Kendrick Perkins still has hope.
The veteran center signed with the Pelicans last offseason expecting to play for a playoff contender, and though he’s been disappointed with New Orleans’ 23-35 season to date, he’s not ready to throw in the towel.
“I always say we can just try to put together a string of games, but I can’t be the only person believing it,” Perkins said Monday. “My teammates got to believe that we can do it. It can’t come from the coaches. It can’t come from (Pelicans owner) Mr. (Tom) Benson or the front office. It’s got to be within yourself to think that you can do it.”
The Pelicans are off until Wednesday’s game at Houston. They entered Monday’s games 5½ games behind the Rockets for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, five games behind in the loss column.
A united Pelicans team still has a chance to vault past Sacramento and Utah into the spot Houston occupies, Perkins said. But to get in, he said, they have to buy in.
“I feel like you got guys in the locker room that do believe,” he said. “You got certain ones that don’t. You just got to keep pushing. The ones that don’t, you kind of let them be to themselves and they’ll follow when everybody just leaves them alone.”
The Pelicans’ playoff chances are slim — they have 24 games left to make up 5½ games — but coach Alvin Gentry said the postseason reamains his team’s motivation.
“I still say that in order for us to get in the playoff race, we’re going to have to have a stretch where we win eight out of 10 or six in a row or something like that, and we’ve yet to do that,” Gentry said. “Time is very short and it’s running out, but as long as we’re not mathematically eliminated, we have something to play for.”
The Pelicans don’t want to close out the season “just playing out the stretch,” Gentry said, and the playoffs give them “something to play for.”
Perkins, for one, has faith New Orleans still can place in the playoff race.
“We got a big month coming up,” Perkins said. “I feel like we can make up ground. We just got to make sure we stay with it and stay together.”
As veteran players around the league negotiate buyouts with their clubs and seek new homes, Perkins said he’s content in New Orleans.
Though Perkins said he came to the Pelicans “just to win” and he’s disappointed with the result, he’s not looking for other opportunities.
“I’m cool where I’m at,” he said. “My family’s good. Kids in school. I like the guys that I’m around. Obviously I wish that we were winning more, but I’m I’m good right now. I’m not going to get bought out and just leave the situation.”