Zion Williamson (1), Brandon Ingram (14) and Lonzo Ball walk on the court at Portland

Pelicans Playback: Three takeaways from John DeShazier’s April 5 appearance

by Jim Eichenhofer

Prior to Sunday’s rebroadcast of New Orleans’ Feb. 28 win vs. Cleveland, Pelicans radio analyst John DeShazier joined Fox Sports New Orleans TV sideline reporter Jennifer Hale on the “Pelicans Playback” show. Here are three takeaways:

The Pelicans have a promising first-year trio.

Brandon Ingram, 22, made the All-Star team for the first time and Zion Williamson, 19, enjoyed a smashing first month-plus to his NBA career, but they aren’t alone in making promising debuts with New Orleans in 2019-20. Lonzo Ball, 22, has shown many signs of his potential, particularly after a slow start while he was hampered by injuries.

“The playmaking ability that we’ve seen from him, (within) this offense, this system, this chemistry, this team, really fits who he can be in the NBA,” DeShazier said of Ball’s ideal role with the Pelicans. “We’ve seen him take a leap as a playmaker, and the biggest beneficiary of that is Jrue Holiday, because now Jrue doesn’t have to play the point. He can play the two, where he’s most comfortable, where you can turn him loose on the opposition. Lonzo Ball has done a great job of getting this team into its offense and a fantastic job in terms of transition offense. We’ve seen those fullcourt passes and in the halfcourt making very, very good decisions.”

The Duke influence helps to create a winning culture.

Among New Orleans’ five former Duke Blue Devils players, they all competed in pressure environments and in front of huge crowds before they ever set foot in the NBA. Jahlil Okafor won a national title at Duke, while Redick played in the ’04 Final Four. Frank Jackson captured an ACC Tournament in ’17; Ingram and Williamson were part of Duke squads that went 25-11 and 32-6, respectively, reaching at least the Sweet 16.

“First of all, you get guys who accustomed to success, because of what they experienced at Duke, whether it be a national championship or conference championships,” DeShazier said. “These are highly-regarded players that come into Duke. Then they get accustomed to winning on the college level. You hope that can transition to the pros. Generally, it does. Those guys have winning attitudes and understand how to make winning plays.”

Blue Devils turned Pelicans.

DeShazier gave an overview of each of the Duke products currently playing in the Crescent City.

On Ingram: “We knew he had some game based on how he finished last year with the Lakers, but who knew he was going to blossom into this kind of player offensively?”

On Williamson: “A guy who’s going to be an All-Star, a superstar. He’s shown those qualities. A foundational piece you can build the team around.”

On Redick: “You’ve got to look at the leadership. You’ve got to have a guy on each team to call things out as he’s sees them, to not sugarcoat them.”

On Jackson: “We’ve seen great stretches from him, where he’s made plays. When he’s been patient and allowed the game to come to him, he’s made an impact.”

On Okafor: “The NBA is (making) his type of player almost obsolete, a back-to-the-basket big who can score, so sometimes the matchups don’t favor him, but we saw what he can do in a game against Detroit, where he pretty much ravaged the Pistons.”

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