Alonzo Gee (33) dribbles against Oklahoma City defenders Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins

New Pelicans veterans Kendrick Perkins and Alonzo Gee bring experience on and off court

by Jim Eichenhofer

With each of New Orleans’ top 11 scorers from last season returning to the roster in 2015-16, opportunities for new players to crack the rotation and log significant minutes don’t appear to be plentiful. Yet when Dell Demps scoured the list of available NBA free agents this summer, he still managed to find two veterans who should be able to make valuable contributions for the Pelicans – whether that means on or off the court.

In July, New Orleans signed 12-year veteran and 2008 NBA champion Kendrick Perkins, as well as 28-year-old wing Alonzo Gee. In varying ways, the seasoned pros have seen just about everything since entering the league: Perkins has appeared in three NBA Finals over the past eight seasons (with Boston, Oklahoma City, Cleveland), while Gee has previously suited up for five different teams. Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated called Gee the “NBA’s transaction hero,” for technically being a member of a staggering seven organizations over an eight-month span.

Although the Pelicans gained invaluable postseason experience this spring during their first-round Western Conference series vs. Golden State, Perkins’ addition exponentially increases the collective roster’s playoff appearances. Perkins, a starting center for the ’08 Celtics, has 143 postseason games under his belt, including 129 starts. That’s more than double the total of the second-most playoff-tested Pelican, guard Norris Cole (64 career games). After Perkins and Cole, No. 3 on the list is Omer Asik (37 games).

“We’re excited to have Kendrick Perkins,” Demps said. “His leadership abilities are going to be very important to our team. We have a lot of first-, second- and third-year players, but Kendrick brings a championship pedigree. I think he’s going to help guys in situations and get us over the hump.”

Perkins: “You look at their team and (think about) having a veteran guy around to lead them and teach them how to be professionals, how to take care of their bodies, to be responsible on the road, to stay focused and don’t worry about the nightlife. Just the little things. You could tell they were a few things away from reaching a great goal. So I just felt like this was the place for me. I reached out to Dell (Demps) and he reached out to me. I felt wanted.”

Meanwhile, Demps actually ushered in Gee’s entry to the professional ranks, selecting him sixth overall in the 2009 D-League draft. Demps was the GM of the Austin Toros at the time.

“It’s funny, because when we signed him (this July), he reminded me of a conversation we had in the D-League about some things he needed to do to make it (to the NBA),” Demps said. “It always stuck in the back of his mind. I’m really happy about Alonzo, because he and I have a history.”

“I’ve been knowing Dell for a long time,” Gee said. “When Dell called me, I wanted to work back with him. We had a great relationship in the D-League. He was very tough on me, but I needed that, to help prolong my career in the NBA. I saw a great opportunity to come here and be part of an up-and-coming team.”

Like Perkins, Gee is a steady veteran respected for his off-the-court traits. Gee is also one of the league’s premier dunkers and often draws difficult defensive assignments.

“First of all, he’s an outstanding person,” Demps said. “He’s very coachable and listens. He’s a tremendous athlete who can guard multiple positions, including point guard, shooting guard, small forward. He’s also a guy who’s going to make hustle plays. He had to work to get to the NBA – he had to come through the D-League, scratching and clawing to get here. He brings that blue-collar mentality that we think is valuable in the NBA.”

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