76ers-Pelicans Preview

Publish date:

Although the New Orleans Pelicans have been off for a week, Anthony Davis hasn't had much time to rest.

The Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers return from long layoffs Friday night in New Orleans looking pretty much the same as they did before the All-Star break, with each making a minor move prior to the trade deadline.

There was some talk of the Pelicans (20-33) trading 3-point sharpshooter Ryan Anderson, but no deal was done. New Orleans had reason to keep him because it has ''Larry Bird'' rights, which allows teams to go over the salary cap to retain their own free agents - Anderson becomes one after the season.

The Pelicans have one of the league's top big men in Davis but have been ravaged by injuries, leaving the club's future uncertain. With players missing a combined 154 games because of injuries, the Pelicans are a longshot to return to the playoffs as the Western Conference's 12th-place team.

"We got to stick with the guys that we have and try to figure something out," Davis said after Wednesday's practice.

When the trade deadline passed, the Pelicans' only move was acquiring forward Jarell Stokes from Miami while the 76ers (8-45) got Joel Anthony from Houston.

Despite being off since last Thursday's 121-95 loss in Oklahoma City, Davis has been busy. He competed in Saturday's Skills Challenge in Toronto and made 12 of 13 shots for 24 points in Sunday's All-Star Game, then joined several teammates and coach Alvin Gentry in Oklahoma City on Thursday for the funeral services of Ingrid Williams, the wife of former New Orleans coach Monty Williams.

The 76ers' first half of the season could not have gone much worse, but the young team emerges from the break feeling rejuvenated.

With the playoffs out of the question before the calendar even flipped to December, coach Brett Brown said he wants his team to finish the season strong and focus on closing out games.

The league-worst Sixers blew a 17-point lead and were outscored 39-23 in the fourth quarter of 114-110 home loss to Sacramento on Feb. 10 to fall to 1-5 in games decided by six points or less in 2016.

"We've been in a lot of close games," Brown told the 76ers' official website after Wednesday's practice. "How do we better execute? How do we better defend? How do you execute better in fourth periods? How do we continue on the stand that our world, while I'm coach, is how do we defend, and we got to get better."

Starting forward Nerlens Noel appears ready to return after missing Philadelphia's final game before the break due to right knee tendinitis. As a precaution, he did not play in Friday's Rising Stars Challenge.

Jahlil Okafor, who matched a season high with 26 points to go with 10 rebounds against the Kings, is experiencing a major increase in workload as a rookie and said the break came at a good time.

"It was a good rest," said Okafor, who has appeared in 47 games after playing in 38 for Duke last season. "I'm ready to start the second half of the season. I'm excited about that, and I'm ready to get going."

The Pelicans split two games with the 76ers last season, with Davis scoring 32 in a 25-point home win Jan. 26 after sitting out a 15-point loss 10 days earlier due to a sprained left toe. Since 2012-13, New Orleans is 4-0 against Philadelphia when Davis plays and 0-2 when he doesn't.