Pelicans waive Alonzo Gee, keep Lance Stephenson

METIAIRE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans have waived veteran forward Alonzo Gee, a move that keeps recently acquired guard Lance Stephenson on the opening night roster.

“I was nervous but confident at the same time,” the 6-foot-5 Stephenson said after practice Monday. “I try to control what I can control. I can control going hard in practice. I control being with the coaches and learning everything I can possibly learn and being a good teammate.”

Stephenson has struggled to find a long-term fit since leaving Indiana in 2014, playing with Charlotte, the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis during the past two seasons. Deserved or not, he became saddled with a reputation of being selfish and unreliable. He said he intends to show everyone that he is “not the person that you heard about.”

Stephenson was productive late last season with the Grizzlies, averaging 14.2 points in 26 games. The Pelicans decided to give him a chance with a low-risk, non-guaranteed contract, meaning he had to make the team in preseason.

“I just had to earn a spot and it shows how confident I am,” Stephenson said. “I feel like I can do whatever the coach wants me to do. I can rebound or play defense. I can play the point. I can make something happen. I’m a great play-maker.”

The 6-foot-6 Gee, acquired by New Orleans during the 2015 offseason, appeared in 73 games with the Pelicans last season, averaging 4.5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 22.4 minutes per game.

Gee also has played with Washington, San Antonio, Cleveland, Denver and Portland since going undrafted out of Alabama in 2009. He has career averages of 6.8 points and 3.3 rebounds.

“We probably needed another play-maker, so that’s why we went with Lance,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “It helps in that he’s a ball-handler and he does have the ability to maybe play in three different positions.”

Gentry added that Gee “did a lot for our team last year and he’s a guy tat’s well-respected on this team. So what happens is you just make a basketball decision and that’s basically what it came down to.”

The Pelicans, who open their season at home against Denver on Wednesday night, have two regular guards and a small forward sidelined for the time being. Starting point guard Jrue Holiday is on indefinite leave to tend to his wife, retired soccer star Lauren Holiday, who is recovering from brain surgery and gave birth last month to their daughter. Guard Tyreke Evans and small forward Quincy Pondexter are rehabilitating from knee surgeries.

Gentry said those absences were a factor in keeping Stephenson.

“We’ve still got some guys injury-wise that’s going to be out, so we took a chance on bringing him in and taking a look at him, and we just felt like he could do some things that we needed that we didn’t have available right now,” Gentry said. “All I can do is judge him by what he’s done here. I haven’t had any problems at all coaching him. I haven’t had any problems at all when I corrected him.”