His two NBA championship rings mean Norris Cole has been through the fire, and the New Orleans Pelicans hope there’s a time when the backup point guard’s postseason experience comes into play.
That time is not today.
“When we get to the playoffs, it’ll mean a lot,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We’ve got to get there first, and obviously that’s a long, long road.”
But Cole, the fifth-year pro who re-signed with New Orleans after coming to the team in a trade in February, will play a part in the regular-season drive, too.
The 6-foot-2 guard, who won championships with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013, understands there’s a day-to-day role to fill long before the Pelicans start a playoff push.
“Just being an example: being professional, taking care of my body, eating right,” Cole said. “When we’re in certain game situations, if I’m familiar, if I’ve seen it before, try to fast-track the guys.”
In 26 regular-season games with New Orleans last season, Cole averaged 9.9 points and 3.2 assists. He shot 37.8 percent from 3-point range over that span and “had a big impact on us,” Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps said.
Cole explored his free-agent options in the summer before opting to re-sign with the Pelicans on a contract reported at one year and about $3 million.
“We’re thrilled to have him,” Demps said. “He’s a two-way player with championship experience. And he’s in phenomenal shape right now, so we’re hoping to have a great year from him.”
Cole could prove particularly important given the state of New Orleans’ point guard spot to start the season. Jrue Holiday is limited for now to 10 minutes per game and likely will be on some kind of minutes restriction until January.
Tyreke Evans, who missed the Pelicans’ preseason opener at Indiana on Saturday with a knee contusion, is expected to see significant minutes at point guard when Holiday sits, but Cole also will play at the position.
In the Pelicans’ 110-105 win against the Pacers, Cole played 17 minutes, finishing with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.
But one of Cole’s key contributions can come in practice as Gentry tries to install a new, up-tempo system.
“It’s not so much playing reckless or playing super fast,” Cole said. “It’s just playing at a consistent pace. … We have to do it every single day — not sometime, not every other time. We have to do it every time to where it’s a habit. And it takes time.”
Cole said he, Holiday and Evans have a responsibility to play pacesetters as the Pelicans try to up the daily tempo.
“As a point guard, you got to be the motor, the engine out there on both ends of the court and being able to lead,” Cole said. “We start off with the ball as the point guard. We have the ball to initiate the offense. We’re the point of attack on defense.”
And though it’ll be some time before Cole’s postseason experience has a chance to pay off, for now he’s putting in the work of filling a preseason role.
“He’s just a good guy to have around,” Gentry said. “He’s a very energetic guy. His basketball IQ is really high. He does a good job of trying to get guys in the right spot. And he’s a good teammate. He’s done a real good job of trying to understand what we want from him as coaches and then trying to deliver it to the players, which is all you want.”