OAKLAND, Calif. — Alvin Gentry is no stranger to coaching against former teams.
Tuesday night’s season opener against the Golden State Warriors is much different, though, because this time the New Orleans Pelicans’ new coach will be receiving a championship ring before tipoff.
“I’ve done this quite a bit, but I’ve never done it in a situation where I’m coming back and there’s a championship and a ring ceremony or something like this, so I think it’ll create a completely different atmosphere; completely different thinking,” Gentry said after practice Tuesday. “It’s something special that you had with a group of guys and a group of coaches that’s never going to change. It’ll be there forever, really. I think it’s a completely different situation coming back here.
“I think as much as it’s annoying to be sitting in the locker room and having this happen, it also gives (the team) an opportunity to go, ‘Man, this is pretty cool if this was us out there.’ I think it’s an inspirational thing also.”
Digesting that type of lesson is something a coach wants, but for the players, it’s a little different. For Jrue Holiday, whose brother Justin Holiday was also part of the Warriors’ title run last year, it’s just your standard season-opening matchup.
“I don’t think that’s extra motivation,” he said. “I just feel like we really want to go out and win no matter what game it is. We’ve got to take it one game at a time, and obviously we’re going to congratulate coach, but after that it’s the battle.”
After being on a 15-minute restriction during the preseason, Holiday got the green light on an increase to 20 for the start of the season but did not play against the Warriors. For the time being, he’s limited to one game whenever the Pelicans have a back-to-back.
Nate Robinson will get the start at point guard.
With the increase in minutes, Holiday can see a more prolonged stretches of action, which means he will likely be on the floor in late-game situations.
“It’s going up a little bit more,” he said. “I’ve been feeling good. I’m ready for the 20 minutes and all that so we’ll see how it goes.”
Luke Babbitt did not suit up against the Warriors on Tuesday night. After straining his left hamstring on Oct. 12 in a preseason tilt at Chicago, the 6-foot-9 forward was nearing a return and may be available Wednesday in Portland.
Gentry said Alexis Ajinca “will play a few minutes” after missing the entire exhibition schedule with a right hamstring injury.
Tyreke Evans told the Times-Picayune that his arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 20 was to remove bone chips from his knee. His timetable for a return is 6-8 weeks.
Gentry called Omer Asik (right calf) a “long shot” Tuesday, meaning his return is still a few games away. With Kendrick Perkins in the mix, rather than being just a veteran voice in the locker room, he will be relied on for significant minutes early in the year.
There is still no timetable for Norris Cole (left ankle sprain) and Quincy Pondexter, who underwent left knee surgery on May 6.
Even with the laundry list of inactive players at the start of the season, none are long-term.
“Eventually we’re going to have all of our guys back, Gentry said. “It’s not a situation where someone is out for the year so eventually we’ll get everyone back. What we’ll have to do is continue to work hard, and next man up until that happens.”