Devonte' Graham defends against Washington guard Raul Neto

Pelicans shootaround update: Devonte’ Graham expected to be game-time decision vs. Wizards

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

Devonte’ Graham has been sidelined each of the past three games, but based on New Orleans’ recent struggles with turning the ball over too much and not clearing 100 points since Nov. 15, it feels like much longer. The Pelicans’ starting point guard, leader in assists (5.1) and third-leading scorer (15.3 ppg) is a key part of the attack, particularly since his absence forces teammates to fill larger than expected roles.

Graham is hopeful to be able to play Wednesday vs. Washington, but his status probably won’t be determined until the early evening hours. He was listed as questionable on Tuesday’s injury report.

“It’s feeling better,” Graham said after this morning’s shootaround of his left foot soreness. “(I’ve been) just trying to make (the pain) go down as much as possible. Just keep getting treatment and trying to progress.”

Asked what caused the injury, Graham responded, “I have no idea, that’s the crazy part. I don’t remember a play, or somebody stepping on me, or anything funny. Just woke up and had foot pain. It’s probably going to be a game-time decision.”

Other notes from shootaround:

Willy Hernangomez was a major bright spot in Monday’s 14-point loss to Minnesota, delivering 19 points and 11 rebounds in just 22 minutes of action. The performance was even more impressive considering the center had not been in the rotation all season, but he was immediately ready to produce.

“Willy has always been one of the best professionals I’ve been around since I’ve been in the league,” said Graham, also a Charlotte Hornets teammate of Hernangomez in 2019-20. “Just his attitude, coming in every day (being) the hardest worker, every day lifting, every day getting his shots, every day killing, and then not playing, but still having a good attitude. Every time his name is called, he comes in and performs. That’s a reason he’s been in the league I think five, six years now. You’ve got to give him his props.” …

Asked about the eventual return of Zion Williamson from injury, Graham responded, “I mean, it’s Zion, man. It’s an All-Star player. It’s going to make life easier for everybody. Once he gets healthy and we get there, we’ll see what it’s going to be like.”

WASHINGTON SCOUTING REPORT

Offensive efficiency rank: 20 (106.3)

Defensive efficiency rank: 5 (104.2)

Net rating: 10 (+2.1)

Pace: 23 (97.93)

Streak: Lost 1

Go-to guy: Bradley Beal missed the Nov. 15 win vs. New Orleans while attending the funeral of his grandmother, but the St. Louis native has rejoined the Wizards for the past four games. By Beal’s lofty standards, he’s off to a sluggish start to 2021-22, shooting just 42 percent from the field and a career-low 28 percent on three-pointers. However, the three-time All-Star guard has compiled three games of 30-plus points this season, including in quality home victories over Boston and Milwaukee.

On the rise: Second-year forward Deni Avdija produced his third career double-double in the NBA on Nov. 15 vs. New Orleans, providing Washington with a big spark off the bench (11 points, 10 rebounds, plus-minus of +18). He followed that up two days later with nine points, 11 boards at Charlotte. The Wizards have won Avdija’s minutes in 12 of their 17 games.

PREVIOUS GAME STARTING LINEUPS

WASHINGTON (11-6)

Monday loss vs. Charlotte

Spencer Dinwiddie, Bradley Beal, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford

Notes: This group is 6-5, the only Wizards combination that has started more than three times together. A lineup featuring the same players but with Aaron Holiday at one of the guard spots instead of Beal is 3-0. … Washington went 2-10 last season when Beal did not play, but is unbeaten in three such instances this season.

NEW ORLEANS (3-16)

Monday loss vs. Minnesota

Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas

Notes: This group is 0-1 and became the sixth different New Orleans starting lineup this season. Monday marked the first time Nickeil Alexander-Walker came off the bench for the Pelicans in 2021-22. … Alexander-Walker, Valanciunas and Trey Murphy III are the only New Orleans players to appear in all 19 games, with Valanciunas now the only every-game starter.

FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME

DEFENSIVE REBOUNDING

Rebounding has been one of New Orleans’ biggest team strengths this season (seventh in percentage), but on Monday, the Pelicans allowed Minnesota to grab 21 offensive rebounds, tied for the most by any opponent. Washington ranks ninth in total rebounding percentage, but 22nd in offensive rebounding.

BENCH HOLDING ITS OWN

Can New Orleans’ group of reserves hang with Washington’s second unit? The Wizards are eighth in the NBA in bench scoring, while the Pelicans are just 27th, but Hernangomez provided a significant boost Monday vs. Minnesota.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

It definitely will help if Graham is available to play for New Orleans, but either way, Pelicans point guards have their hands full with Dinwiddie, who took over the second half Nov. 15 and scored 27 points in the game, fueling a Wizards comeback.

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