WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Welcome to the NBA’s version of Hard Knocks.
Six players of varying length and experience — forwards Jeff Adrien, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Alonzo Gee; and guards Bryce Dejean-Jones, Sean Kilpatrick and Corey Webster — are essentially vying for two roster spots as the Pelicans go through a week of training camp here at The Greenbrier.
If that sounds like more than usual, it is. Last year the Pelicans took 15 players to camp with 13 guaranteed; this time it’s 18, 12 of whom are guaranteed.
But unlike the NFL, there isn’t as much anguish involved about being on the bubble.
“I just look on it as being blessed that the Man Above has given me the opportunity to get my foot in the door,” said Adrien, who signed with the Pelicans a week ago. “I’m with a great team, a great coaching staff, and I have a chance to showcase my ability.
“Now everything else is up to me.”
The Pelicans are Adrien’s sixth NBA team in the seven years since he went undrafted out of UConn, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, with whom he appeared in 17 games last season after earlier spending time in the Chinese Basketball Association.
But Douglas-Roberts can top that.
The former consensus All-American out of Memphis spent time with nine teams since the then-New Jersey Nets made him a second-round pick in 2008.
Douglas-Roberts played in only 12 games last season with the Los Angles Clippers because of an Achilles injury. He was waived in January after being acquired by Boston.
“I’ve matured a lot since I came into the league,” Douglas said. “So my outlook is a lot different from when I was younger.
“I’ve talked to the coaching staff and to (General Manager Dell Demps) about where things stand, and I feel very comfortable about my situation. This is a team that’s built around young veterans, and I’d like to think I’m one of those.”
Webster is the most interesting case among the bubble players.
A native of New Zealand whose father, Tony Webster, is from New York and played at Hawaii before moving to New Zealand, Corey Webster played just one season of college basketball, at now-defunct Lambuth College in 2008.
He has been a professional ever since, playing in leagues in New Zealand and Australia and playing on his country’s national team.
This is Webster’s first time in an NBA camp.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” Webster said. “The leagues I’m in obviously aren’t at the level of the NBA, so I get the chance step up and see what I can do.”
And even if Webster doesn’t make the Pelicans, he has the chance to show what he can do in the seven exhibition games, starting Saturday at Indiana.
That, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said, is important.
“We tell all of these guys that somebody is always watching you,” he said. “So even if you may not fit in with this team, there’s always a chance you can catch somebody’s eye.
“It happens all the time in this league.”
The Pelicans will have an open scrimmage Thursday night, but Gentry said not to expect anything formal, including keeping statistics.
“Our whole goal is preparing for (the opener against) Golden State,” he said. “So everything leading up to this is to give this team the best preparation possible for that day.”
The scrimmage will be a test of the team’s conditioning, which is a major point of emphasis for the week.
“We’re all gassed,” forward Ryan Anderson said. “I’ve got to go have a few Red Bulls.”
Gentry said he is looking for more knowledge of his system Thursday night.
“Our execution is not going to be great because we’re just four days into putting in a new system and a new way of thinking for our players,” he said. “But I want to see some improvement, just like we saw improvement today from yesterday.
“Our guys have been playing on instinct a lot of the time so far. We need them showing they understand more of what we want them to do.”
Don’t forget the D
With all of the emphasis on running, defense can get lost in the shuffle.
But forward Dante Cunningham said the team is buying into those principles as well.
“Everything is simplified,” he said. “Literally every person has the same goal, which is to protect the next person.
“You’re guarding your man, but you know you have a man behind you guarding him too.”
Wednesday’s morning workout was viewed by more than 200 visiting school children, including sixth-grader Adam McGhee of Trap Hill Middle School in Glen Daniel, West Virginia.
“We really like being here,” McGhee said. “It’s getting us out of school today.”