Pelicans getting re-acquainted with home arena
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
The New Orleans Pelicans hope to enjoy a significant home-court advantage in their remodeled arena this season. One of the first steps? Making it feel more like home.
Due to a summer-long renovation project in the New Orleans Arena, the Pelicans weren’t able to set foot in the building until last week, the day they hosted the Miami Heat on Oct. 23. As a result, many of the team’s players – particularly those who just joined the club in recent months – are not yet familiar with the shooting background, rims and court.
With the Pelicans opening their 2013-14 regular season at home Wednesday (vs. Indiana, 7 p.m.), fourth-year coach Monty Williams wanted players to have additional time getting accustomed to the surroundings. New Orleans also plays three of its first four regular-season games at home, facing Charlotte and Phoenix on Nov. 2 and Nov. 5, respectively.
Williams opted to hold practice Monday morning in the arena, the first time the team has done so since training camp began.
Williams pointed to his debut season of 2010-11 with the then-Hornets, who began that fall by practicing daily at the Alario Center. As Opening Night 2010 approached, however, players told Williams they wanted to become more comfortable with the place where they’d be playing their home games. En route to reaching the 2011 NBA playoffs, that club began the season 7-0 at home, not losing a game until after Thanksgiving.
“We just needed to get some shots up,” Williams said of opting to practice Monday in the arena. “I ran into that (situation) my first year, where we practiced so much at the Alario Center. The guys came to me and said, ‘We need to practice at the arena so we can get used to it.’ This time, I decided to just beat them to the punch (and make the decision before it was suggested).”
Due to the schedule, the only other opportunity the Pelicans have had to use the New Orleans Arena was Saturday’s open practice for fans. Final touches to the arena have been added even as recently as the weekend, including team-branded logos in the hallway outside the locker room.
Other notes from Monday’s practice:
• The deadline for NBA teams to set their regular season roster is today. The Pelicans currently have 15 players on their roster, which is the maximum a club can carry. Asked specifically if the 15 current members represent Wednesday’s Opening Night roster, Williams said: “Until the deadline goes by, I’d hate to say something, and then we have to make a move, and then a couple guys or a guy have to leave. It wouldn’t be fair (to comment).”
• On paper at least, the Pelicans’ early-season schedule is much easier than 2012-13, when New Orleans faced many of the league’s heavyweights in November. New Orleans began last season 3-9 and was 5-22 at Christmas, ending any hopes of playoff contention. Players know that compiling a drastically better start is critical for a team with so many new faces. Said point guard Brian Roberts: “That’s going to be big for us. With a new group of guys and a whole buzz around the Pelicans now, it’s important to get off to a good start.”