Pelicans notebook: Dante Cunningham slides into the starting lineup, replacing Alonzo Gee _lowres

New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (44) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Denver. The Pelicans won 130-125. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Alvin Gentry has spent a large chunk of the season discussing what changes are necessary to turn around the Pelicans’ slow start.

On Friday night, he made at least one move in an attempt to cure some of what ails the inconsistent Pelicans, inserting Dante Cunningham into the starting lineup in place of Alonzo Gee.

“We are going to take Dante and put him in the lineup and move Alonzo Gee out,” Gentry said. “I just want to make sure everybody understands that this has nothing to do with Alonzo’s play. What we are trying to do is generate a little bit more space and a little bit more offense. That’s basically the reason for it. There might be other situations down the line, so we will see.”

When Gee and center Omer Asik are in the starting lineup together, it allows opposing defenses an to use two help defenders denying Anthony Davis since neither is a significant threat of scoring. Gee had scored just 12 points in previous six games, despite playing averaging 19 minutes.

Cunningham is an upgrade shooting from the perimeter, making 33 percent of his 3-point attempts and 55 percent of his long 2-pointers, which should provide some more room for Davis and the Pelicans guards to operate.

But he started four games early in the season and was ineffective, prompting Gee’s promotion into the starting lineup.

Bad boards

The Pelicans entered Friday night with the worst offensive rebounding rate in the NBA, pulling in just 19.7 percent of available offensive rebounding attempts.

But the poor numbers are as much the result of a strategic move as they are poor performance in the post.

“We try to make a conscious effort to get back and take away transition baskets,” Gentry said. “We think that’s important. When you do that, you usually only have one guy on the boards because we are trying to get at least three guys back. In that case, your offensive rebounding is not going to be great.”

The numbers back him up. On the other end of the floor, the Pelicans’ problems haven’t been nearly as severe; they rank No. 10 in the league, allowing just 9.8 offensive rebounds per game. They also have limited opponents to just 12 fast-break points per game, which ranks No. 13.

“I think most teams have tried to play up-tempo basketball,” Gentry said. “There are still a few slow ones, but most of them, when they have an opportunity, are going to attack the basket. I think with the talent level in this league, you can’t only have one guy back trying to guard the basketball.”

A sloppy second

The Pelicans notched a season-low 13 points in the second quarter Friday night.

After shooting a scorching 54 percent in the opening quarter, New Orleans made just 5-of-19 field goal attempts in the next 12 minutes, including 1-of-8 3-pointers.

The season’s previous low-water mark was a 14-point third quarter in an overtime loss to the Miami Heat on Christmas Day.

Ajinca attempts

Reserve center Alexis Ajinca got a rare opportunity to play in the first quarter and took full advantage.

The back contusion suffered by Davis, which sent him to the locker room, thrust the 7-footer into the early rotation. In his first six minutes, Ajinca pulled down six rebounds, two on the offensive end, and helped the Pelicans open a 30-16 lead.

Ajinca played just 19 combined minutes in the previous nine games, grabbing just three total rebounds in that span.


The Pelicans held “Superhero Night” at the Smoothie King Center, which included a new introduction video and a a series of players explaining what their preferred super power would be. Flying was the most popular choice…Indiana had a 14-4 run to open the first six minutes of the second quarter as the Pelicans failed to protect its 14-point first-quarter edge.