The New Orleans Pelicans are playing the preseason on the fly.
Not only are they playing six of their seven preseason games away from home — including Monday night’s game at the Houston Rockets — but new coach Alvin Gentry is constructing his lineups on the go.
With a rash of injuries limiting the availability of rotation players, Gentry is playing some five-man units he admitted can be “weird.”
“We’re still gonna try to play guys,” he said. “We know some of the guys are gonna be out, and that’s factual. We’ll try to place guys in those situations and start playing a rotation of guys — the last two games for sure — pretty much like we would play them when the regular season starts.”
The Pelicans’ final two preseason games are Wednesday at the Orlando Magic and Friday at home against the Miami Heat, the only time they will play at the Smoothie King Center before their Oct. 31 home opener.
New Orleans opens the regular season Oct. 27 at Golden State.
For now, Gentry will continue to work with some makeshift rotations.
Against the Rockets, the plan is to rest forward Anthony Davis, and six other Pelicans — Tyreke Evans (who’s having his knee examined), Quincy Pondexter (recovering from knee surgery), Omer Asik (calf strain), Norris Cole (ankle sprain) and Luke Babbitt and Alexis Ajinca (hamstring strains) — are out.
Eric Gordon (back spasms) is questionable. He has missed the past two games but likely would have played if they had been regular-season games, Gentry said.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “Guys play hard and sometimes injuries happen, and then guys play hard and sometimes there’s no injuries at all. Last year when I was at Golden State, we had very few injuries at all. That didn’t mean that we didn’t play hard. We probably played as hard as any team in the league.”
The Pelicans are filling some rotation spots with brand new signees. Guards Bo McCalebb — a veteran of European basketball with no NBA experience — and 10-year veteran Nate Robinson signed last week and have been thrust into early action.
Robinson played 22 minutes in Saturday’s loss to the Sacramento Kings in Lexington, Kentucky, finishing with nine points and four assists. McCalebb had four points and an assist in 15 minutes.
“I told them in the locker room after the game (that) it’s really unfair what we asked them to do,” Gentry said. “One has had two practices; one has had one practice. I think the thing that everyone has to realize is that these guys have been working, but to be in basketball shape, you got to actually play basketball.”
They’ll likely get more chances to do that this week.
Gentry said the goal as the preseason winds down is to “present more of what we’re gonna be in the regular season,” but the team’s injury situation makes that difficult.
“We’ve got a rash of injuries right now, and I’d rather have them right now than to have them at the end,” Gentry said. “You would prefer not to have them at all, but obviously they are what they are.”
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Three storylines to watch in the Pelicans’ fifth preseason game, 7 p.m. Monday at the Houston Rockets:
1. Get back
One of the Pelicans’ key talking points coming out of Saturday’s 107-98 loss to the Sacramento Kings, coach Alvin Gentry said, was improving transition defense. The Pelicans outscored the Kings 31-20 in the first quarter, then “got a little ragtag.”
2. Heating up
Ryan Anderson scored 20 points against the Kings on Saturday. After scoring four points on 1-for-11 shooting in the Pelicans’ first two preseason games, he has scored 38 on 12-of-32 shooting in the past two.
3. Turnaround time
New Orleans has had at least three days between each of its preseason games so far but now will close with a game every other day the rest of this week. The team will travel to Orlando on Tuesday for a Wednesday night game, then return late Wednesday and close the preseason at home Friday against Miami.