Pelicans good vibes extend to NBA draft lottery in epic victory

by Jim Eichenhofer

CHICAGO – There’s no objective way to measure this, but in David Griffin and Alvin Gentry, the New Orleans Pelicans might have the basketball executive-coach combination with the most positive attitudes in the NBA. Griffin has exuded optimism from Day 1 of his tenure in mid-April, while Gentry may be the league’s head coach most likely to smile or laugh, even while facing major adversity.

Griffin and Gentry had plenty more reason than usual to grin and share laughs Tuesday night at the Chicago Hilton, when they learned that the Pelicans had won the most anticipated NBA draft lottery in several years. New Orleans carried just 6.0 percent odds of prevailing, but managed to move from a pre-lottery slot of seventh all the way to the top of the draft order. The 2019 NBA Draft is June 20 in Brooklyn.

Afterward, both men pointed to the positivity that has emanated within the organization since Griffin’s introductory press conference in April, which set the tone for what has already become an extremely fruitful opening month of the ’19 offseason. Last week, the Pelicans announced they had hired widely-respected athletic trainer Aaron Nelson, who previously worked with Griffin in Phoenix.

“It’s just an incredible blessing for our organization,” Griffin summarized of what Tuesday’s lottery win means for the Pelicans. “Mrs. (Gayle) Benson and our ownership group have done a remarkable job of just investing in the vision we have. This (No. 1 pick) will certainly jump-start that process.”

“It’s a pick-me-up for everything,” Gentry said of the impact of Tuesday’s victory on the Pelicans’ summer.

Just minutes after beating out runner-up Memphis for the No. 1 pick, Griffin spoke to media members near the stage at the Chicago Hilton. In mid-sentence, Griffin was hugged by Gentry, who had rushed over to celebrate.

“I’ve known Griff a long time,” Gentry said, when asked about the positivity Griffin has created just a month into his tenure. “He’s a guy that gets things done. We have projects started already. He went out and hired the best trainer in sports from a medical standpoint. Ownership is totally committed to what we’re trying to do. And this (lottery victory) couldn’t happen to a nicer person than Mrs. Benson. What she’s done and the dedication she’s had for the short time since she’s been owner of this team has been amazing.”

Griffin called Tuesday’s momentous break for the Pelicans merely a first step in what New Orleans hopes will be an offseason of gradual and steady strides. The executive vice president of basketball operations acknowledged that the Pelicans were already at the forefront of talk around the NBA this offseason, but that conversation will likely multiply after the lottery triumph.

“We said coming into this, we didn’t knew what would happen (at the lottery), but we knew we were sort of the epicenter of the offseason,” Griffin said. “Now that’s true to an even greater degree. So we’re really grateful.

“(The lottery win is) meaningful. We hope it’s just one of another many positive things for us this offseason.”

Asked how much Tuesday’s outcome impacted his excitement for the 2019-20 season, Gentry responded in a way that probably channeled what many Pelicans fans were also thinking.

“I wish we could start tomorrow,” New Orleans’ four-year head coach said.


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