Tim Frazier has been around the NBA long enough to know opportunities don’t come with choices.
When one comes along, regardless of the circumstances, it needs to be embraced. And the conditions couldn’t be much stranger for Frazier.
The Pelicans’ point guard is penciled in as the team’s starter entering the 2016-17 season, thrust into the role by the absence of former All-Star Jrue Holiday, who is out indefinitely while tending to his pregnant wife, Lauren Holiday, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.
While it isn’t an ideal way to find minutes alongside the starting unit, Frazier relishes the opportunity in front of him all the same. His ascent is one of the main storylines facing the Pelicans when training camp officially opens Friday afternoon, kicked off by the team’s annual media day at 1 p.m.
“Obviously it’s really unfortunate, but I know Jrue is strong and their family is strong, so they’ll bounce back,” Frazier said. “But, for me, I’m just here to take on whatever the team needs to me to, and that’s my motto. Whether it’s a smaller role or a larger role, it’s my job to take on every obstacle and do what I can to help.”
In just two seasons, he’s been given a full lesson on flexibility. Frazier has already made three appearances on NBA rosters (New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portland) between a pair of stints in the NBA Developmental League (Maine Red Claws), lending him the perspective to recognize how temporary roster spots can be.
However, he signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Pelicans this offseason, after finally being given the opportunity to show off his NBA skills in high-profile way. His 16 games at the tail end of the Pelicans season were a revelation of sorts, as Frazier flashed his ability to drive off the dribble, push the tempo and mesh into coach Alvin Gentry’s system, showing he was worthy of earning a guaranteed contract.
Frazier averaged a hefty 29.3 minutes during those 16 games, and New Orleans experienced no offensive drop-off under his guidance. The Pelicans averaged 102.5 points per game both before and after Frazier’s arrival, despite the absence of stars Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Holiday, who were all sidelined by injuries.
“It was huge for me,” Frazier said. “It was the first time I got significant minutes on a day-to-day basis and I was finally able to go out and showcase my talents and what I can do. I wanted to do whatever the team needed to win, and they gave me the chance to do it and it’s a big part of the reason I really wanted to come back here.”
This time around, Frazier’s counterparts won’t be familiar to him. Gone are most of the 10-day contracts he played with in April and in their place are the Pelicans front line starters. These Pelicans also aren’t playing out the string, mathematically eliminated from postseason and simply hoping to make a name for themselves.
“This is a complete difference from when I came in with 16 games and guys were hurt and we were just kind of finishing the season out and trying to stay healthy,” Frazier said. “This is a new year, with new players, and we are trying to pull it all together and put the past behind us. We need to learn from the mistakes that were made last year, and I’m just going to do what I can to put us in a position to win.”
And for at least the first few weeks, he’ll be in an optimal position to make an impact.
Without Holiday, training camp and preseason games will serve as an accurate barometer of whether Frazier properly meshes with the starting unit. And if his history is any indication, it’s a chance he won’t miss.
“Tim is one of the guys I talk to on a daily basis,” forward Solomon Hill said. “It doesn’t take long to know that he isn’t the kind of person who you don’t really need to tell the situation to. His productivity on the floor speaks for itself, and he’s been around this league enough to know how much can be gained from an opportunity like this.
“It’s a crazy situation, but Tim will be ready for it. When coaches asked for guys to come in and get some work in, Tim was the guy showing up twice per day to get in extra beyond the extra. I have a lot of belief in Tim.”
Pelicans sign Copeland, Sacre
The Pelicans announced Thursday the team signed free agents Chris Copeland and Robert Sacre. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Copeland, 6-foot-8, 235 pounds, appeared in 24 games with Milwaukee last season, posting averages of 2.1 points in 6.5 minutes per game. Undrafted out of Colorado in 2006, Copeland has appeared in 171 career regular-season games (26 starts) with New York, Indiana and Milwaukee, posting averages of 5.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game.
Sacre (7-0, 270) appeared in 25 games last season for the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 3.5 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game. Drafted 60th overall by the Lakers in 2012 out of Gonzaga, Sacre has spent his entire career in Los Angeles, averaging 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds over 189 career regular-season games (35 starts).