Davis says Pelicans can win with 'Boston' model
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Anthony Davis doesn't accept the premise that the New Orleans Pelicans will struggle again this season simply because they let two of their best shooters walk this offseason and didn't make a splash in free-agency.
For now, Davis has faith that the acquisitions of hard-nosed, two-way players including Solomon Hill, E'Twaun Moore and Terrence Jones will make up for the departures of more offensive-minded players like Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson.
''It's not about having the most talent,'' Davis said. ''It's about what (players) can bring to the table to help our team, and all these guys bring something to the table.''
Davis said he sees the Pelicans aspiring to be ''kind of like Boston last year, not having a lot of talent but guys play hard.''
''That's how they were able to win games,'' Davis added. ''That's what we bought into and that's what we're looking forward to.''
Beset by injuries to virtually all top players, the Pelicans went 30-52 last season, which was Alvin Gentry's first as head coach in New Orleans after winning a championship as a Golden State assistant the year before that.
Gentry imported the Warriors' up-tempo style to New Orleans, hoping it would suit Davis, whose speed and shooting range are exceptional for a 6-foot-11 front-court player. The Pelicans saw possessions per game rise by a league-leading 5.2 over the previous season, to nearly 99 possessions per game, but defensive deficiencies caused their up-tempo approach to backfire.
So this offseason, ''We tried to make sure we were getting two-way players,'' Gentry said. ''We also signed guys that play with a lot of grit and added toughness to our team that maybe we were missing last year.''
Some other things to watch as the Pelicans try to return to playoff contention:
SIDELINED REGULARS: New Orleans will start the season without three prominent players: guard Jrue Holiday, guard Tyreke Evans and small forward Quincy Pondexter. Holiday is on indefinite leave to care for his wife, Lauren, a retired soccer star who was diagnosed with a brain tumor while pregnant. Treatment for the tumor could not start until after the birth of their daughter in late September. ''We told Jrue, forget about the basketball part of it. This is where you take care of your family,'' Gentry said. ''We're going to welcome him back whenever he feels it's time.'' Evans and Pondexter are coming off knee surgeries. Pondexter missed all of last season and Evans most of it. Both hope to return by December.
ROOKIE RANGE: The Pelicans know first-round draft choice Buddy Hield, their first round draft choice, can shoot. Hield, a unanimous AP All-American when he averaged 25.4 points for Oklahoma last season, routinely scored in double digits this preseason. But there are other aspects of NBA basketball the sixth overall pick is still learning, particularly on defense, so the Pelicans intend to have him come off the bench to open the regular season. Moore is slated to start at shooting guard for now.
DAVIS IN THE MIDDLE: Gentry said Davis, who has filled out substantially during his first four pro seasons, now has the strength and skill set to routinely play at center when opponents don't have physically dominant big man on the floor. ''It gives us a huge advantage when we're not playing overpowering centers,'' Gentry said. When Davis is at forward, the Pelicans top centers will again be 7-footers Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca.
HILL'S MISSION: When Hill played for Indiana, he routinely guarded opponents' most dynamic scorers. He said he'll embrace such a role with the Pelicans while helping instill a more defensive-minded mentality across the roster. ''We all love the style that coach Gentry wants to implement, but everything's going to be on defense,'' Hill said. ''We can't get out and run if we can't stop anybody. What's the point of having points in the 100s if you only have 100 and the other team has 120?''
TOGETHER AGAIN: Davis and Jones are teammates for the first time since winning the 2012 NCAA national title with Kentucky (in New Orleans). ''I always loved Terrence's game. He can score. He pays hard. He defends. He rebounds. And of course we all know he's got a winning mentality, right?'' Davis said. ''It's good to have one of your guys that you went to war with come back and play with you.''