Pelicans limp into regular season with more questions than answers

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Willie Green
Willie Green is set to make his NBA regular season head coaching debut with the Pelicans (Photo: Stephen Lew).

The questions are plentiful for the New Orleans Pelicans.

How will first-time, first-year head coach Willie Green handle his first challenge?

How will Green be as a game-day coach?

How will Green handle egos and parcel out minutes with as many as 14 players who can possibly be part of an eight to 10-man rotation?

Will Brandon Ingram be healthy, ready to go and more efficient on the defensive end of the floor?

Will Jaxson Hayes be healthy, ready to go and continue to grow on the offensive end?

When will Zion Williamson be able to play and how effective will he be? Will we return to the minute restriction version of Zion once again?

Who is the point guard and does this team have a legitimate, starting NBA point guard?

Can Kira Lewis ever be that player?

Should rookie Trey Murphy III earn a starting role from day one?

Will Jonas Valanciunas buy in and consider signing an extension or will he be a one-year player in New Orleans?

Will Devonte’ Graham at least fill the production that Lonzo Ball provided?

The 2021-22 Pelicans have a deeper roster, when healthy, than the team we saw at the beginning and end of last season.

Does that depth translate into more quality and, more importantly, more wins?

The answers will come early on after a less than impressive preseason which concluded with a 127-96 loss Monday night at Utah.

Jonas Valanciunas, Cole Anthony
Oct 6, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony (50) is fouled by New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas (17) during the first half at Smoothie King Center (Photo: Stephen Lew).

As I am apt to say frequently, do not get excited or depressed about preseason games in any sport.

The biggest concern from the game in Salt Lake City was the 21 turnovers committed by the Pelicans, including six by Naji Marshall, four each by Valanciunas and Garrett Temple and three by Thomas Satoransky.

Additionally, the Pelicans got pounded 48-35 on the boards.

Graham showed well, connecting on 4-of-5 from 3-point range, scoring 14 points in 19 minutes, showing that he is ready for the regular season.

Valanciunas had 12 points and six rebounds.

Rookie Herb Jones was solid with 12 points and five rebounds. Jones plays hard, defends well and can guard multiple positions.

Murphy had 12 points and finished the preseason 17-of-32 (53%) from 3-point range, a very encouraging sign. Murphy added four rebounds and four assists.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker had two very good games and then tailed off in his final two preseason games.

Monday evening, Alexander-Walker scored 11 points but on just 4-of-13 shooting from the field. Alexander-Walker added five rebounds.

The regular season opens against Philadelphia on Oct. 20 at Smoothie King Center.

The 76ers were in a bit of turmoil but Ben Simmons ended his holdout and reported to the team Monday. How he meshes with his teammates after previously saying he would not play in Philadelphia again remains to be seen.

My guess is that it will take time for Green to grow into being a head coach for the first time.

My guess is that it will take time for new players to mesh with old players and to find their identity.

In a deep Western Conference, the Pelicans will have to be much better to post a winning record and to contend for a playoff spot.

There are many questions that need answers.

The latter will begin unveiling themselves in eight days.

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Ken Trahan

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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