Lonzo Ball passes at Dallas while guarded by Seth Curry

Pelicans Playback: Three takeaways from Swin Cash’s March 24 appearance

by Jim Eichenhofer

Prior to Tuesday’s rebroadcast of New Orleans’ Dec. 29 win vs. Houston, Pelicans VP of Basketball Operations/Team Development Swin Cash joined Fox Sports New Orleans TV sideline reporter Jennifer Hale on the “Pelicans Playback” show. Here are three takeaways from Cash’s appearance:

Watching Lonzo Ball’s progress this season has been a rewarding experience.

Some of the point guard’s top passing games of 2019-20 will be on display during the series of rebroadcasts by Fox Sports New Orleans, such as a 13-assist night vs. Utah on Jan. 16 (two shy of his season-high 15 dimes in a win over Boston). After injuries caused Ball to miss eight of the team’s first 19 regular season games, he played in 45 consecutive games. The third-year pro’s improved health showed up in both obvious and lesser-noticed ways, as he helped spearhead the Pelicans to an in-season turnaround, while playing his best basketball as a pro.

“The biggest area of growth for me was seeing Zo smile on the court,” Cash said. “I texted him after a game and said, ‘Nice game, but it was great to see you out there smiling.’ When he came to us, he hadn’t played in nine months (due to a January 2019 injury), but now he’s in a rhythm, he’s feeling good, his body feels good. People don’t understand what it takes mentally and physically to get back from injury. He’s put the work in, he’s worked with our assistant coaches, he’s out there on his own, getting to the basket, getting guys involved. I’m just happy to see his growth personally, because as a former athlete, you always understand it’s mind over matter.”

Bringing in the right people matters.

Fans are probably only able to witness this primarily from watching how New Orleans players conduct themselves – such as seeing Zion Williamson sign autographs for kids before games, or noticing how his teammates interact with arena staff, including the ballboys – but the Pelicans are emphasizing character throughout the organization. In her first year with the franchise, that’s something Cash has appreciated.

“What I’ve enjoyed the most about this team is that we just have a great group of guys,” she said. “We have great personnel, from our front office, to our PR group, to our medical staff. Everyone has bought in to the idea that we’re building something really special here. It’s fun to get up and go to work every day; it’s fun to be in the office, to interact with our players and our staff. If you want to grow something, you want to be with people you want to be in the trenches with. Every single person around here, I want to be in the trenches with, so that one day, whenever we’re hoisting that trophy for the city of New Orleans and all of Louisiana, everyone is proud to say, ‘You know what? I did my part.’ ”

New Orleans’ culture change goes beyond the court.

Cash emphasized the intention of the team’s new front office to create an environment in which everyone within the organization feels part of it. Building a consistent successful NBA team is a group effort that reaches far beyond the 13 Pelicans in uniform every game.

“We didn’t want it to just focus on the players,” Cash said. “If we’re going to create a family – as (David Griffin) has said a number of times – then it has to be all in, all together. Everything we’ve done this whole season has been about driving culture for our families, the players and in the community. Someone told me on the business side that we’ve had more full-team events this year since they can remember. For us, that’s big, because we want to show that we’re not only basketball players, but we care about New Orleans as a whole.”

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