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New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps speaks to the media during a press conference announcing free agent guard Jrue Holiday has signed a new five year contract to remain with the New Orleans Pelicans at the New Orleans Pelicans practice facility in Metairie, La. Thursday, July 6, 2017.

The Pelicans held a press conference on Friday morning to introduce newly acquired free agents Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton. General manager Dell Demps spoke briefly with The Advocate on Thursday night to talk about the team's moves in free agency.

First, what was it about Randle and Payton that you liked?

We think both players will fit well with our core guys. Both players are fast-paced attackers who can make plays for others. Both of them are guys that we have targeted for a while. We always felt they would be great additions to our group.

Is this team now better than the team that finished the season?

That's a tough question because DeMarcus (Cousins) wasn't with us when we finished. But DeMarcus put us in position to have a good finish. You add Julius Randle to that team, but you take away (Rajon) Rondo but you add Elfrid Payton. We feel good about our core. But obviously the NBA keeps getting more and more competitive and you see a lot of teams getting better as well.

Speaking of that — What were your thoughts when you found out LeBron James was coming to the Western Conference?

(Laugh, long pause) I don't even know how to answer that.

What can you tell us about the negotiations with DeMarcus Cousins? (Cousins signed with the Golden State Warriors last week).

Our first goal was to get him back healthy and ready for the long term and not the short term. We felt we had a really good core built around DeMarcus, Anthony (Davis) and Jrue (Holiday). We were trying to find a way to build off last year's success without taking a step backward. We wanted to put a team on the court that can compete in the Western Conference. We wanted to bring DeMarcus back. We just didn't know with the injury when he would be able to come back. This situation was very difficult for everyone, mostly DeMarcus. He had success here and was playing well and he got injured. This one was difficult because it happened at a time when we were playing very well. Everything was clicking from an offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint. Everything was working.

How would you describe those talks?

The conversations were respectful. They were cordial, with each side trying to figure out how to make this a win-win situation for both side. The unknown of returning to play made it difficult for both sides to find a common ground. We enjoyed DeMarcus in New Orleans and wanted him back. We had multiple discussions with his representatives. It was just very difficult for us to find common ground. (The team last talked to Cousins' representatives at midnight on July 1 when free agency began and again the following day).

Switching gears to Rondo. How tough was it to lose him? (Rondo signed with the Los Angeles Lakers)

Ultimately, it was a tough situation because we had so much success with Rondo with his leadership and on court presence. We felt like we had a chemistry. Unfortunately, he's not back. At the same time, we believe that his impact will stay with our team.

How do you replace his leadership?

We believe that Anthony and Jrue are team leaders. We also feel that we have a number of other guys that provide leadership in other ways. We are hoping to build off last year's playoff run. But we also want to expand and keep getting better to compete with the best.

How much input does Anthony Davis have in free agency decisions?

Winning is important to him, and he was willing to step up in the recruiting of Julius Randle.

What type of impact do you think Julius Randle will have?

Julius' style of play is going to make us a better team. His ability to rebound, start our fast breaks, his ability to finish around the basket, his playmaking and his toughness are all things that are going to make the New Orleans Pelicans a better basketball team.

Any more moves in the works?

We are actively pursuing opportunities to improve the team. We are hoping to build off last year's playoff run. We want to keep getting better.

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.