In addition to tenacious defense, hustle plays and shot-making, New Orleans backup point guard Jose Alvarado also unintentionally provided motivation to a teammate Thursday during the Pelicans’ 102-91 victory at New York.
After going scoreless on 0/7 shooting in the first half at Madison Square Garden, starting point guard Devonte’ Graham checked his cell phone at halftime, reading a concerning message from his mother.
“She texts me every game,” Graham said after Saturday’s practice. “She (wrote), ‘Jose’s going to take your spot.’ She told me that. I came out in the third quarter and played a lot better.”
The one-two PG punch of Graham (15 points, 4/10 three-point shooting) and Alvarado (13 points, four steals) helped New Orleans finish a three-game Atlantic Division road trip in style, with the latter garnering plenty of national attention over the past 36 hours. Alvarado’s postgame TV interview with Jennifer Hale and his “dream come true” return to his native New York City were appreciated by numerous social-media sports accounts and basketball media members.
The enthusiasm and personality Alvarado displayed during his three-minute interview on Bally Sports New Orleans are things Pelicans coaches and teammates have noticed on a daily basis since training camp began. Even when the 23-year-old Brooklyn-born Alvarado was not playing much – he appeared in just eight of the team’s first 35 games – he maintained an upbeat attitude, embracing the opportunity to be on an NBA roster and play basketball for a living.
“He’s just a good dude,” head coach Willie Green said Thursday. “Loves being around his teammates. Always pretty positive. He works extremely hard. He’s the first guy in the gym and usually the last guy to leave the facility. He puts the time and the work in, and guys respect that.”
Green added Saturday of the four-year college player from Georgia Tech, “He’s all about the right things. High character, number one. Extremely diligent in his work. He has a spirit about him that is infectious. And then, he’s a heck of a basketball player. Whether he’s undrafted or whatever his contract is, he can play. He did it in college and put that on display for four seasons. Now he’s doing that in the NBA. We’re proud to have him.”
“He’s just a great dude,” echoed Pelicans guard Josh Hart, who purchased extra tickets for Alvarado’s family and friends in Madison Square Garden. “Full of joy, full of love. I think that’s the biggest thing. We see the hard work, we see him out there just grinding. Guys like that, you always want them to do well in basketball, but also in life.”
“He’s been playing unbelievable,” Graham said of Alvarado. “(He’s been) that defensive spark, picking guys up fullcourt, getting steals. Just being in the right position. Offensively, making plays, scoring. He can come off the bench and bring a different feel to us.”
Other notes from Saturday’s practice:
Brandon Ingram did not practice Saturday, after he sustained a right ankle sprain in Thursday’s win at New York and sat out the fourth quarter.
“It’s some soreness and swelling right now,” Green said. “So he’s day-to-day.”
New Orleans is in the midst of a rare multi-day break between games. The Pelicans don’t play until Monday night (7 p.m.) vs. Indiana in the Smoothie King Center. The team's next official injury report will be released Sunday afternoon, ahead of the matchup against the Pacers.