LOS ANGELES – Basketball is at the top of the agenda during New Orleans Pelicans voluntary workouts this week in Southern California, but there’s also bowling, movie-going and bonding. When Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis and Quincy Pondexter recently discussed the idea of assembling players to work out as a group, they wanted to foster the team’s togetherness and camaraderie.
“I think that it’s very important,” Holiday said of the intangible. “You see the teams that are winning or have won, and you see chemistry on and off the court. I think it goes a long way, especially on the court (when) you care for (teammates) personally and you don’t want to let them down. I think that means a lot. The bonding off the court correlates a lot to on the court.”
The trio of Pelicans veteran leaders have been joined by several teammates, including but not limited to returnee Alexis Ajinca and newcomers Terrence Jones, Langston Galloway and Buddy Hield. Holiday describes the mid-August gathering as being able to “communicate and hang out and work out together, in an environment that isn’t pressured by coaches or media and all that. You can just kind of be yourself.”
On Monday night, players held a group dinner; on Tuesday they plan to go bowling. Individually, Holiday is in the midst of an offseason free from health concerns, a first for him since joining New Orleans in July 2013. The former Eastern Conference All-Star point guard with Philadelphia described this summer as very different from previous ones as a result.
“There has been a major difference,” he said. “I haven’t had to key in on one injury. I haven’t had a major injury, so that I had to take most of my time and worry about that. This summer has been more like the summers before I was injured or had the stress reaction (in his right leg), where I can (now) do a lot of explosive things (athletically). It’s been great, feeling like I can do things with no restrictions, but at the same time being smart with the stuff I’m doing.”
One question Holiday will try to resolve prior to the start of 2016-17 is whether to begin donning protective eyewear, after he sustained a broken orbital bone under his right eye March 28. While trying to get open on a New Orleans inbound pass, he was struck by an inadvertent elbow from New York forward Kristaps Porzingis, ending his season.
“I am looking into wearing goggles, because of my eye surgery and having to put a metal plate in the bottom of my eye,” Holiday said. “But I’m good and ready to go. The safest thing to do would be to play with some sort of goggle that covers up my eye. They said I didn’t have to, but it’s something I’m looking into.
“If the goggles are cool-looking and I can start a trend, why not wear them,” he added half-jokingly. “But seriously, obviously I don’t want to get hit in my eye again. It was a freak accident, but getting hit in your eye probably happens more often than not. Just taking preventative measures. It would be a first – I’ve never had a mask or goggles, anything like that.”
Davis, who underwent a surgical procedure on his left knee in March, is progressing physically, according to Holiday. Last month, Pelicans GM Dell Demps said on Jim Rome’s national radio show that Davis was expected to be cleared for basketball activity in August.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Holiday said of the three-time All-Star power forward. “He’s taking his time and doing what (trainers) are telling him to do. From there, it’s how strong he gets. From what I see, he looks good. He can do set shots and things like that, but nothing crazy.”