LAS VEGAS — Summer league is flooded in unfamiliarity.
Whether it’s players who reside on the fringe of the league’s benches or assistant coaches who are thrust into leading roles for a week, the games are played with far different styles and scouting reports than what the regular season typically holds.
But, for the New Orleans Pelicans, it’s been an area they’ve been able to gain an edge. Assistant coach Darren Erman, who took over head coaching duties for summer league’s pool play, guided the Pelicans to a 3-0 record, sparked largely by their quick starts.
In wins over Milwaukee, Dallas and Brooklyn the Pelicans won all three first quarters, averaging a 9.6-point advantage by the time the first buzzer sounded.
The Pelicans were outscored in the final three quarters in all three of those games, but did enough for the initial lead to stand.
“The way we are starting is a tribute to this coaching staff,” point guard Larry Drew II said. “They’re getting us ready and we are really well prepared both offensively and defensively, as well as mentally.”
Erman said he found a way to scout opponents by looking at last year’s summer games as well as looking at film of those players’ past performances. He placed an emphasis and significant priority on winning, and based on his 10-0 record in Las Vegas, Erman is doing something right in that department.
“No one is working harder than him, period,” coach Alvin Gentry said earlier in the week. “He’s always finding a way to squeeze in some more work and he’s always in the office. He’s completely committed.”
Erman, on the other hand, chose to credit Gentry’s system for the early advantages, claiming the up-tempo style catches opponents by surprise, especially in an exhibition environment. There was no better illustration of it than when Drew II snagged the opening tip on Monday afternoon, dribbled straight to the basket and scored in the game’s first three seconds.
“We always talk about, from the jump, we want to push our pace early,” Erman said. “People aren’t used to playing our pace. It takes a while to adjust. So we think we can take advantage of that by getting a bunch of easy baskets early.”
Now, fellow assistant Robert Pack will likely be tabbed as the “head coach” for the Pelicans’ run into the summer league playoffs (a plan laid out by Gentry before arriving in Las Vegas) which they open Thursday, thanks to receiving a first-round bye due to their undefeated record.
New Orleans has particularly benefited from its guard tandem of Seth Curry and Drew II. The pair has played together more often than not, despite both being natural point guards.
And their games have complemented each other thus far. Curry has notched 25 points per game and Drew II distributed the most assists in Las Vegas thus far, distributing 16 in Monday’s win.
“I was really proud (of Larry),” Erman said. “He deserves to be in the NBA. He and Seth have done a great job throughout this camp of playing with great pace, running the team and making plays. Seth is making plays and Larry is very unselfish. Those 16 assists could have been 24 assists.”