Dell Demps laughs during DeMarcus Cousins' introductory press conference

Dell Demps cites shooting, playmaking among Pelicans needs in offseason

by Jim Eichenhofer

With the city of New Orleans ecstatic to hear the news of a stunning blockbuster trade Feb. 20, the Pelicans faced a major challenge, with little time to solve it: Reworking large chunks of their offense, in order to best incorporate three-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins on the fly.

During his Tuesday half-hour appearance on "Prime Time Sports with Scott Alexander," on local PBS network WLAE, the Pelicans’ Dell Demps noted that it took some time for New Orleans to find its stride following the Cousins deal. That contributed to the Pelicans going 2-6 immediately after the trade, but over the final three weeks of March, they went 8-3, easily their best stretch of the entire regular season. Unfortunately for New Orleans (34-48 in 2016-17), it was too late to make a serious push for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

“The thing that’s tough is when you bring in a new player, and he’s as good as DeMarcus, we had to change the way we play,” Demps said. “We had to take out a bunch of plays we’d been running the majority of the season, and put in new plays, because you want to maximize his talent. Sometimes when you make a trade, the player coming in fits the style of play you’ve already been playing.

“But we’re happy about (having him). We’re thrilled.”

Demps briefly addressed upcoming free agency in general terms, repeating statements from an April press conference about the need for the Pelicans to improve their shooting and playmaking. Led by teams like Golden State, floor spacing and versatility are quickly becoming more and more important in the modern NBA.

“The one thing I’ve learned from all these shows you go on, you don’t want to tip your hand and give people (indications of your intentions),” Demps said of declining to go into specifics about free agency. “Sometimes I like to keep things close to the vest, but obviously shooting is going to be important for us, but also you want to get good basketball players who can make plays – I think that’s the way the game is going right now.”

Other notes from the television interview:

Asked about the Pelicans having the foundation of a championship team in Cousins and Anthony Davis, Demps responded, “I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, because we have a lot of work in front of us. But we do feel like we have some pieces and good players, with Anthony, DeMarcus and hopefully bringing Jrue (Holiday) back. We’re looking forward to the challenges that are front of us.” …

On criticism that comes with the territory of being a GM in the league: “People want to see wins, and we understand that. If you don’t understand that, then you’re in the wrong business. Our goal is to move forward and to put this team in the best possible position we can.” …

On the current health status of Quincy Pondexter, who has missed the past two seasons: “It’s a little uncertain right now. Obviously he hasn’t played since the (2015) playoffs. He’s had some setbacks. He’s had a couple surgeries. It’s tough because he’s one of those glue-type guys who is a leader not only in the locker room, but on the floor. We’ve missed his defense and his shooting. He was a big piece for us, an important pickup when we made that run to the playoffs. We were hoping to have his services the last two years. He’s going through some testing right now and will be in town this week. We’re hoping to get him back on the floor.”

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