A suddenly thin backcourt, spurred by a broken finger in Eric Gordon’s shooting hand, forced the Pelicans to make a personnel move.
Bryce DeJean-Jones, who spent training camp and Summer League with New Orleans, was acquired on a 10-day contract Wednesday night and was active for Thursday’s game against the Detroit Pistons.
The 6-foot-6 swingman displayed scoring proficiency in both stints, making him an attractive substitute for the floor-spacing Gordon, as the Pelicans try to replace their leading 3-point shooter, whose 101 3-pointers ranked ninth in the NBA.
While DeJean-Jones won’t be relied-upon to fill that role for the four-to-six weeks Gordon is expected to miss, Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry said he’s confident in the rookie’s ability to contribute, despite the quick turnaround in coming from the NBA D-League’s Idaho Stampeders on Wednesday night.
Gentry also said DeJean-Jones was “really close to making the team” in October and his performance in the summer made him an easy choice when the Pelicans had to fill a roster slot.
“I wasn’t expecting this at all,” DeJean-Jones said. “I mean I was coming back from shootaround and getting ready for a game with Idaho and all of a sudden my agent says I need to get on the plane because I was headed back here.
“I was really happy because I know the system here, I know the guys and I know how to get around the city. I think the system works really well, with the fast pace and defensive focus. It’s like coming back home, and I was so happy to see everyone.”
Beyond signing Jones, the other ripple effect of Gordon’s absence is stretching the Pelicans’ guard rotation, particularly Tyreke Evans, who is playing through a nagging knee injury that forced him out of two games last week.
In response to those issues, Gentry shaped his rotations to limit Evans’ minutes, keeping him to six-minute stretches, shaving nearly eight total minutes off of his average in the past two games.
“I still think we have to try to keep him at that six-minute mark,” Gentry said. “He seems to be really good when we are able to do that. Now, that being said, we might have to push it a minute or something. We really wanted to try to keep it in that six-minute range if we can, because that seems to really help him also.”
Evans’ first rotation on Thursday night lasted 7 minutes, 55 seconds. He scored a productive seven points, dished three assists and pulled down two rebounds in the longer-than-expected stint.
All-Star voters elected not to send Anthony Davis to a second consecutive start in the Western Conference lineup.
NBA All-Star voting concluded Thursday night, and Davis wasn’t close to being one of the top-three vote receivers in the West frontcourt, garnering just 400,688 votes, finishing ninth in the West.
Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard were named starters, alongside guards Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.
Davis is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game but it wasn’t enough to win the popularity side of the contest, with the Pelicans struggling to a 14-27 record.
The looming effect of the voters’ choice is that it could potentially cost Davis from reaching the threshold necessary to reach the “Derrick Rose Rule” outlined in the contract extension he signed this offseason.
If Davis fails to make the postseason All-NBA team (first, second or third versions), his salary will drop from 30 percent of the cap to 25 percent, which could cost him as much as $25 million over the next five years.
He can still make the All-Star Game when the league’s coaches vote on the reserves.
“I would be (disappointed if Davis isn’t named a starter),” Gentry said before the announcement. “That’s kind of part of it. What has happened this year, is it’s the year of Kobe for sure, and he’s going to get a ton of votes. I just think to play in the game is an honor. … I think A.D. will be fine.”