With the Pelicans embarking on an important six-game home stretch, the continued improved play of center Alexis Ajinça could turn out to be a boost.
Ajinça had 16 points and 14 rebounds against Philadelphia on Jan. 16 and two days later scored 22 in the big win at Toronto as he got more playing time with Anthony Davis out with a sprained left big toe. In Friday’s win at Minnesota, he had a career-high five blocks.
Ajinça said he has become more confident with increased playing time. However, the key, he said, has been staying even-keeled when he isn’t playing a lot.
That has come with help. Ajinça said he has a mental coach, Cedric Quignontn-Fleuret, a coach at the French Academy.
“Sometimes, I’m talking to him and trying to stay positive as much as I can,” Ajinça said. “It helps me a lot to get things out of my mind and move forward.
“When I went back to France after the (2011 players) lockout, I was feeling down on myself because I feel I deserved to stay in the league. I had to talk to someone in France I’ve known a long time. Since then, we keep in touch.”
Ajinça said Quignontn-Fleuret watches every Pelicans game.
“He sees the approach I’m doing, and he can tell by my body language or what I’m doing on the court how focused I am,” Ajinça said. “I try to talk to him almost every week so that I can have a feedback from someone else.”
It wasn’t much of a surprise that point guard Nate Wolters was signed to a second 10-day contract Saturday by the Pelicans.
With starter Jrue Holiday out, help was needed at the position, and Wolters has come in and given the team a pass-first point guard who has helped with ball movement.
“We liked him when he was with Milwaukee (last season),” coach Monty Williams said. “He’s tough, and for a young player, he just knows how to play the game. But I emphasize ‘young.’ ”
Wolters said he knew what the Pelicans needed, but mostly, he’s just playing his game. Perhaps what has been a bonus is that he has shown he is a threat driving to the basket.
Wolters played an average of seven minutes in three games after signing Jan. 14. Then, he played 22 minutes, three seconds in the win against the Lakers, after which Williams said he helped the team. Wolters followed that with 14 minutes in the win at Minnesota.
If the Pelicans want to keep him beyond these next 10 days, they will have to sign him for the rest of the season.
Although sixth man Ryan Anderson may return against Dallas, there were signs he was ailing. In the four games before he sat out Friday at Minnesota with inflammation in both ankles, he shot 11 of 46, including 7 of 24 on 3-pointers, his calling card.
Anderson acknowledged his physical state had something to do with it.
“I need to get my body right,” he said. “I need to get my legs right.”
He had missed the last four months of last season after incurring two herniated discs in his neck.
“Not playing for so long, it’s kind of catching up with me,” he said.
Kobe in New Orleans
When Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant took two left-handed shots during the fourth quarter Wednesday, Pelicans All-Star starter Anthony Davis said he didn’t think anything of it.
“I just thought he had been working on that,” said Davis, shrugging. “I didn’t think it was because he was hurt.”
Bryant’s right rotator cuff had been torn earlier. He said he thought it happened when he drove the baseline and dunked during the third quarter.
He is possibly out for the season.
If the injury is career-ending, it would mean his last game was in New Orleans. Wednesday’s game also was the 1,500th of his career, regular season and playoffs. And, he also scored his 30,000th point here Dec. 4, 2012.