The Pelicans' Dell Demps spoke to the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Quarterback Club on Tuesday

Dell Demps discusses excitement for upcoming Pelicans season

by Jim Eichenhofer

Having been on the job for five-plus years, New Orleans Pelicans GM Dell Demps was unfazed when one of the first questions from the audience Tuesday regarded players who may be available in 2016 NBA free agency.

“My wife has a rule,” a grinning Demps politely interjected halfway through the trouble-waiting-to-happen query. “For any fine I get, she gets to match that (amount) shopping. So I can’t touch that one.”

While Demps wisely sidestepped that line of questioning at Tuesday’s Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation luncheon in Mid-City, he addressed several big-picture issues related to the Pelicans. With training camp opening in seven days, the executive also expressed his anticipation for 2015-16.

“We’re really happy about the offseason, starting with re-signing Anthony Davis,” Demps said. “That was huge not only for our team, but for our community and our city. We’re really excited about Anthony. He’s not only a phenomenal basketball player, but also probably a better person. He loves New Orleans. He considers this home. And he’s really bulked up. When we first drafted him, he was 214 or 215 pounds. Now he’s over 250. I think he’ll probably play around 245 or 247 once we start practicing, because you lose weight (in-season). He looks great and is in phenomenal shape.”

Other notable topics touched on Tuesday by Demps:

  • On bringing back all of the team’s key players from last season: “During exit interviews, one of the common themes was they wanted to keep the team together. They wanted the same group of guys. So that’s what we did in the offseason. We do have one change, a new coach, and we’re excited about Alvin Gentry coming in here. He’s putting in a new system, which I think is going to be very exciting for fans to watch.”
  • On the Pelicans’ core group going forward: “The team we’re going to have this year is really three years in the making. We set out with a plan three years ago to be exactly where we are right now, if you went back and looked at our blueprint. So we really want to give this team an opportunity to succeed. I think we’re going to have to answer some questions during the season, after the season – and we’ll always look at opportunities to make this team better – but ultimately we really like this team right now. It’s a high-character group of guys, a great group of guys. I don’t think there’s a jerk in the locker room, which is really fun for myself watching the guys hanging out or eating together at the practice facility. On the road you see packs of guys together.”
  • On the Pelicans’ efforts to emphasize character when acquiring players: “If a player wears ‘New Orleans’ across his chest, not only is he representing the organization and his family, he’s representing you and the city, our community.” A smiling Demps then joked about how in-depth the Pelicans research players: “We go out of our way in background checks before we sign players. We go all the way back to not only their high school and college, but we try to find ex-girlfriends, because they really love to talk. Nah, I’m just joking about that.”
  • On the competitiveness of the Western Conference: “It’s tough from top to bottom. Even some of the teams who weren’t very good last year I think are going to be good this year. Minnesota and Sacramento have made some vast improvements. The Lakers, getting Kobe back, are going to be better. Obviously Phoenix battled it out to the end for the playoffs last year. Then you have all the teams that made the playoffs. So it’s going to be a battle, but we embrace the opportunity.”
  • On New Orleans’ drastic increase in exposure and its early schedule: “I think we have over 20 games on national TV, which is a great sign that people put expectations on us. We play opening night against the champs (Golden State), get to see them get their rings and then play them on national TV. That’s going to be exciting. Then we have our home opener against the champs here. So we’re going to get a good gauge of where we are as a team during the first week of the regular season.”
  • On Jrue Holiday’s health status: “He just went through a workout and is in phenomenal shape. We’re going to be smart and cautious with him. One of the good things about this team is we have depth, so we’re not going to come out and ask Jrue to play 35 to 40 minutes a game. We’re going to be smart not only now, but through training camp and early in the season, to gauge where he is.”

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