The Pelican Blog

Melvin Ely returns to New Orleans, NBA after hiatus

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

After he’d lost 30 pounds to get into what he describes as “the best shape of my life,” Melvin Ely was barbecuing with his family yesterday when he received a call from his agent informing him that he was signing with the New Orleans Pelicans. Ely, who played for the then-New Orleans Hornets for two seasons from 2007-09, was told by the agent not to share with media members that he was manning the grill during the phone exchange.

The laidback Ely shrugged off that advice this morning at Pelicans shootaround, saying “I was in my backyard barbecuing when I heard I was coming here. My agent told me not to tell that, but it was a Sunday – I was barbecuing and just came from church.”

The 35-year-old is a Las Vegas resident, so he knew his flight might be complicated a bit because there was a big boxing match in Nevada on Saturday.

“The (Manny) Pacquiao fight was Saturday,” Ely said. “Trying to leave Vegas after a Pacquiao fight or a (Floyd) Mayweather fight is hectic. I learned I was coming here at 6:15, my flight was at 7:35, and I made it. It’s just a blessing. It was meant for me to be here.”

The Fresno State product was a reserve for the 2007-08 New Orleans squad that won a franchise-record 56 games and reached Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. The Hornets lost a heartbreaking series finale at home to San Antonio. Five years after he last played a game for New Orleans’ NBA franchise, Ely joked that one of his biggest adjustments is to not misspeak about the club's nickname.

“You try your hardest not to say ‘Hornets.’ I’ve slipped already,” a smiling Ely said.

When Ely checks into a game for the Pelicans it will his first official NBA game action since playing for Denver during the 2010-11 season, meaning he’s missed nearly three entire seasons. After playing in the D-League, he’s understandably grateful for the chance to get back in the league.

“To have the opportunity to play back in the NBA, even if it’s for a few days, you take the opportunity and you do the best with it,” he said. “For me, it’s all about the opportunity. To fight back, after a couple long years I had away, to be able to get this chance, you have to be thankful and thank God that he blessed you with it.”