Juggling point guards is nothing new to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Whether it’s because injury, minute restrictions or performance, coach Alvin Gentry has been forced to devise unique strategies when employing his two best guards Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans.
And in Friday night’s 109-107 win over the Charlotte Hornets, Gentry had a new method for employing the pair, interchanging them back-and-forth every six minutes in an effort to keep both fresh. In fact, Holiday and Evans spent just six total minutes on the court together, nearly all in the game’s finishing stretch when Gentry utilized a three-guard lineup, putting them alongside Eric Gordon.
“It worked,” Evans said. “I couldn’t even tell (about his knee), because the game flow was going so good, and everybody was playing good, or at least trying to make the right plays. When we play like that, I don’t care about the rest, I just don’t want to see us losing.”
Early in the season, Holiday was restricted to just 25 minutes per night as he recovered from a stress reaction in his right leg. Now, Gentry said Evans is the one being more closely monitored, since lingering right knee issues have affected not only his availability, but also his explosiveness.
Evans missed the first 17 games of the season after arthroscopic surgery and missed two other games because of lingering issues in the same knee. He logged just six minutes in the Pelicans’ victory at Sacramento on Wednesday but was able to take his place in the starting lineup two days later.
While Evans has shown a willingness to play through pain, even getting his knee drained before Friday night’s tipoff, it hasn’t always allowed him to reach his peak effectiveness. That’s why Gentry decided to pull back on his playing time.
“We were probably playing Tyreke too many consecutive minutes,” Gentry said. “I think when we take him out in six minutes and give him some rest before putting him back in, by just playing him six minute spurts it seems to work out much better. He seemed to have much more energy.
“So we are going to try to play him like that to see. I think it’s good for his knee and good for his energy. I thought he was terrific (Friday).”
Throughout the season, Holiday and Evans have played sparingly together until the finishing stretch. The pair averages just 14 minutes per night as a combination, which is less than either play with any other significant contributor on the roster.
But that time as a two-man unit increased recently, nearing the 20-minute mark in the first two weeks of January. For now, however, Gentry expects to pull back on that combination, and Friday’s win was a good indicator of what splitting the pair can provide.
“I thought we just did a really good job of getting into space,” Gentry said. “We had some driving lanes which created open shots for Ryan (Anderson) and (Anthony Davis) out on the floor. If we can continue to play that way into open space, I think we will be pretty good.”
Several teammates commented that whether Holiday’s and Evans’ minutes are overlapped or separated, it doesn’t change much regarding the team’s overall style of play or on-court abilities.
Since Holiday agreed to come off of the bench in December, Evans spends more time with the starters, but teammates on both units have said they’re comfortable with either one directing the offense.
“We do the same thing,” forward Anthony Davis said. “We are used to both of them. So nothing really changes. Jrue is a little bigger than Tyreke but when either one of them have the ball, they can be dominant.”