Griffin: Pelicans will be “damn good for a long time”
NEW ORLEANS — The Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club made room for some basketball Tuesday afternoon.
New Orleans Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin was the featured speaker at The Cannery, signaling that the start of training camp was just six days away and the start of the regular season barely three weeks after that.
The anticipation of the 2022-23 Pelicans season has been heightened by the team’s unexpected playoff run that ended just five months ago, the return to health of All-Star forward Zion Williamson and the addition of first-round draft choice Dyson Daniels to a roster already loaded with young talent.
But it wasn’t all that talent that Griffin zeroed in on, though he did say: “We have an incredible amount of talent. We have more talent than we’ve had almost anywhere I’ve been, including teams that have won a championship.”
But, he added, “You can have a lot of talent and not win anything.”
The Pelicans began last season with limited expectations from the outside. They had a new coach who hadn’t been a head coach before (Willie Green) and they didn’t have Williamson because of a surgically repaired foot that would cost him the entire season.
The Pelicans began the season 3-16 and seemed unlikely to play any games with significant meaning.
But they wound up playing a bunch of meaningful games and won more of them than they lost.
Griffin credited Green and his staff for doing “an amazing job of keeping everybody level and never losing sight of what was really important, which was each other.”
The Pelicans had a stretch of nine wins in 13 games down the stretch to secure a play-in spot with a 36-46 record. They beat the Spurs in New Orleans and the Clippers in Los Angeles to secure the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They split the first four games against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns before losing the last two games.
“His mood never changed and he never changed,” Griffin said of Green. “He’s authentically himself in every way all the time and our players felt that and they were really vested in one another but they were also vested in him. He was a galvanizing factor.
“He was the exact same when we were 3-16 and he was the exact same when we won the playoff games.”
Now the secret is out. The Pelicans are good. They should be better – maybe even much better – this season. Opponents know this. They will prepare and focus accordingly.
“This team has never won a game when they were supposed to win a game,” Griffin said. “It’s a whole lot easier to be the hunter than the hunted. Last year we got to win games when no one thought we were any good.
“We were good at that last year and now we get an opportunity to prove that we’re actually a good team and that’s a super exciting time in the evolution and growth of a franchise.”
Griffin said that if the Pelicans take advantage of the opportunity they now have “we’re going to be damn good for a long time.”
It all starts with the beginning of training camp next week, which will be followed by five preseason games leading up to the regular-season opener at Brooklyn on October 19.
“We’re going to treat the whole preseason as one training camp,” Griffin said. “NBA training camps now are about seven days and in some cases five days. You’re really not trying to be good for the first preseason game. What you’re trying to do is get everybody healthy and sort of crescendo into the beginning of the regular season.”
Then Griffin reflected on the start of last season, which was in no way indicative of where the season was headed.
“Don’t judge us too early; don’t get too high with us if we’re really good and don’t get too low if we’re really bad because we have an opportunity to do something really special,” he said. “These games are the first time you can really judge us as a team that was supposed to win basketball games and that’s really, really exciting.”
When Griffin finished speaking, the only Pelicans employee he had named was Green. He didn’t name Williamson, or former All-Star forward Brandon Ingram, who blossomed and carried the team for much of last season, or CJ McCollum, whose arrival via trade helped spark the playoff run, or Daniels, or Jonas Valanciunas or Herbert Jones.
“I didn’t speak about individuals,” Griffin said afterward, “because we are a team.”
Key Pelicans dates
Monday, September 26 Start of training camp/Media Day
Saturday, October 1 Open practice at the Smoothie King Center (2 p.m.)
Tuesday, October 4 Preseason opener at Chicago (8:30 p.m. CDT)
Friday, October 7 Preseason home opener vs. Detroit (7 p.m.)
Friday, October 14 Preseason finale vs. Atlanta (7 p.m.)
Wednesday, October 19 Season opener at Brooklyn (6:30 p.m. CDT)
Sunday, October 23 Home opener vs. Utah (6 p.m.)
- < PREV Video: Tulane's Fritz, Celestine, Hodges on Southern Miss game week
- NEXT > McNeese to play at Florida in 2023 football season
CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian
Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…