Pelicans GM Dell Demps talk about the season
New Orleans Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps on Monday sat down for an interview with Pelicans broadcaster Sean Kelley. The interview aired on Monday's Black and Blue Report. Below is the transcript.
How busy was the trade deadline?
“Yeah we were busy, but we didn’t make any deals as the trade deadline has come and gone. We are still happy with our core and we look forward to moving forward with this group.”
More on the trade deadline:
“It is interesting. Whenever you make a trade on the most part, you are trading an asset for an asset, a player for a player. That is the first way of look at it. And so, if you trade a guard for a center or a small forward for a guard, on the most part you are keeping pretty even. Now every once and while there is going to be a trade where it is a home run where guys say man he made this trade for this player for that player, how did that happen? But that’s rare. A second way of looking at it is, sometimes a team will give up an asset to acquire talent. A good example would be is that if you give up a draft pick and you might take on a player for that draft pick. Now you added talent and the other team added an asset for the future. A lot of times those things happen. I think for us at this trade deadline we were only looking to add to our core. We weren’t really looking to make any adjustments. We were looking to add. We didn’t want to give up any more assets to acquire any more players at this point. We did that last summer. We gave up a draft pick in this upcoming draft to acquire Jrue Holiday. We feel like Jrue Holiday is going to be our point guard for the future. We have him under contract for four years and we hope that he grows old here and his kids graduate from high school in New Orleans. We didn’t feel comfortable giving up any more assets for players at this time.”
On if you got a lot of phone calls:
“A lot of phone calls.”
On how difficult it was to just sit tight:
“If the situation was to present itself and we thought we could have added to our group, added to our talent and add them for the long term, we would have done something. Or if we were in a situation where we needed to add someone for a short term fix, we would have done something, but none of those situations presented themselves. We feel comfortable with the couple of deals we did earlier, weeks before the trade deadline adding Luke Babbitt. We felt like, we like him. We think he has a bright future here. He’s had some good games. When we added Alexis Ajinca, we added those guys before the trade deadline and we think we are getting a good look at those guys and we think they are going to be important pieces for us moving forward.”
On the deciding factor for guys like Ajinca and Babbitt:
“Well a guy like (Luke) Babbitt, he was playing great in Europe and I really believe if he would have become a free agent this summer, a number of teams would have tried to get him. The reason why he was available, I thought we were able to get him out of his contract early and he didn’t hit the free agency market. I think the same thing for (Alexis) Ajinca. Ajinca was actually leading the Euro league in scoring, which is considered the best league outside the NBA, considered a higher level than college basketball. I think if he goes through the free agent market this summer a number of teams would have tried to acquire him. We thought that we were able to get in early and get those two guys into the program and really get a good understanding of if they can help us or if they cannot help us ahead of the curve. Next year is going to be a big year for us and you don’t want to go into next year with guys on the roster that we are still wondering about.”
On how you have evaluated what has happened with injured players and only having the team you envisioned for two and a half weeks:
“Coming into the season we knew we had a lot of new faces and we put in a lot of new parts. We wanted to see how they would gel together. My thinking was, let’s see how the first 15-20 games, let’s see how this group looks and then Ryan (Anderson) breaks his toe so you don’t really get a true evaluation. Tyreke (Evans) comes in and doesn’t get to play in the preseason because of his ankle. Then we got the group together and we go on a stretch and we go 12-10. We are feeling pretty good. We are thinking like we are going to make some noise and then the next thing you know, the injury bug hits us. Ryan gets the injury then Jrue gets the injury and Jason (Smith) and Tyreke and then bam, you lose nine in a row. I thought we had just gotten right back in that mix and we are about to make a run and the injuries hit us. It has been unfortunate. I still want to see this group play together. I believe in this group and we still want to add more pieces to this group. I think we are a fun group to watch. We are explosive. We can score a lot of points and I think moving forward we want to add a couple more pieces on the perimeter and interior and improve our defense. I think we will be able to score with anyone in the league.”
On injury updates with Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday:
“We are hoping by the end of the week to get a little more clarity on those guys. They are tough injuries, one with a tibia and the other with a herniated disc with Ryan. We have been getting some checkups. He has gone through some testing. He has done some light workouts, a little bit on the bicycle and treadmill kind of things. He has another test coming up at the end of this week and the same with Jrue. The tibia is a tough thing. It is one of those injuries where for the lay person I will say it is right on the shin and you are wondering has it healed. Will it heal? Do you need surgery? Those decisions we think will be made in the upcoming days.”
