LAS VEGAS – It had just been suggested to Cheick Diallo that, for whatever importance NBA Summer League games might have, they don't really count.
They aren't part of the official record, after all. Whatever statistics the Pelicans rookie puts up in Summer League – which for New Orleans began Friday night with a late tipoff against the Los Angeles Lakers – will be mostly forgotten.
Diallo disagreed on principle.
"Hold up, hold up. What you mean does not count?" the 6-foot-9 forward said after a Friday morning shootaround. "Listen, everything counts. I don't want to play where it (doesn't) count. I don't really care. I just want to go hard every game. I'm not going to be, 'OK, it's not going to count.' It counts. To me, it counts."
In a way, he has a point.
For Pelicans rookies Diallo and Buddy Hield, there's a value to this week's games, a chance to dip their toes into the NBA waters in an environment that won't count against them but can do some good for them.
"You know how Summer League is," said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, who will observe games but will leave the coaching up to assistant Robert Pack. "It's just such a rollercoaster up and down. But I think it's good for Buddy and it's good for Cheick for those guys to get out and play and see the speed of the game; the competition and the speed of the game. I don't really judge a whole lot by it."
Neither Hield, selected sixth in last month's NBA draft, nor Diallo, taken 33rd, had signed a contract with New Orleans as of Friday afternoon, but neither player anticipated that impacting his status.
Diallo planned to start the game, calling the opener "the first step to the NBA." And Hield shrugged off contact talk, saying it was a matter between his agent and the team.
He saw games as more significant.
"You want to set a first impression," Hield said. "Everybody's watching."
Hield, who said this week that his season goals are to help get the Pelicans back in the playoffs after last season's 30-52 disaster and to compete for Rookie of the Year, said he's "for sure" motivated to be the best of the rookies at Summer League.
Gentry wasn't so concerned with how Hield measures up with the competition.
"I'm not going to get overly excited if he gets 30 tonight and I'm not going to get overly excited if he goes 3 for 17, either," Gentry said. "I think actually playing out there and just going through the process of adjusting to the speed of the game and figuring out the officiating and things like that is what makes the most sense."
Still, the fact that Hield wants to impress early and that Diallo said a Summer Leauge game is "not a scrimmage to me" is in keeping with what Gentry has learned in a short time watching his rookie additions.
"They're very competitive, and I think both of those guys are very smart players," Gentry said. "I think Buddy's got a really good basketball IQ, and Cheick is a hard-playing kid that's going to get better every day because he works at it. I would say that we made the right decisions there."
Those decisions won't be justified or vilified based on a handful of Summer League games.
The games, after all, don't count. And though Hield and Diallo want to impress as the NBA gets its first look at them, what matters most is that the Pelicans' duo is getting its first look at the NBA.
"I'm going to make some mistakes," Hield said. "I'm going to miss shots. But I don't worry what the end result is. I just know that this is a stepping stone toward the season."