For all intents and purposes, the New Orleans Pelicans have had two practices in the past six weeks.
Of course, the Pelicans have practiced more than twice since the season began more than a month ago. But not with their full team.
New Orleans is as healthy as it’s been in a time, returning crucial pieces the club needed to construct a pair of convincing conference wins to begin this week — one of the Pelicans’ toughest on-paper stretches of the season.
The Pelicans earned a seven-point win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday and a 17-point thumping of the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, both rally-from-behind victories at the Smoothie King Center.
Halfway completed with the rigorous seven-day slate, the Pelicans travel to Phoenix for a 8 p.m. Friday meeting with the Suns (7-12) at Talking Stick Resort Arena for the breeziest part of this four-game stretch that ends at Golden State’s Oracle Arena on Saturday.
“We don’t overlook any game,” said Pelicans superstar forward DeMarcus Cousins. “This is a competitive league. It’s also on the road. It’s hard to win on the road. We’re taking it a game at a time, and we’re focused on Phoenix right now.”
Point guard Rajon Rondo returned from early October core muscle surgery on Nov. 13, five games ago. Since, the Pelicans have had two full practices with Rondo fully able to steer New Orleans’ offense.
The result? The Pelicans claimed their two most substantial conference wins this week.
“Rajon coming back three games ago, now we’ve got to find a whole new way of playing,” Cousins said. “Not saying we’re switching up our style, but just getting him accustomed to him playing with us and us playing with him. It’s another learning curve on the fly for us.”
Anthony Davis, the Pelicans' other All-Star forward, said Rondo is a big piece to the New Orleans puzzle.
"He’s our starting point guard and he went out for the first couple games," Davis said. "Without him, we had to adjust everything that we did. Now he’s back, he’s getting his legs back under him and getting more minutes. We’re able to do all the stuff we wanted to in the beginning of the season, and it’s working for us now.”
The Pelicans are 3-2 with Rondo and have committed 15 or fewer turnovers in three of the five games. With their starting lineup nearing full health, New Orleans scored more than 106 points in all five of Rondo’s appearances, including 107 on Wednesday against the defense-reliant Spurs.
“If we take care of the ball, the sky is the limit for what we can put on the board,” Rondo said.
With just those two practices and a handful of games to assess the pulse of the Pelicans, New Orleans appears to be meshing well — just ask Cousins.
“We’ll be scary,” he said. “One thing I think a lot of people forget, this is a brand new team with a brand new identity.”