Pregame report: Pelicans at Kings
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
News and updates from Sleep Train Arena prior to Monday’s Western Conference game between New Orleans and Sacramento:
• Monty Williams said the Pelicans “probably will not” have Jason Smith available for tonight’s game. Smith started the team’s first 24 games but suffered a right knee bone bruise that forced him to be sidelined for Game 25 in Portland on Saturday.
• Williams on Tyreke Evans, who is a Sacramento opponent for the first time in his NBA career: “He went through a lot of ups and downs here. He won the Rookie of the Year, but never really won anything to complement that. That’s what he’s dying for, to be a part of a winner. That’s what we want. They did a lot of good stuff here with young players. It’s hard to win with young guys. He’s been a good piece for us, because of his ability to attack and toughness. He’s not afraid of taking big shots, and he’s got a higher IQ than I thought – he really thinks the game. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
• Williams on Alexis Ajinca making several heady plays in Saturday’s game at Portland: “Those types of plays you can’t teach. That’s what he brings to the game, a lot of intangibles that he brings to the game. He’s 7-2 and long, athletic. He’s got an IQ for the game. We’re looking for good stuff from him.”
• The Pelicans will be focused on reducing the Kings’ fast-break chances, which have ignited their home crowd in past New Orleans-Sacramento tilts. “We want to limit their easy baskets,” Williams said of one key. “You’ve got to be able to play one-on-one defense. DeMarcus (Cousins) is a handful. Isaiah Thomas can play. Our guys know it. We put a big-time focus on him. They have a number of guys on their bench who can flat-out score for them.”
• It’s a mini-reunion in Sacramento. Kings with New Orleans connections include their head coach (Michael Malone), an assistant coach (Ryan Bowen) and three players (Marcus Thornton, Carl Landry, Aaron Gray).