Jrue Holiday takes a shot over Clint Capela during a March game

Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Alvin Gentry says Nikola Mirotic will start vs. Rockets

by Jim Eichenhofer

HOUSTON – New Orleans is expected to have at least two different versions of its starting lineup this season, potentially rotating between Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle at one spot, with the other four slots seemingly set, at least for now. Based on Alvin Gentry’s comments after Tuesday practice, In the Pelicans’ regular season opener Wednesday at the Toyota Center, it appears that Mirotic will be with the first string. Mirotic will join Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore and Anthony Davis – with Randle coming off the bench. That was also the case during Thursday’s preseason finale vs. Toronto, after Randle had started in each of his three previous exhibition appearances.

Other notes after shootaround, as the Pelicans prepared to begin the 17th season in franchise history:

Gentry on the unenviable task of facing Houston (65-17) to begin the 82-game slate: “We’re obviously going into territory where this was arguably the best team in the league, at least in the regular season.” …

Wesley Johnson isn’t expected to be available to play tonight, but he joined the team in Houston for shootaround. Gentry said Tuesday he would “be shocked” if Johnson is in uniform; the club’s next game is Friday vs. Sacramento.

Gentry on what Johnson brings to a team: “He’s a really good defender. He’s a guy that can shoot the basketball. He’s been a little inconsistent with his shot, but he’s capable of making them in bunches when he’s feeling good about his shot. This gives us a long perimeter defender, another one we can use.

“He’s a long guy, can move his feet and is pretty good at keeping the ball in front of him. Those kinds of guys, the way the league is going, being a hybrid player (is helpful).” …

Johnson, describing what he brings to the Pelicans: “My length and athleticism, being able to shoot, guard multiple positions. High energy. I fit right in with these guys and look forward to it.” ...

New Orleans’ rotation is not entirely solidified yet, according to Gentry. “It’s up in the air a little bit,” he said. “We have some positions we feel are very solid. We’re still going to have to search and find out about a few guys, if they’re rotation players. We’ll still have to find some things out as we go along the way.” …

Gentry noted that it’s uncertain whether Jahlil Okafor (ankle) will be available to play tonight. Okafor has been trying to get back on the court since a Sept. 30 injury during the preseason opener at Chicago.

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