Pregame report: Spurs at Pelicans
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
News and updates from the New Orleans Arena prior to Monday’s Southwest Division game between San Antonio and New Orleans:
• The Pelicans announced an hour-plus before tip-off that Jason Smith (knee) will miss the remainder of the 2013-14 season. New Orleans has a total of 14 players on its current roster, but three are out of action at the moment, including Smith.
• Monty Williams noted that one reason the Pelicans have opted to use Alexis Ajinca at starting center instead of off the bench is because Ajinca appears to be more comfortable with the first unit. “Alexis gives us some length at the beginning of a game; Greg (Stiemsma) gives us some toughness coming off the bench,” Williams said. “It could change from game to game. I just try to talk to the coaches and figure out who’ll be better for the group of games we have coming up. Alexis has more confidence starting, for whatever reason, and our rotation is a bit cleaner.”
• The Pelicans have started Ajinca along with Brian Roberts, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu and Anthony Davis during a recent rare stretch of stability in terms of the first unit. Through much of the first three months, there have been constant changes by necessity as a result of overlapping injuries to key players.
• Williams on the team’s recent play, which includes four wins in the last five games: “Our defense has picked up obviously, but that is a combination of things. We’ve played some teams that have shot the ball poorly against us, and we had something to do with that. We compete every night, that’s our goal. We’ve had different guys step up on the bench and that has helped us a lot.”
• San Antonio started Tony Parker, Cory Joseph, Shannon Brown, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter in its most recent game Saturday vs. Sacramento, but Gregg Popovich said in pregame that Danny Green will return from injury tonight and start. Saturday was Brown’s Spurs debut, but he still was immediately moved into the starting group. Key Spurs contributors Kahwi Leonard and Manu Ginobili are out due to injury, but as Williams pointed out, “They still have two Hall of Fame players on their team who cause a lot of problems for everybody in the NBA. They’re a lot like us because they have guys playing bigger roles, but they’re used to it. Their system has been in place now for 19 or 20 years. They have the best coach ever to coach the game.”