DALLAS — An hour before game time, Jrue Holiday was throwing haymakers.
As a trainer stood in front of Holiday, hands strapped into pads, the Pelicans point guard slipped on boxing gloves. He threw jabs and uppercuts, and the pads popped. It wasn’t merely an exercising in releasing frustration, but Holiday might have welcomed that.
With his minutes still restricted as he recovers from a stress reaction in his right leg, Holiday is permitted to play only one game when the Pelicans play back-to-back. Having played in Friday’s home loss to Atlanta, he was sidelined for Saturday’s game against the Mavericks at American Airlines Center.
“I think it’s tough for him,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said before the game. “In his situation, he’s trying to develop rhythm and kind of figure out what’s going on, and then one night he’s in and one night he’s not. It’s just tough for him.”
And it’s a challenge for the Pelicans. In the up-tempo system Gentry brought to New Orleans this season, the point guard makes the offense go. Steve Nash did it for Mike D’Antoni’s Suns when Gentry was an assistant in Phoenix. Stephen Curry drove the engine for the Warriors last season when Gentry was Golden State’s associate head coach.
“It’s tough,” guard Eric Gordon said. “With our team at this point, it’s all about having a flow, everybody getting together.”
That’s hard to do with the point guard’s minutes limited, and tougher still when he’s sitting full games. The Pelicans will play back-to-back again this week with a home game against the Mavericks on Tuesday and a game at Atlanta on Wednesday. They’ll have two more back-to-backs in November and three in December.
“It’s got to be (frustrating),” Gordon said. “I know he wants to get going and do well, and what’s limiting him is the time. With him, it’s all about being productive as (much) as you can during those times.”
Holiday is averaging 13 points, 5.3 assists and four turnovers per game, but Gentry — who said before the season that Holiday could excel in his system — is confident he’ll find himself once he has a more regular routine.
“The thing about him, he’s a really bright guy,” Gentry said. “I think eventually when limitations and the restrictions in minutes are up, I think you’ll see him thrive. I really do.”
Big on big
Anthony Davis started Saturday’s game at power forward after a strong showing at center on Friday against the Hawks. The Pelicans star shined and tied a career high with 43 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Atlanta.
But Gentry said that big game was more about some adjustments the Pelicans made with Davis — letting him catch the ball on the move and get in space — than it was about where Davis played in the lineup. He’ll continue to split his minutes between power forward and small-ball center.
“We’ll try (center) some more along the year,” Gentry said. “We’re just not gonna have him out pounding against the Dwight Howards of the world. I just don’t think that makes sense for us, and we’ve got guys that can pound with Howard and guys like that.”
The Pelicans played Saturday without assistant coach Darren Erman, who traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, for his father’s memorial service. Jerome Erman, a retired podiatrist, died Wednesday at age 71. The memorial service was scheduled for Sunday.
The Mavericks and Pelicans are off Sunday and Monday, then meet again Tuesday in New Orleans, the first time this season either team has played the same opponent in back-to-back games.
“From a scouting standpoint you have that game to go off of,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “From that standpoint it’s relatively simple. But anytime you’re playing the same team twice in a row it’s difficult. The familiarity makes the game harder the second game.”