Injury-riddled Pelicans endure rough 1st season under Gentry
METAIRIE, La. (AP) After a frustrating debut season, New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is still waiting for a proper introduction to his full roster.
Coming off their first playoff appearance in four years, the Pelicans stood pat on personnel but plummeted in the Western Conference standings while sustaining a slew of injuries.
The year ended in symbolic fashion when only seven players were available for a 144-109 mauling in Minnesota that left New Orleans (30-52), the sixth-worst record in the NBA. The absences of players ran the count to 351 games missed due to injury or illness, one of the league's highest totals in the last decade.
Gentry used 42 starting lineups, the most of any team this season.
''We've got to flush this season down the toilet,'' Gentry said. ''I don't know what you can get out of a season when there's just so many injuries and really not an opportunity for me to adjust to the players and the players to adjust to me.''
Hit by injuries right away, the Pelicans lost 11 of their first 12 games and never got closer than 10 games under .500 the rest of the way.
The top five scorers were all gone by April. All-star forward Anthony Davis missed the final 14 games with a left knee injury. Guard Jrue Holiday (eye surgery, nine games) and forward Ryan Anderson (sports hernia, 14 games) joined him. Guard Tyreke Evans (right knee) played only 25 games before being sidelined. Backcourt mate Eric Gordon played four times in the second half of the season.
That quintet averaged 93.8 points, making Gentry wonder what could have been.
''The potential was there, but we never had consistency,'' he said. ''I think when we're healthy, you'll see totally different results next year.''
Other notes and highlights from the season and a look toward the offseason:
Biggest Need: An athletic small forward who can score. To excel in Gentry's preferred up-tempo style, the Pelicans cannot afford to be weak at that spot. Alonzo Gee started 38 games and averaged 4.5 points. New Orleans did not get any consistent production until James Ennis, a former D-Leaguer who signed a 10-day contract on March 30, averaged 15.9 points by necessity with half the roster hurt.
The Good News: Anthony and Holiday played well together. Anthony's averages of 24.3 points and 10.3 rebounds were nearly identical to his numbers from last year (24.4, 10.2), although his shooting percentage declined to .493 from .535. Holiday averaged 16.8 points, the second best total of his seven-year career, and added 6.0 assists. Gentry cited their chemistry as the year's biggest positive.
The Bad News: Defense was lacking and sometimes nonexistent. The rash of injuries played a huge role, but the Pelicans finished fourth-to-last in field goal percentage allowed (.468) and fifth-to-last in points allowed. Davis blocked almost one fewer shot per game than a year ago. Opponents scored 100 or more points all but one time during New Orleans' 1-11 start.
So long: Anderson and Gordon are free agents and likely won't be re-signed. Anderson averaged 17.0 points but plays the same position as Anthony, making it difficult to keep him. The oft-injured Gordon has missed at least 18 games in all five of his years in New Orleans. A change of scenery appears best for him and the Pelicans.
Front-office uncertainty: General manager Dell Demps postseason record in his six years includes just two playoff appearances and no series victories. Gentry said Thursday he works well with Demps and head of basketball operations Mickey Loomis, but noted he has no control over what would happen in the front office.