LAS VEGAS — Eric Gordon and Quincy Pondexter travelled to Vegas to see what the future held for them.
If three summer league games are any indication of what’s to come when the season rolls around, the Pelicans starters like what they see.
New Orleans once again broke out on a fast pace, had a litany of open shooters, and continued to score at a remarkable rate, punctuating an undefeated run through pool play, completed by its 89-83 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday afternoon in the Thomas & Mack Center.
Larry Drew II had 16 assists, and Bryce Dejean-Jones led all scorers with 26 points on 12 shots. It was the same blueprint that earned the Pelicans wins over Milwaukee and Dallas last weekend, thrusting New Orleans into a bye, meaning it won’t play again until the second round of the playoffs begin Thursday.
“I saw Quincy in the morning, and I heard Eric was here, and I think it’s great,” Pelicans summer-league coach Darren Erman said. “It makes us know that they are part of the team and all-in. When you talk to all of these guys, they’re excited. They’re excited for the season. All we ever hear is how excited they are to play with each other.”
Considering the Pelicans have re-signed four of their own free agents — Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Dante Cunningham and Luke Babbitt — along with getting Gordon to opt in to the final year of his contract, there’s plenty of familiarity around the roster.
And that has this group anxious to get back together in the locker room and on the floor.
“Bringing everyone back together was huge,” Pondexter said. “We made huge strides last year, and we don’t want to take a step back. I think we have the confidence to know we are a pretty good team and we are going to continue to jell together and we are going to be fine and fun.”
Already familiar with most of the roster, Gordon and Pondexter were able to ingratiate themselves with the new coaching staff in Las Vegas. Both said they’ve spoken extensively with coach Alvin Gentry and are taking the opportunity to learn the new system and discuss the future with the rest of the assistants.
It was something Gordon said was particularly important to him, because he’s returning to New Orleans this year, playing on a one-year, $15.5 million deal.
“It was an easy decision to come back,” Gordon said. “We have a young team, and we are still on the come-up. And I think we will do even better things next year. It’s going to be some fun, and I’m just glad I’m going to be around it.”
They were both ready to get started in the team’s new style, which will be a significant change from the one run by Monty Williams previously. The quick tempo is particularly noteworthy, and both players said they’re preparing their bodies for the change.
Gordon said he’s already lost 10 pounds this offseason, joining guard Tyreke Evans on a stringent diet and exercise program. Meanwhile, Pondexter said he’s done what he can from a conditioning standpoint, despite having cartilage removed from his knee in an early May surgery.
He’s used an Ultra G machine and an underwater treadmill that allow him to run with limited impact on his knee.
“I wanted to get a jump-start on next season,” Pondexter said. “I wanted to come out here and look at the new offense and the defensive schemes and get adjusted to the coaches. I’m excited to see where our future is going to go from here.
“I know I’m going to need to get start running ASAP. (The summer league team) is out there getting after it, and this is a kind of style of basketball I’ve never played before. I’m ready to just get it going.”