Four days before the 2015-16 New Orleans Pelicans are unveiled on national television, they finally got to meet the fans.
After six road games to open the preseason schedule, the Pelicans finished off the exhibition season by returning to the Smoothie King Center on Friday night in a 93-90 win over the Miami Heat.
While people filed in to see Anthony Davis and the team’s up-tempo pace under coach Alvin Gentry, the biggest attraction was above the court. This offseason the franchise purchased and installed a JumboTron that stretches the majority of the floor, more than quadrupling the surface area of the old screens.
The new JumboTron is 44-by-21 feet from side to side, covering the area between the 3-point lines. There are also two boards facing the baseline and two others in the corners, to give just about everyone a clean view.
“It’s our version of the Dallas Cowboys (board),” Gentry said Thursday. “It’s an awesome thing. I think it will add something to the game. it really will.”
Fans ogled the new boards upon arrival, and even some Pelicans players expected to be overshadowed by the state’s largest television hanging above them.
“I think it’s awesome,” forward Ryan Anderson said. “I think it makes the arena look completely different and new. It was pretty exciting to go in there the other day and practice just to see it for the first time. It makes a world of difference.
“There have just been so many new improvements and changes with this team. It’s just been awesome to see the care has been taken into this franchise. Obviously, they are giving us anything we could ever want and need. So we just need to deliver.”
Babbitt nearly back
Six Pelicans are slated to miss the season opener on Oct. 27 at Golden State because of injury, but it appears that number may be trimmed down shortly thereafter.
Shooting guard Luke Babbitt injured his left hamstring on Oct. 12 and was shelved for an unknown amount of time. His status was upgraded to questionable before Friday night (although he didn’t play), and Gentry said there’s a chance Babbitt could be available next week, but stressed they’ll be overly cautious.
“He’s feeling pretty good right now,” Gentry said. “He won’t play (Friday) but we’re hoping we may have him ready for the opening game, but we’ll see. All of these guys are working their butts off to come back, but it’s one of those time things. All you can do is make sure they’re healthy when they come back.”
Filling out the roster
The Pelicans released guards Chris Douglas-Roberts and Sean Kilpatrick on Friday morning, trimming the roster to 17. The NBA doesn’t allow more than 15 players on the regular season roster, and New Orleans is expected to make its final two cuts before leaving for Oakland on Sunday afternoon.
The final spot is a competition between former UNO star point gaurd Bo McCalebb, swingman Bryce DeJean-Jones and power forward Jeff Adrien who are on non-guaranteed contracts.
Gentry declined to say which way he was leaning as far as who will remain when the season starts but credited everyone for working hard.
“I feel like those guys have really invested in the system, and I think that’s the biggest thing,” point guard Jrue Holiday said. “They aren’t just trying to stand out from the standpoint of they have to score, but they’re trying to stand out by fitting into a role and being really good at that role.”
On Friday, DeJean- Jones stood out above the others by scoring 13 points on just five shots, and playing well into the fourth quarter while surrounded by starters.
“The main part is to focus on helping us get wins, so I have to play defense and keep up my focus and concentration,” DeJean –Jones said. “There’s really only so much you can do about it so you just control every part you can.”
Holiday was supposed to be held to a 15-minute restriction, but played 18 minutes and finished the game with the Pelicans’ finishing unit. … While the JumboTron was a source of excitement, the shot clocks failed entirely, not working from the opening tip until midway through the third quarter on Friday night. … Saints players Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram took in the game from courtside. ... Gentry took a moment to chat with Pelicans fans on the front row during some free throw attempts.