One preseason quarter isn’t going to win Sean Kilpatrick an NBA roster spot.
The Pelicans guard knows that, knows that his 18 points in the fourth quarter on Monday in Chicago — part of a 23-point night in a 123-115 New Orleans win against the Bulls — don’t mean he’s arrived.
It was just one quarter.
But it was an awfully good quarter.
“It was pretty good,” Kilpatrick said Wednesday. “It felt pretty good to be out there, to be comfortable. But it’s still another stepping stone for me.”
Kilpatrick finished the night 7 of 12 from the floor, including 3 of 7 from 3-point range. In the fourth quarter alone, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard was 5 of 9 from the floor and 2 of 5 from long distance.
“He was back in his Cincinnati days,” Pelicans forward Anthony Davis said, referencing the university where Kilpatrick was a college star. “The rim was huge for him. He can score the ball. He really was the one who got us back in the game offensively, and that’s what we’re gonna need from him for the rest of this preseason, and everybody else.”
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Kilpatrick did “a great job” on Monday, and not just in making shots. He was part of a fourth-quarter unit featuring entirely of reserves who outscored the Bulls 32-25 in the final quarter and “did a really, really good job defensively,” Gentry said.
Offensively, Kilpatrick just did what has long come naturally.
“A lot of people, they don’t really know me on their scouting reports,” Kilpatrick said. “So they’re gonna continue to keep rolling under screens.”
And given space, there’s never been any doubt about that Kilpatrick’s can put the ball in the basket.
He was an elite scorer at Cincinnati, where he averaged 15.3 points per game over a four-year career. As a senior in 2013-14, he averaged 20.6 points and made 93 3-pointers and was named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press and seven other media outlets. Kilpatrick’s 2,145 career points at Cincinnati are second in the school’s history only to NBA great Oscar Robertson.
But on draft night last June, Kilpatrick never heard his name called.
He played for the 76ers in the NBA Summer League. Last October, Kilpatrick signed with the Golden State Warriors, where Gentry was an assistant coach, but he was waived four days later.
Kilpatrick spent most of last season in the NBA Development League, but he signed a 10-day contract late in the season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He played four games for Minnesota, averaging 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and an assist per game.
Now he’s among seven players vying for a maximum of two spots on the Pelicans roster.
“I feel like I’ve been doing good,” Kilpatrick said. “Besides the 10-day last year with Minnesota, I’m still considered a rookie. So it’s pretty much a big transition for me, and I’m just really trying to do any and everything I can do to try to fit in right now.”
Fitting in is the goal. But for one night, at least, Kilpatrick stood out.
“He’s fighting for a job, so every opportunity, he has to be ready to play and ready to step up,” teammate Tyreke Evans said. “If he has a bad game, as long as he looks in the mirror and knows he played hard, that’s all that matters. You can’t go out there and play great every night. But that night in Chicago, he stepped up. He showed that he can be a threat out there. I was happy for him.”