With one of their biggest bodies sidelined, the New Orleans Pelicans could look to go small.
Backup center Alexis Ajinca is expected to miss four to six weeks with a sprained right hamstring, the team announced Monday, and coach Alvin Gentry said after practice that Ajinca’s absence could lead to more small-ball lineups.
“We’ll just try different combinations of players,” he said. “One of the things that we’ll do is we’ll experiment a little bit with (Anthony Davis at center) and then play even a small lineup where Dante Cunningham may even (play power forward), and three guards — Tyreke (Evans) and Jrue (Holiday) and Eric (Gordon) or Norris (Cole) — in there.”
Davis, who has played center in some stretches in his New Orleans career, said “it’s a lot easier to run when you have a small lineup,” and the Pelicans are looking to push the pace under Gentry.
Davis starts at power forward alongside center Omer Asik, and he shrugged off a question about whether he’ll see more minutes at center with Ajinca sidelined.
“That’s an Alvin Gentry question to me,” Davis said. “It doesn’t matter what position I play. Played some center last year when me and Ryan (Anderson) was in the game. It doesn’t matter. I just go out there and play basketball.”
The Pelicans also could rely more heavily on reserve center Kendrick Perkins, who signed as a free agent this offseason, though Gentry did not specifically mention his minutes increasing.
Ajinca averaged 6.5 points and 4.6 rebounds last season, but Gentry said the 7-foot-2 center has “gotten better in his post-ups, he’s gotten better in his low-post moves,” and said he could “be a big help to what we try to get done here.”
After Monday’s practice, Ajinca did some shooting, but Gentry said he’ll be limited as he works his way back.
“The hamstring is a weird injury in itself,” Gentry said. “But he’s working extremely hard, and he’ll work extremely hard to get back out on the court. Just no reason for us to rush into anything right now or push anything right now.”
Evans good to go
Evans, who sat out the Pelicans’ preseason opener Saturday at Indiana with a knee contusion, practiced Monday morning and planned to scrimmage Monday night in New Orleans’ second session of the day.
Gentry opted to sit Evans against the Pacers, but the coach said Evans “could have played in that one easily.” He’s slated to play Friday night when the Pelicans face the Hawks in Jacksonville, Florida.
Evans got bumped in practice last week, Gentry said, and there was “no reason to put him out there” against Indiana.
“It was (Gentry’s) decision, his call,” Evans said Monday. “But I felt good. I could have played. Went through practice today fine, got some shots up.”
The Pelicans opened training camp last week at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, for the first time.
If Gentry’s assessment of The Greenbrier — also home to Saints training camp the past two years — was any indication, it won’t be the last.
“The accommodations and the food and just everything they did was just top-notch,” Gentry said. “It was first-class. I’m sure anybody that’s been with the Saints organization could tell you that. I just thought it was great, and then as far as the environment for what we were trying to get done, I thought it was perfect. It was isolated but really first-class accommodations.”
The Pelicans would have benefited, Gentry said, from seven or eight days of camp away from home, and he said the organization will “look into” a longer stay at The Greenbrier next fall.
“It was cool. It was something different,” Evans said. “The rooms wasn’t too good. There was pink flowers everywhere, but we dealt with it.”