Pelicans have immense presence at USA minicamp
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
LAS VEGAS - Jrue Holiday catches an outlet pass, quickly dribbles into the frontcourt and sees Ryan Anderson spotted up at the three-point arc. As Holiday peers further up the floor, he glimpses Anthony Davis filling the lane and cutting to the front of the rim, for a potential alley oop.
It’s a scene fans inside the revamped New Orleans Arena may witness frequently during the upcoming 2013-14 NBA season, but also one that’s already taking place this week at the USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas.
Holiday, Anderson and Davis were all chosen by USA Basketball, among the 28 players invited to the four-day event. In addition, Pelicans head coach Monty Williams, lead assistant coach Randy Ayers and athletic trainer Jon Ishop are participating in the prestigious basketball summit. All told, the six men comprise the largest contingent of representatives from any NBA team at USAB’s 2013 summer event. The only other NBA club to have three players invited was Cleveland (Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller).
With so many familiar faces on hand at Monday’s opening day of practice, Williams couldn’t help but notice that Las Vegas felt a lot like Louisiana.
“My wife flew in this morning with my kids, so I feel like I’m at home,” said a smiling Williams, who was named a USA assistant on Mike Krzyzewski’s staff in June. “It’s certainly a great opportunity. We look at this as a steppingstone for the organization, for us as a team and the city. To have this many people represented in USA Basketball, it’s a cool deal.”
Although Holiday, Anderson and Davis were unintentionally placed on different teams during Monday’s two simultaneous USA intrasquad scrimmages, they spent time chatting afterward. Holiday also had one of his first lengthy conversations with his new head coach.
“I’m just really excited,” Holiday said of his fellow New Orleans/USA teammates. “With the Sixers, we were pretty athletic, but we didn’t throw lobs (constantly). Anthony Davis is a freak athlete, and Ryan Anderson can knock down that three-ball. I’m just excited honestly to get my assists up.”
Holiday, who was fourth in the NBA in assists last season at 8.0 per game, said one of his primary goals this week is to become more familiar with the Pelicans organization.
“(One objective is) to mesh well with the (USA) team; obviously even more to mesh well with AD and Ryan, and Monty and Randy Ayers,” Holiday said.
Williams views the sizeable Pelicans representation as an indication that the franchise is progressing toward where it eventually wants to be, after a multi-year period of uncertainty and instability, both on and off the court. New Orleans has gone through NBA-controlled ownership of the club, as well as the fallout from the departure of Chris Paul, the most accomplished player in team history.
“We feel like we’ve kind of turned a corner,” Williams said. “People said we couldn’t do anything in New Orleans, with all of the things from our past, because of ownership (uncertainty prior to Tom Benson’s purchase) and guys leaving. To me, this is just the start of what we can be. If we stay the course and keep everybody together for a long time, there’s no telling what we can do.”