Nate Robinson and Bo McCalebb making rapid transition as new Pelicans point guards
LEXINGTON – Like much of the American workforce, Nate Robinson and Bo McCalebb will be spending significant time over the next few days hunched over a computer. The difference being that while the average working Joe pores over a spreadsheet or tries to balance a budget, Robinson and McCalebb will be attempting to learn as many aspects of their new team’s basketball playbook as possible. Less than 48 hours into Robinson’s tenure as the newest New Orleans Pelicans player, he’d been handed an iPad, loaded with the offensive plays he must master as a point guard tasked with knowing Alvin Gentry’s attack.
“They gave me an iPad already,” Robinson said minutes after Saturday’s 107-98 preseason defeat to Sacramento. “I’ll be watching the plays on the bus and on the plane, whenever I can. Just to be ready to play and knowing the offense front to back. After that, everything else will be OK.”
The 5-foot-8 Robinson and 6-foot McCalebb made their Pelicans debuts Saturday under some very unusual circumstances, after being signed over the previous two days as a result of injuries. Tyreke Evans is back in New Orleans as he gets his right knee checked by doctors, while Norris Cole is out with a left ankle sprain. That left the Pelicans with only Jrue Holiday available Saturday among their veteran point guards, but Holiday is allowed to play just 10 minutes per game in preseason, as he returns to action from a leg injury that sidelined him for chunks of the past two seasons.
As a result, two men who’ve barely had time to inform their friends and relatives that they’re on the Pelicans’ roster logged a combined 37 minutes of playing time Saturday. An 11-year NBA veteran, Robinson scored nine points and had four assists, while the 30-year-old McCalebb notched four points and one assist. Both players had been working out on their own, preparing for basketball season, when they received a call from the Pelicans.
“I’m a little rusty,” said Robinson, who had two turnovers. “I’ve got to take care of the ball better, get my wind up. I’m not nearly out of shape, but I’m not in the shape I want to be in. Being here only one day, I think I did a pretty good job. I’d probably give myself a C-minus.”
“I feel like I’m getting comfortable day by day,” McCalebb, on only Day 3 of his stint as a Pelican. “At the end of the day, it’s basketball. I just have to listen to the guys trying to help me.”
Gentry acknowledged the difficult assignment of being asked to run an NBA offense with so little preparation time.
“I told them in the locker room after the game, it’s really unfair what we asked them to do,” Gentry said. “One has had two practices, one has had one practice. The thing everyone has to realize is these guys have been working, but to be in basketball shape, you have to actually play basketball. They struggled a little bit in that area, but I thought both of them did some good things tonight. We’ll have to see.”
Robinson: “Working out and getting shots up is one thing, but it’s a little different when you’re running and getting bumped and playing at game speed. But it’s muscle memory.”
Until one or more of New Orleans’ veteran point guards returns to the lineup, the Pelicans may continue to need Robinson and McCalebb to head their attack. New Orleans has three preseason games remaining, playing every other day from Monday through Friday. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to study tape and get acclimated, but Robinson is leaning on his years of NBA experience. McCalebb, a former standout at the University of New Orleans, is an accomplished international basketball player who’s played in plenty of pressure-packed situations.
“For me, there is no excuse,” said Robinson, who’s scored over 6,000 career points. “I’ve been in the league a long time. Plays are pretty much the same (from team to team), but the play calls are different, getting guys in different spots. I’ll do better each game. I’ve just got to get my legs under me defensively. The offense will come.”
Preseason postgame Twitter Q&A
Saturday’s game wasn’t televised, so we fielded questions from fans on Twitter who most likely didn’t get a chance to watch Pelicans-Kings:
From @MDPMe: How did Anthony Davis do from 3?
@Jim_Eichenhofer: While playing only the first three quarters, he went 2-for-4, making him a total of 5-for-8 over the Pelicans’ four preseason games. He was aggressive firing them in the opening minutes, including at one point collecting a low pass near the college three-point line, taking a rhythm dribble and stepping behind the NBA line to drop in a trey from the right wing. It’s difficult to know how big of a weapon this will be in the offense once the regular season starts, but there’s no doubt he is getting supremely confident in taking them.
From @phillipmartin26: what’s going on with Tyreke?
@Jim_Eichenhofer: Quoting Alvin Gentry, “We’re going to have his knee checked out. It’s not any big thing. We’ll get an opinion and see what (doctors) think. He has a little soreness in it. We’ll know more in a couple days as to where he is.”
From @The_EZ_Life_: How did Bo McCalebb do? Nate Robinson?
@Jim_Eichenhofer: Under the circumstances, both did pretty well. It seems like a given that both can score, so one way to assess their performance over the next few games may be assist-to-turnover ratio. On Saturday, they combined for five assists and two turnovers. With so many unusual combinations and players having to play out of position, however, the New Orleans offense slowed considerably in the second half. The Pelicans scored 31 points in the first quarter, with Jrue Holiday playing the first 11 minutes, but they only managed 37 second-half points.
From @EreneeHarris: How did the NBA players react to madness and the craziness of our fans while in Lexington?
@Jim_Eichenhofer: The Pelicans actually played a preseason game in Lexington in 2013 against the Wizards, so for many players, they knew exactly what to expect: a ton of enthusiasm, loud ovations for the multiple Kentucky products (Davis, Cousins, Rondo, Cauley-Stein) and a sellout crowd.
From @undadogjms: They could've won if everyone played. Rather have injuries now than later. Still plenty time to pull it together.
@Jim_Eichenhofer: True. Hopefully none of the current injuries will affect the availability of any Pelicans too deep into the regular season. Incidentally, a week from today the Pelicans will travel to California to prepare for the Oct. 27 opener at Golden State.