Eric Gordon looks forward to playing fast in Alvin Gentry attack

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

If everything goes as planned, the New Orleans Pelicans may not need 24-second shot clocks in the Smoothie King Center this season. Led by new head coach Alvin Gentry, the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed last season expects to play at a super-charged pace, which would be a notable change this decade – the Pelicans have not ranked higher than 22nd in the NBA in tempo, via Basketball-Reference.com.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be up against the shot clock anymore,” Pelicans shooting guard Eric Gordon said. “(Gentry) is all about possessions. We talked about how limited we played and how slow we played (91.4 possessions per 48 minutes last season, 27th in NBA). He wants that way up. He wants the game fast, he wants more shots. He thinks that’s going to be tough on a defense, to see so many shots go up and go in, wide-open shots. The faster you play, the easier shots you’re going to get. He keeps emphasizing that you have to play fast 100 percent of the time. He doesn’t want it to be 60 percent of the time. And he wants the offense to be in a rhythm.”

An assistant coach with championship-winning Golden State in 2014-15, Gentry’s Warriors finished No. 1 in the NBA in pace (100.7 possessions per 48 minutes, according to ESPN.com). The Warriors were second in offensive efficiency (109.7 points per 100 possessions), a tick behind the Clippers. Meanwhile, the Pelicans were also an above-average offensive club, placing ninth in offensive efficiency (105.4), but as a result of playing methodically, were just 16th in points per game (99.4). New Orleans was 21-5 when it scored 106 points or more in 2014-15, as well as 34-10 when it reached the century mark. Conversely, when the Pelicans tallied 99 points or fewer, they were 11-27. When held under 90 points, they won just twice out of 15 instances. By comparison, Golden State was limited to less than 90 points only twice in all of 2014-15. The Warriors were a gaudy 38-3 when racking up 110-plus points.

“(Gentry’s system) works well for guards who can playmake and guards who can shoot,” said Gordon, who connected on a career-best 44.8 percent of his three-point attempts last season. “When you’ve got guys who can shoot on the floor, it really spreads out everything for everybody. It’s a fun style of play and there are a lot more pick-and-rolls that we haven’t done as much in the past. It’s going to be a totally different type of game.”

The style of play may look drastically different, but the players in Pelicans uniforms should be strikingly familiar. After the re-signing of restricted free agent Norris Cole last week, New Orleans (45-37 in 2014-15) now has its 11 top total-points producers from last season back on the roster.

“We’re already familiar with each other’s games,” Gordon said. “Now we’ve got to gel that into what Coach has in mind for us. We’ve already got a couple years under our belt as far as playing with each other, making the playoffs. Now we’re trying to make another jump. A big part of it is everybody coming back and being together. It makes it a lot easier. When you have guys you’re familiar with, you know their games. It’s not like you don’t know what a guy is going to do.”

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Five weeks before the Pelicans commence their regular season schedule on national TV with an Oct. 27 game against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, here are a few of the home games Gordon is looking forward to in 2015-16:

Oct. 31 vs. Golden State (NBA TV)

“They’re the defending champs and it’s the first game back at home for us. It almost seems like it could build into a rivalry.”

Nov. 20 vs. San Antonio (ESPN)

“You always know the Spurs are going to be a good team. For some reason we’ve played well against them and Memphis, two very good teams (the Pelicans were 3-1 vs. the Spurs in 2014-15).”

Dec. 31 vs. L.A. Clippers (FSNOLA)

“We’ve always done well against them here (in New Orleans). They’re definitely a team we look forward to competing against, for sure.”

Feb. 25 vs. Oklahoma City (TNT)

“The West is so tough. You’re always going to have some great games against a lot of these teams, which we had with them last season.”

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