Cousins and Davis duo set to embark on first full season together with Pelicans
METAIRIE, La. — Since the trade for DeMarcus Cousins during last season’s All-Star Weekend – really since the arrival of Alvin Gentry – Pelicans fans have wondered what this team’s potential could be with a healthy roster from the outset of training camp.
With less than 24 hours before the team’s first practice, they may finally be getting their wish.
With a roster that franchise stalwart Anthony Davis calls “the most talented we’ve had,” heading into this season, expectations are as supersized as the Pelicans’ front line.
“One of the most difficult things in the NBA is acquiring players; it’s tough to get good players,” said New Orleans general manager Dell Demps. “We have good players and the key for us is going to be staying healthy and playing the right way and competing every night.”
This offseason, the Pelicans were aggressive enough to go out and re-sign Jrue Holiday quickly, while being patient enough to get veterans like Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, and Dante Cunningham signed to team-friendly deals. The loss of Solomon Hill to a torn hamstring will test the team’s wing depth, but Gentry likes the flexibility of the potential three guard lineups his team can utilize with his All-Star big men.
So this Media Day was unlike the last two since Gentry replaced Monty Williams as head coach after the 2015 NBA Finals. More than selling hope to a reticent fan base, the Pelicans are walking into this season confident.
That confidence comes even as experts ranging from within the media to the casinos in Las Vegas have the Pelicans missing out on the playoffs for the third consecutive season. The path to the postseason got a little harder with 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony joining Oklahoma City this past weekend. Anthony becomes another name in the long list of players migrating West in the arms race with the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
But while the rest of the west may be getting quicker and smaller, the Pelicans are going big, relying on the unique skill sets of their two big men to give them an advantage that few teams can match. That’s something that “Boogie and the Brow” can’t wait to unleash on the league.
“We’re not going to go small because other teams are going small,” said Davis. “We’re going to try to punish them inside. We’re going to take it to the post and just try to overpower them.”
Cousins was even more excited. “I do believe we’ve got to chance to basically change the style of play in the league,” he added. “We’ve got a unique setup going here, something that hasn’t been seen in a while. Me and AD having a unique skill set that we do — that’s definitely a first-time thing.”
The duo, along with Allen, Rondo and Holiday, give the team potentially an even more dynamic defensive group than the one that finished in the NBA’s top ten last season.
“What I’m trying to bring to this team is the defensive mentality we have to have night in and night out,” Rondo said. “We’re not going to outshoot Golden State. No team does. So it won’t be offense why we beat those particular teams. It’s going to be our defense.”
With a shorter training camp, featuring only four preseason games, the roster will have a short time to gel. And with nearly a quarter of the team set to re-enter free agency at the end of the season, the pressure is squarely on everyone from Demps to the kids who mop up the sweat off the Smoothie King Center floor.
However, if the Pelicans don’t make the posteseason, no one will be under more scrutiny than Davis and Cousins.
“I think the biggest thing for me is trying to figure out how me and DeMarcus can make this thing work,” Davis said. “It’s like we’ve got one year to basically figure it out.”
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David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…