Pelicans seeking consistency amid various key injuries, forced lineup changes
Consistency. It’s a word that seems relatively straightforward to achieve, but amid a series of injuries, one of the NBA’s toughest schedules and several what-might-have-been, crunch-time losses, it has remained elusive for New Orleans. The Pelicans posted five wins over a 12-day span in November, but began the season at 1-7 and are now trying to stop a six-game losing streak.
Fifth-year head coach Alvin Gentry spent part of his Wednesday post-practice media sesssion addressing speculation about Zion Williamson’s health – nothing has changed related to the No. 1 overall pick’s status, per Gentry – and how the Pelicans (6-15) can right themselves. New Orleans won three straight home games in mid-November, but part of the current stretch includes three home defeats to the Lakers, Oklahoma City and Dallas.
“The big thing for us is we’ve got to do a better job overall,” Gentry said. “I’ve got to do a better job in the consistency of our rotations. That’s tough on a (player), when some nights he plays, and some nights he doesn’t. We’re definitely going to have to shorten the rotation and have consistency in what we’re doing there.”
Part of the problem has been that every time the Pelicans have tried to establish a familiar starting group, key players have been sidelined. New Orleans has trotted out 13 different starting lineups in its 21 games, with no Pelican appearing in every game, the result of injuries. In fact, only Jrue Holiday (19 starts) has been in the first string more than 17 times, while 12 different players have appeared at least once as a starter, including NBA rookies Jaxson Hayes (eight starts) and Nicolo Melli (three).
Even among the handful of NBA teams that have struggled more than New Orleans record-wise at the outset of the 2019-20 season, none have experienced as much overall lineup shuffling, including Golden State (11 total starters, 12 different lineups), Atlanta (10, 8), Cleveland (7, 4) and New York (12, 9).
“That’s the tough part of trying to establish consistency in your rotation and minutes played,” Gentry said. “Simply because the availability becomes a key point in all of this stuff. We’ve got to have the guys available so we can get that established. Things have happened – and obviously some personal things – that you can’t do anything about.”
Gentry noted that Kenrich Williams, who previously missed games due to an ankle sprain, is temporarily away from the team due to the birth of his child. Derrick Favors has been a DNP in recent games for personal reasons and it’s uncertain when he will return to the team.
One of New Orleans’ most impressive victories of ’19-20 came Nov. 14 vs. the Clippers, with Williams and Favors as the starting power forward and center, respectively, but since then, Favors has only played a total of eight minutes, initially out of action due to back spasms. Dating back to last season, Williams had appeared in 53 consecutive games, prior to missing the first two games of a current three-game New Orleans homestand.
“At some stage we have to get to the point where (every player) has the feeling that I’m going to go in and play these (amount of) minutes,” Gentry said. “Obviously that changes if someone is going great (within a specific game) or there if foul trouble, but we have to get to that.”