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New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry takes part in Pelicans Media Day at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, La. Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. The Pelicans begin their preseason schedule in the Smoothie King Center October 3rd against the Chicago Bulls.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON

The Pelicans looked a little different Monday during team media day at the Smoothie King Center.

DeMarcus Cousins has slimmed down.

Chieck Diallo has beefed up.

Anthony Davis was rocking a headband.

Jrue Holiday 's hair was in braids.

But perhaps the most noticeable change with this team was one you couldn't see.

It was one that you could feel.

At least Cousins could.

"You just feel the energy in the building," Cousins told reporters. "I don't know if you guys do, but it's just at an all-time high."

The Pelicans begin training camp on Tuesday to prepare for what figures to be a make or break season for the franchise.

Make the playoffs and things start looking up for the team.

Don't make the playoffs and the team likely looks even more different at media day this time next year.

We won't know those answers until the season tips off in a little less than a month from now.

But every player who sat at the microphone talked with optimism that this could be the year the Pelicans crack through and make the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-'15 season.

But again, this was just media day.

That same optimism was on display at the media days for the other 29 NBA teams on Monday as well.

"We put in a lot of work this summer preparing for this moment," said Cousins, set to enter his first full season after joining the Pelicans at the all-star break last season. "I think we have a chance to have a very special season."

The injury bug, like it always seems to do with this team, has already hit. Three players (Solomon Hill, Omer Asik and Frank Jackson) will all be on the shelf to start the season.

General manager Dell Demps opened up media day with injury updates on those three players, but even that wasn't enough to spoil the optimism.

"We like the guys we have," Demps said. "We're not going to make excuses."

Demps is well aware that teams in the Western Conference got better too. OKC, Houston and Minnesota all made blockbuster moves this offseason trying to keep up with the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

"The bar keeps raising," Demps said. "But you've gotta embrace it. You've got to love it."

The West got tougher, but the Pelicans think they did too.

They added two of the grittiest players in the league in Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen.

How well those seasoned veterans blend in with what the Pels already had remains to be seen.

But Rondo and Allen seem to be just as optimistic as their new teammates.

It's why they chose to come to New Orleans in the first place.

"(I wanted) t O be around a lot of guys with chips on their shoulders," Allen said. "Guys with more to prove to this league who want to show that they are a force. I thought it was a great opportunity."

So did Rondo, who says he hasn't been this optimistic going into a season in a while.

"Realistically, the last couple teams I've played for, I couldn't honestly say going into camp that I was trying to compete for a championship," Rondo said. "But I think we have the right DNA, the right makeup. We have a lot of guys that are hungry."

With an 0-0 record right now, there is plenty reason to be upbeat.

Will it carry over to the season?

AD says it can.

"I think this is probably the most talented roster we've had," said Davis. "But it's nothing but paper right now. But we have to go out there and prove it."

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.

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