Tim Frazier knows the drill.
After five seasons of bouncing around four NBA teams, the New Orleans Pelicans’ point guard knows change is always on the horizon.
So when coach Alvin Gentry put Frazier in the starting lineup before Wednesday night’s 125-104 win over the Washington Wizards, he was ready for it, despite playing 10 combined minutes over the Pelicans’ previous eight games.
“It comes and goes, man,” Frazier said. “Not everyone can be AD (Anthony Davis). So you come and go and always be ready for when your name is called. So I just try to work out and keep my body right, and when my number is called I’m able to help the team.”
His performance was critical for New Orleans to snap a four-game losing streak. The Pelicans now head to Miami for a game against the Heat at 7 p.m. Friday.
Not only did Frazier rack up 12 points, 12 assists and six rebounds, he filled the sought-after role the Pelicans pined for since starter Elfrid Payton suffered a sprained ankle and broken finger, sidelining him for eight weeks.
“We can do some different stuff when Tim is in there, because he goes so fast,” guard E’Twaun Moore said. “It definitely gets all of us to play faster and I think we all can have a bit more room, too.”
Frazier is a traditional point guard. He rarely looks for his own shot unless it’s wide open, but he propels the offense by dribbling, passing, running and carrying the burden of distribution.
By harnessing those responsibilities, it not only cranks up the Pelicans’ pace, it frees Jrue Holiday to be a purely aggressive scorer and relentless attacker. It’s a position he thrived in against Washington, racking up a game-best 29 points on just 19 shots, routinely driving to the basket and finishing in the lane.
It’s the role so many in New Orleans relish for Holiday, which has been limited by Payton’s absence.
“Jrue likes to play off of the ball,” Davis said. “He’ll tell you every day of the week he wants to play off the ball. He knows where his strengths are. He hates playing point. He’s not a point guard. He likes playing off the ball, being the 2 and being aggressive.”
More notably to Gentry, Frazier allowed the Pelicans to regain their identity, which he felt slipped away during the recent skid.
With a pure point guard, the Pelicans not only played fast, they played from ahead. New Orleans reversed the trend of troubling first-quarter deficits, instead grabbing a double-digit lead in the opening 10 minutes and never looked back.
“I think it started with Tim, honestly,” Holiday said. “He plays faster than me. So it was just me trying to catch up with him. And at that point, being in front of the ball, Tim is going to find you. Getting easy buckets — man, that’s the way to start off a game.”
Now the issue is whether Frazier can remain a starter and continue to perform efficiently, or if Gentry will keep mixing up the rotation in the hopes of filling the void Payton left behind.
While a double-double isn’t a nightly expectation, Frazier showed he can add an important dynamic to the Pelicans offense simply by freeing Holiday and cranking up the pace of play.
It’s nothing new for Frazier, who was called into similar spot duty with the Pelicans two years ago, when Holiday flourished next to him. And while it might not be a perfect solution to the Pelicans’ point guard quandary, it at least provides evidence a potential six week bandage is possible.
It’s why Frazier was waiting for a night like Wednesday. And it showed.
“The thing about Tim is, we talk almost every other day,” Gentry said. “The thing I tell every player on the team is at some stage they’ll get an opportunity. That’s normally the case. What you have to do is always be ready and prepared.
“Every day Tim comes in and works at it and works at getting better. He works at the thing we tell him he needs to improve on. So his opportunity came, and I thought he was ready.”