Alvin Gentry is getting his fill of lineup modifications.
Less than a week after learning his top two centers would miss at least three weeks with leg injuries, word came down on Monday that reserve point guard Norris Cole suffered a high ankle sprain, sidelining him for an unknown amount of time.
“We want him to come back healthy, and that’s the biggest thing is we can’t rush any of these guys to come back,” Gentry said. “The one thing I told our team today about, is that it’s a long, long season. So we aren’t going to rush anybody back.
“At some stage when we get everybody healthy, we will be a really good basketball team. We may struggle early, or may not, but for us, we have to look long term and understand that we have to get everybody healthy and play the best basketball we can play when March and April roll around.”
It’s not as if the Pelicans are without options at point guard. Tyreke Evans is healthy enough to carry the majority of the load, and Jrue Holiday is currently cleared to play upwards of 15 minutes because of his restriction.
Gentry said he wasn’t certain if he would need a third point guard to handle any additional minutes at the position and is working on those potential rotations in the next few weeks. But, Gentry said one of the Pelicans’ most intriguing lineups in last year’s playoffs was when Holiday and Cole played together, and he likely won’t be able to tinker with that for the remainder of the preseason.
Considering Eric Gordon missed Monday’s win over the Chicago Bulls with back spasms, the guard rotation is especially short on starters
“I’m used to it. I’ve been in this position before, and I know how to handle it in game situations especially,” Evans said. “I’m just going to push the tempo and keep the tempo up and play the style coach needs us to.”
Injuries are nothing new to this franchise, which has lost more than 150 starts because of injuries over the past two seasons. However, Gentry refused to pin the problems on the team’s medical staff, claiming the injuries weren’t preventable.
“I think we have a very good training staff here,” Gentry said. “I’m very confident in what they can do with our players. Some of the things are just freaky, like Norris’ injury, you can’t do anything about. (Centers) Alexis (Ajinca) and Omer (Asik) got hurt without anyone around them, so you can’t do anything about that either.
“Sometimes it just kind of runs that way and you have injuries you can’t do anything about. But I’m perfectly satisfied with the people that we have and they are very competent in what they do.”
Guarding the perimeter
Anthony Davis led the league in shots blocked last year but is being put in a different positions this season.
The superstar forward has spent more of the game away from the basket, rather than roving the paint this preseason and has collected just three blocks in three games. Last season, he averaged 2.9 blocks per game.
“The way we are playing defense is a different scheme,” Davis said. “Now, I’m on the perimeter a lot and so, it’s going to be tough. I’m not worried about blocking shots. That’s going to come with the defense we run, and the defensive mindset that I have that is going to come on its own.”
Davis also said his ability to guard anybody on the floor is an asset to the defense as a whole because it disrupts the pick-and-roll and helps foil some of the smaller lineups that teams have become prominent the past few seasons.
“The stretch four, where a guy has floor space, has become a really valuable asset on the offensive end now,” Gentry said. “A guy like AD is going to have to get used to guarding the floor space a little more and guys who can dribble the basketball some.”
In order to cope with the lack of centers on the roster, New Orleans added a pair of big men in the past three days, bringing in a pair of 7-footers, Jerome Jordan and Mirza Begic, to non-guaranteed contracts.
Last season, Jordan played 44 games with the Brooklyn Nets while Begic was on his 10th European club team. Both will have an opportunity to make the roster thanks in large part to the injuries suffered by Asik and Ajinca.
The Pelicans tried to add former Dallas Mavericks’ power forward Greg Smith, but he failed his physical and was sent home, prompting the Pelicans to add Jordan and Begic.
“Right now, any opportunity is a good opportunity,” Jordan said. “Just being here and being able to play and get some minutes and some preseason practice is a good opportunity for me.”