”
One focus in those practices will be getting Evans acclimated to running Gentry’s up-tempo system. It’s a change for Evans, who last season under Monty Williams often was orchestrating set plays with the ball in his hands.
This season, the Pelicans offense is predicated on ball and player movement, meaning Evans is being asked to give up the ball early in the offense, then get it back later in the shot clock if open shots don’t develop quickly.
Gentry said the message to Evans has been “when he gives it up, we’re going to give it back to him,” and that spending less time dribbling ball while closely guarded will reduce the physical toll on him. He pointed to Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who often gives up the ball after he brings it upcourt, then gets shots later in the offense.
“The ball movement, I think, puts (Curry) in a situation where he’s not pounding it for 22 seconds and (dealing with) the wear and tear of having guys be into him (defensively),” Gentry said. “That’s what we want to try to do with Tyreke, but at the end of the day, he’s going to be the guy making a lot of the plays for us.”
As Evans and Cole settle in, the Pelicans are trying to take off. A week of practice and a pair of home games gives them a potential launching pad.
“Having more guys helps,” forward Ryan Anderson said. “Having our group kind of as a whole finally, this is really important timing here. Obviously we didn’t have the start of the season we wanted to have, but this is a time we can turn it around.”