On if the current players want to know their timetable:
“We always want to know. I think we have to keep building, growing and improving. I think the team is on track to improve compared to last year and obviously we wanted to take a bigger jump than it looks like we are going to take this year but it is important to us to keep improving.”
On using these last couple of games to evaluate the pieces that you have:
“Exactly, who is going to be here for future? What pieces fit? What pieces don’t fit? We want to put ourselves in the best possible position for our franchise moving forward.”
On if you play a certain player more to get a better look:
“With all the injuries, that is what has been happening. I think every guy on the roster this year has been given an opportunity. I don’t think there is one guy that can sit back and say hey, I didn’t get a chance.”
On that you don’t have a draft pick:
“Correct. We could win the lottery. Our pick is protected through the top five, so we need to get a top five pick or we will not have a pick.”
On how do you add to your roster without a pick:
“We will have some money to spend this summer. Our cap is in a great situation. We are nowhere near the luxury tax so we do have the ability to go add players this summer.”
On if you like the free agent market this summer:
“Of course. We are not into max games so we are not going to be looking for players with contracts more $10 million but we have a number of exceptions that we can use and we have a couple of ways we can get creative as well.”
On areas of need:
“I think we definitely need to probably add something to one of our wing positions or probably our interior.”
Can I ask you about the Pierre Jackson situation?
“Pierre is a player that we acquired on draft day last year. The kid had some bad luck to start with. When we acquired him, we were stacked at the point guard position. Before we drafted him, we had conversations with him asking, ‘If we did draft you, we don’t know where you would fit on this year’s roster. Would you want to go overseas?’ He said yes. When we drafted him, we asked him to play summer league, but because of the trade he wasn’t cleared to play summer league until the third game. He didn’t get to come to the practices. Some guys had practiced for four or five days and they had a couple of games. We kind of just threw him into the fire. Then he catches pink eye, so he misses the next two days recovering from that and he comes back for the last game. He didn’t get a good opportunity to show what he could do. Like I said, our roster was filled at the time with guards, so he would up going overseas, got homesick, came home, went to the D-league, and has played great. He’s had a number of 40-point games and even a 58-point game. We’ve been monitoring. I’ve even watch him play. We’ve sent some of our scouts and management personnel to watch him as well. We’ve been in constant communication with his representatives and with Pierre. Recently, he just signed a deal to go to one of the top teams in Europe. He’s going to go play for a team named Fenerbahçe in Turkey, which is arguably one of the top five teams in Europe. He’s already left; he’s in Turkey right now. We will continue to monitor him over there. Our plan moving forward with him is that he plans to play summer league with us this summer. I think that as we’re putting our roster together, we’ll get a true evaluation of where he fits in with us.”
How long do you hold his NBA rights?
“Until he signs an NBA contract, we hold his rights.”
Could you look at him as maybe the draft pick that you don’t have this summer?
“That was the plan. When we talked to him last year about going overseas for a year, that was the plan. (It was), ‘Hey, we’re not going to have a draft pick next year to draft. He’s going to be our draft pick.’ He’s still a young player, you love his story. Coming out of high school not highly recruited, goes to junior college, plays great in junior college, goes to Baylor. I still remember the first time I saw him play. I went to watch a number of players at Baylor – they had four potential first round picks on their roster. I remember walking out of the practice and saying that he was the best player on the floor. Going to a couple of games, I kept saying he was the best player on the floor. He ended up being the Big 12 player of the year, leading the league in scoring and assists. He’s done a magnificent job of, every place he’s gone, he’s played well and his teams have won.”
What’s the one thing you would want a season ticket holder to know before they make that financial investment into what’s to come next season?
“They do these weighted averages: how many of your players that are young actually play. On our weighted average, we have the youngest team in the league. We’ve got a group of core guys that are really good, can really score, and are really fun to watch. We have an exciting brand of basketball to watch. I have to anticipate that these guys are going to be healthy. Jrue Holiday doesn’t have an injury history. I think he had played in 98 percent of his games before this injury. Ryan Anderson has a history of playing well. We expect these guys to fully recover. We think we’re going to have a really good team next year that’s going to be exciting and fun to watch.”
Thoughts on the Clippers tonight?
“I’m hoping all of the fans come out.We need the fans. With all the injuries right now, we need the fans to come out and make some noise and cheer on the Pels.”