The first opportunity for the public to see the new-look version of the New Orleans Pelicans comes Saturday morning.
The team is holding an open practice at the Smoothie King Center at 11 a.m., allowing fans to get an up close view of the team’s progress. Free tickets can be found at the team’s website.
Multiple scrimmage periods should help illuminate some of the remaining questions surrounding the Pelicans’ lineups and rotation. But, coach Alvin Gentry said even after watching a several days of full practice, it’s difficult to gauge where his team stands.
“It’s so hard to judge,” Gentry said. “You know, we haven’t played against anybody else. We look really good against ourselves and then we look very poor against ourselves. We are going to say we look good, that our offense is far better than we anticipated and on the days we look bad we think that our defense is great.
“We won’t really know until we actually play an opponent and see where we are. But, I do think we are in a good spot.”
Two days later, on Tuesday, the Pelicans return to the arena for their first of five preseason games, facing the Chicago Bulls at 7 p.m.
New Orleans opens the regular season Oct. 13 in Memphis, against the Grizzlies.
It doesn’t take an opponent to see the benefit point guard Rajon Rondo has brought to the Pelicans offense.
The four-time All-Star hasn’t been mentioned among the league’s elite in a few seasons, but his passing is still amongst the best in basketball. In 2015-16, his most recent season as a full-time starter, Rondo led the NBA in assists (11.7 per game), when he played alongside current Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento.
“I think everybody is getting easier shots with him on the floor,” Gentry said. “There are a lot of drive-and-kick situations where we end up with an open 3-point shot or a drive to the basket where the big has to step up and it leaves us with easy plays.”
On his end, Rondo said playing alongside Cousins and Anthony Davis only makes his job simpler.
“It’s early to say, but this will probably be the easiest I’ve ever had as far as a dynamic duo,” Rondo said. “But, Jrue (Holiday) can go get 40 a night as well. My job is a lot easier, I just have to get the ball to the right spot and it’s up to them to play unselfish and do the rest.”
Finding a three
The lingering question in the Pelicans rotation is who will replace an injured Solomon Hill at small forward.
Thus far, the Pelicans have experimented with three different possibilities: Darius Miller, Dante Cunningham and E’Twaun Moore.
It’s a range of options that allows the Pelicans to play traditional (Miller), big (Cunningham) or small (Moore) around their core four starters of Rondo, Holiday, Davis and Cousins. It’s a decision the Pelicans are unlikely to make until the season begins.
“I think it’ll probably be worked out, but there will be some games where we go more with three guards,” Gentry said. “Sometimes there may be four perimeter players and a big. I think it’s actually going to be predicated on who we are playing and the situation we are in."