Friday night was supposed to be a rather meaningless affair.
Throughout the preseason, New Orleans Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry said the exhibition finale against the Memphis Grizzlies largely would be a contest for backups, who wouldn't be running any of the team’s more complicated sets.
The Pelicans believed there was no point in showing their hand, considering they travel back to Memphis on Wednesday for the regular-season opener in FedEx Forum.
Instead, Gentry has been forced to adjust.
Surgery to repair Rajon Rondo’s core muscle injury is expected to leave him out four to six weeks and has shaken up the Pelicans’ rotation. So, Gentry likely will employ his starters for the opening tip at 7 p.m. and could leave them in for the entire first half, depending on what he sees.
“The Rondo thing threw us for a little bit of a loop,” Gentry said. “So, we’re still trying to figure out rotations and starters for that matter. We’ll probably play those guys for a quarter-and-a-half or maybe half the game. But I don’t see them playing the normal minutes they would play during a game.”
While he still hasn’t made a final decision about who will start alongside Jrue Holiday in the backcourt, Gentry said he’s leaning toward E’Twaun Moore. He kept open the possibility of using Ian Clark in that role.
Regardless of which direction the Pelicans go, the shifting has added some drama to what appeared to be a drab preseason finale.
“It’s our last game to try to figure everything out,” forward Anthony Davis said. “We have a couple of more practices, but this is it. We just want to go out there and try to figure out what stuff looks like in game situations so we know what works and what doesn’t.”
Davis made headlines last week for his sit-down interview with ESPN’s Marty Smith. The Pelicans superstar explained his thoughts on the nation’s race relations and discussed potential solutions.
But he wasn’t exactly looking for an outlet.
“I didn’t know it was going to be an interview about that; it just turned into it,” Davis said. “It was supposed to be about the team and stuff. It just turned into it. I didn’t really know. It just happened. So, we just talked about it and had a lot of great conversation, and I thought it turned out really well.”
When asked whether the political landscape was a hot topic in the Pelicans’ locker room, Davis quickly deflected.
“We talk about what we talk about,” Davis joked.
With less than a week remaining before the regular season commences, the Pelicans are trying to build excitement in the New Orleans area.
The franchise is hosting a block party in Lafayette Square (500 St. Charles Avenue, in the Warehouse District) at 4:45 p.m. Monday. The festival will include free food, drinks and a performance by Big Sam’s Funky Nation.
Pelicans’ players will be in attendance as well. Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are expected to take the stage to greet fans at 5:30 p.m.