Tyreke Evans appreciates the simplicity that coach Alvin Gentry brought with him to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Instead of Evans concerning himself over which of three positions he would play — a routine source of consternation in the early months of the 2014-15 season — Gentry has made Evans’ position clear from Tuesday’s opening of training camp.
“He is mostly going to be a point guard,” Gentry said at the team’s facility during Monday’s media day, the official start of the preseason. “Obviously, there are going to be situations where he might need to play a couple of other positions, but right now, I see him mainly as a point guard with the potential to really push the ball.”
Evans came up as a point guard, winning Rookie of the Year honors while playing exclusively at the position in 2009. But when he came to New Orleans, he was joined by former All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, meaning the two would have to find a way to share the ball.
When Holiday was forced to miss 41 consecutive games last season, it allowed Evans to take over the starting role, where he often flourished, helping the Pelicans finish with an 18-11 record down the stretch to secure a playoff berth.
“I just felt like we had a good run and I was comfortable,” Evans said. “My teammates were comfortable with that. That’s where it really started at. We started playing off of each other and feeding off of each other. I’m taking my role from last year, and I think I play my best with the ball in my hands. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Holiday will open this season on a playing time restriction, which Gentry estimated last week would start at around 15 minutes per game and grow through the first few months. If Holiday is able to make a full recovery from the stress reaction in his right leg and play 30 or more minutes per night, Gentry said he’s not sure what direction he’ll go in at point guard.
“A lot of these questions are hard for me to answer,” he said. “I don’t know that until Jrue actually gets back and doesn’t have a minute restriction or something. Right now, I think Tyreke is going to be the guy that is our point guard, and we will go from there. Hopefully it’s a situation where both of them play great and we have two really good players at that position.”
The Pelicans re-signed centers Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca to lucrative contracts this offseason, and quickly they saw some health concerns arise for the 7-footers.
Both were held out of EuroBasket due to injury issues. Asik was sent home from Turkey’s national team with back spasms and, just days before the opening game, Ajinca had to leave France’s team because of an Achilles issue.
On Monday, Gentry and General Manager Dell Demps said Asik is fully cleared for practice, but Ajinca said he was still in pain and is uncertain whether he’s going to be ready right away.
“Honestly, I have to work through it a little bit,” Ajinca said. “It’s still painful. I tried to practice, and I thought I’d be at 100 percent, but I’m not at 100 percent yet. It’s something that I thought wasn’t a major injury, and I don’t believe it’s that major. I just have to play through it.”
Deep with Davis
The star of media day was Anthony Davis, whose offseason conditioning and growing MVP candidacy received most of the attention. But he also answered some more lighthearted topics, about his newly inked tattoos and thoughts on the NBA 2K16 video game — he’s featured on the cover.
The tattoo is his first and is located on his upper right bicep and shoulder, with a depiction of his grandfather and the phrase “Rest Up” above it.
“It’s my grandfather, who has passed,” Davis said. “He was always that role model in my life. I was going to get it when I was in high school, but I haven’t really had time to get it since I was in high school. This is the first time I’ve had a chance to ‘chill,’ so it was the best year to just do it.”
When asked about his video game rating being a few points worse than LeBron James’, Davis went deadpan.
“I don’t want to get into it,” he joked. “It doesn’t matter because I don’t play as myself anyway. I play with the Rockets.”
The Pelicans went directly from media day to board a plane for White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, where they will hold training camp beginning Tuesday at The Greenbrier resort. … Davis didn’t specify a goal for how many 3-pointers he expects to shoot in a game, saying it could range from 15 to none. … Evans said he raced Davis earlier this month to see who was faster — and they “tied.” … Team mascot Pierre the Pelican stepped to the podium briefly and, when asked his expectations for the season, he pointed to his ring finger to indicate he’s seeking a championship.