Things are going to look different for the Pelicans this season.
Dell Demps hopes it helps that things will look so similar.
The Pelicans general manager said Tuesday that he hopes roster stability — New Orleans returns its top eight scorers from last season’s 45-37 team — will help ease the transition to new coach Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo system.
“We feel like the guys are gonna know each other,” Demps said Tuesday after he addressed the Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club. “Obviously with a new coaching staff, a new system, they’re gonna have to learn that. But we think it’ll expedite that learning because they know each other.”
And despite the lack of roster turnover, there will be plenty of learning to do.
Gentry’s preference is for pushing the tempo and maximizing possessions, which will be a significant shift for the Pelicans.
Last season, New Orleans had 93.7 offensive possessions per 48 minutes, which ranked 27th in the 30-team NBA in pace. League champion Golden State, where Gentry was associate head coach last season, ranked first in the league at 100.7 possessions per 48 minutes.
In all of Gentry’s four-plus seasons as head coach in Phoenix, the Suns ranked in the top 10 in the league in pace. In his best season, 2009-10, Phoenix was fourth in pace at 97.9 possessions per game and led the league in scoring at 110.2 points per game.
Players are “excited about” the faster pace, Demps said.
He noted that the Pelicans committed to conditioning in the offseason, participating in voluntary workouts in Los Angeles over the summer, and that returning players attended the NBA Summer League “to support the coaching staff and take a look at the system,” despite the lack of roster players on the Pelicans’ Summer League squad.
The Pelicans open training camp next week at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and will play six of their seven preseason games away from the Smoothie King Center, a schedule that Demps hopes helps speed up the team’s learning curve in a new system.
“We’re hoping with the new coach, the new system, getting away we can get some team-building exercises, everybody can get to know each other,” Demps said. “We’re really looking forward to this group jelling and taking that next step.”
Last week, point guard Jrue Holiday, who missed 42 games last season with a lower right leg injury, said he’ll be on a minutes restriction when the Pelicans open camp. He didn’t elaborate on the restriction.
Demps didn’t either Tuesday, but while the general manager said Holiday is “in phenomenal shape,” he said the Pelicans will be cautious with Holiday — and not just in West Virginia.
“We’re gonna be smart and cautious with him,” Demps said during his speech to the Quarterback Club. “One of the good things about this team is we have depth, so we’re not gonna ask Jrue to come out and play 35, 40 minutes a game. We feel like we’re really strong in the guard position. So we’re gonna be smart and cautious with him — not only now, through training camp, at the start of the season — and really get a gauge of where he is.”
New Zealand guard Webster signs
Corey Webster, a 6-foot-2 guard from New Zealand, on Tuesday signed a nonguaranteed contract with the Pelicans. He’ll go to training camp with the team next week to compete for a roster spot.
Webster, who played one season of college basketball at NAIA Lambuth University in Jackson, Tennessee, has played professionally in New Zealand since 2008 and “has been a really good player internationally, playing for the New Zealand national team,” Demps said Tuesday.