LOS ANGELES — The New Orleans Pelicans went for a Los Angeles split Sunday night at Staples Center against a 5-15 Lakers that’s just a shadow of the franchise’s glorious past.
For Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham, who faced the high-powered Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers in the first two games of his late-starting season, it was another chance to get his game going after missing training camp, the exhibition season and the season’s first month.
“I have to admit, everything was moving at 110 miles per hour for me at Golden State (Thursday),” Cunningham said after Saturday night’s 20-point loss to the Clippers.
From a personal standpoint alone, Saturday was an improvement for Cunningham, a six-year NBA veteran. He logged 20 minutes, including some time with the starters, and came out of the lopsided game with a +7 point differential ledger. He had two points, two rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot. But what he brings are mostly intangibles, and Pelicans coach Monty Williams could use those in developing a strong Pelicans second unit.
The Pelicans are Cunningham’s fifth NBA team — he’s worked in Portland, Charlotte, Memphis and Minnesota — and he’s delighted with the camaraderie he said he’s found after signing with New Orleans on Thursday.
“Every single guy has said something to me to help me along,” Cunningham, 27, said. “The players, the coaches, the staff. The chemistry here shows a passion to get better.”
Having played in the league, Cunningham knows game speed is nothing like practice speed — and he’s had almost no time practicing with his new team.
“My conditioning, personal workouts were good, so I was up to it there,” he said. “But there’s nothing like actually playing.
“I just want to do what I can do to help. You try to get things going whoever you’re out there with (starters or reserves).”
As for drawing the Warriors and Clippers for his first two games in New Orleans uniform, Cunningham said, smiling: “Well, if you’re in this situation, you might as well go against the best right away.”