By Andrew Lang, Pelicans.com
David Griffin, the New Orleans Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations, reflected on the past season and discussed steps the team has made in the offseason to improve while speaking to the Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at The Cannery.
“What we tried to do this offseason was not just sit there and say wow, ‘If we could just be healthy we could be really good,’ because hope is not a plan,” Griffin said.
Griffin mentioned how on Dec. 12, 2022, the Pelicans sat atop the Western Conference at 18-8 despite the trio of forward Zion Williamson, forward Brandon Ingram and guard CJ McCollum only having all played in 10 of those 26 games as well as finishing the season 9-3 led by the play of Ingram.
“We’re winning on the front end and the back end of the season where one of the two stars has to drag everybody forward,” Griffin said.
Griffin said it was impressive that depth was able to help fill the gaps over the course of the season as Ingram was limited to 45 games and Williamson was limited to 29 games.
One plan beyond just hope was improvements to the team's practice facility, including to the strength and conditioning space.
Another was the signing of associate head coach James Borrego, who Griffin said Coach Willie Green led the charge for the team to hire. Griffin said Borrego was “sort of a guru” on the offensive end.
Griffin extolled the virtues of Green recognizing the areas where the team’s coaching needs to improve and said it helps put everyone in a position to succeed.
“So, I think you are going to start to see his imprint on this team much more and that’s exciting. He really has the potential in this league and it’s the humility he has, the curiosity he has to keep asking questions that puts you in that position,” Griffin said.
Griffin said McCollum has made changes to his summer routine in order to come in to the season in better shape. McCollum's physical and nutritional improvements have led him to be “far and away the best player in our gym this offseason,” according to Griffin
Griffin mentioned the physical benefits of Dyson Daniels, Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas spending the offseason with their various national teams playing in the FIBA World Cup 2023.
“This group is going to be in elite playing condition as opposed to lifting in the offseason, getting stronger, and then showing up and playing the basketball,” Griffin said. “This group’s been playing basketball throughout.”
Griffin also spent time discussing the team’s involvement in the community and said that is a critical part of the organization’s goals.
“I think people are starting to recognize now that we’ve got a team of players that love it here, that intend to stay here, that want to be a part of the fabric of New Orleans.”
Graham Jarrott, De La Salle High School head football coach, Brice Brown, Edna Karr High School head football coach, J.J. McCleskey, the Tulane secondary coach and a former Saints cornerback, and Kevin Faulk, College Football Hall of Famer, three-time NFL champion with the Patriots and current Louisiana State University director of alumni relationships and community outreach, also spoke at the event.
At the event Jesuit High School senior linebacker Tucker Schibler was named the Quarterback Club Scholar/Athlete for the month.
The Quarterback Club meets once per month until its annual awards luncheon on Dec. 12.
Griffin told the luncheon that he can’t predict health but that the team is doing everything it can in terms of what it can control.
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but if you can be both, you can be special,” he said. “We feel like we are putting ourselves in a position for that to happen both on and off the court and that’s exciting for us.”