New Year’s Eve serves as a benchmark for reflection. Watching the calendar turn from one year to the next is a natural time to think about what the past 365 days reaped.
And few people have more to look back on than Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry. In 2015, Gentry experienced some of his greatest professional accomplishments and most frustrating moments.
He lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy and bathed in champagne, winning the NBA Finals as the Golden State Warriors’ associate head coach. A week later, he was introduced as the New Orleans Pelicans’ new head coach, beating out accomplished candidates like Jeff Van Gundy and Tom Thibodeau to earn the job.
“Obviously, the highlight was the championship, because I don’t think anybody anticipated us being champions when I was at Golden State,” Gentry said. “We asked guys to make sacrifices, and the whole chemistry of the team just came together. And it was great and worked out great.
“Obviously, the other highlight was being able to get this job and being able to coach Anthony Davis. It’s just the whole idea of living in New Orleans and what that represents and everything that comes with it.”
But since arriving in New Orleans, his fortune has taken a turn.
Not only did the Pelicans suffer through six injuries during preseason training camp, they started the season 1-11. Then when the roster began to assemble on the floor, the up-tempo style of basketball Gentry prefers withered away, and fluctuations in effort became a nightly topic in press gatherings.
“We can’t have pity parties,” Gentry said. “We have to try to come up with solutions. That’s what I’m looking at, is anything that’s solution-based we can do to get this thing turned around.”
New Orleans is languishing at No. 14 in the 15-team Western Conference, but its 10-21 record doesn’t eliminate it from contending in an unusually mediocre conference that sports just six teams better than .500.
So as a turbulent 2015 comes to a close, Gentry is opting to see the positives rather than boil over in the frustration of an unexpectedly sour close to the year.
“I’m an eternal optimist,” Gentry said. “Even as disastrous of a start as we’ve had, we’re still (four) games out of the playoffs. And to me, that’s what it’s all about, just trying to get yourself into the playoffs. Once you get into the playoffs, you can reevaluate everything and talk about reassessing the goals you’ve made, and go from there.”
“It’s been a very interesting year, but there have been many more positives than negatives, and I still think this is a really positive situation.”
The Clippers star power will take a hit Thursday night without the services of power forward Blake Griffin, who is recovering from a partially torn quadriceps tendon, which is expected to keep him out for two weeks.
However, Los Angeles has hardly skipped a beat in his absence.
A 108-91 domination of the Washington Wizards on Tuesday marked the Clippers second consecutive win without Griffin. In fact, Los Angeles has tallied an impressive 11-6 record in Griffin’s absence over the past two seasons; he missed 15 games because of a staph infection in the spring.
“We have a good team coming in,” Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans said. “They don’t have Blake, but they’re still going to come out and play.”
After Saturday’s 110-108 victory over the Rockets, several Pelicans pointed to incessant and boisterous communication as a key in the team’s improved second-half defense.
But that same level of chatter was nowhere to be found during a 104-89 loss at Orlando on Monday night. The discrepancy is the product of several factors, including in-game momentum, according to Evans.
“We really wanted to win that game at home and were talking a lot to help Jrue (Holiday) with James (Harden), and that made things a lot easier,” Evans said. “We just have to take that mentality with us on the road, and we’ll do fine.”