Fresh out of a postgame shower, Jameer Nelson can’t get to his locker to put on a dry clothes and go home.
A throng of reporters stand in his way, all hyper-focused on New Orleans’ superstar, 24-year-old forward Anthony Davis during one of many crowded media appearances he’ll do after each game this season.
Nelson’s cubbyhole doesn’t have a nameplate yet, not since two weeks ago, when he joined as the veteran point guard the Pelicans sought for depth.
Nelson’s locker is next door to Davis’, so when the four-time All-Star forward begins to speak, reporters flood the area, oftentimes overflowing into Nelson’s nook.
“Pardon me,” Nelson, wrapped in a towel, exclaims loudly.
Reporters shift out of his way. Davis even loses his train of thought for a brief second, taking time to smile and acknowledge Nelson, a 13-year NBA tradesman, squeezing and emerging through the thicket of cameras and recorders.
What came next was most significant.
While answering a question about the Pelicans' 104-98 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday, Davis paused, turned to Nelson and asked, “What was the rebounding in the first half, Jameer?”
“22-14,” Nelson quickly answers.
“22-14,” Davis recites verbatim to a reporter, trusting Nelson’s word without hesitation.
The Pelicans clubhouse is loaded with veterans, carrying out their busy business as they have for more than half of this century.
Some of the oldies are big, some small. Some are former NBA champions (guards Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen won the 2007-08 title with the Boston Celtics). Others have reached the Finals (Nelson in 2008-09 with the Orlando Magic).
All are aspiring to win their first — or another — ring as a Pelican.
New Orleans (5-5) has an average roster age of 28.4 years, the fourth-oldest average in the NBA this season. The Pelicans have six players older than 30: Nelson, Allen, Rondo, Omer Asik, Dante Cunningham and Josh Smith. Combined, they've played in 4,293 regular-season games.
Two, Cunningham and Asik, played for the Pelicans before this season. So the approach for New Orleans is new: Bring in veterans, in some cases because of injuries, to mold a franchise that’s suffered through underwhelming season after underwhelming season.
Most, like Nelson, have answers and guidance to give.
“A seasoned vet knows what it takes in order to be successful,” said 12-year NBA journeyman Josh Smith on Oct. 28, his first day as a Pelican.
Cheick Diallo, who's played in 23 career NBA games, said the veterans' presence helps.
“They’re really good to me,” Diallo said. “Every time I mess up, they’ll tell me, and that’s the stuff I need to know. Because it’s a work in progress. I just need to learn it from anybody on my team.
“Sometimes we get mad at each other, but that’s part of the process. I need to learn it more from them, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Talent isn’t an issue in New Orleans these days, not with two offensive powerhouse superstars in Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
New Orleans’ veterans aren’t relied on for chunky offensive production each game, with only Cunningham starting regularly thus far, at least until Rondo's expected return from a core muscle injury in a few weeks.
Experience is more meaningful, and New Orleans has it now.
Now it’s time to win, Allen said.
“Whenever my number is called, I want to be effective in any way possible," the 13-year vet said. "Whether it’s giving somebody some advice or giving a teammate some water, or whatever it may be, I’m only concerned with wins and losses.”