Jrue Holiday dribbles against Dallas guard Jalen Brunson

Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Jrue Holiday probable to return against Nuggets

by Jim Eichenhofer

Through the extremely small sample size of four games, New Orleans ranks third from the bottom of the NBA in defensive efficiency, but help could be on the way as soon as this evening. Two-time NBA All-Defense selection Jrue Holiday is listed as probable to play in Thursday’s national TV game vs. the Denver Nuggets (8:30 p.m., TNT, ESPN Radio New Orleans 100.3 FM).

Alvin Gentry said after Wednesday’s practice that barring any unforeseen setbacks leading up to tip-off, the shooting guard will be back in uniform, after being sidelined for losses to Houston and Golden State. Holiday suffered a left knee sprain Friday vs. Dallas.

Other notes and injury updates from Thursday’s morning shootaround:

Having spent nearly all of his NBA career in the Northwest Division, center Derrick Favors is extremely familiar with Denver, having played 29 games against the Nuggets (Oklahoma City is the only team Favors has faced more often, with 31 total matchups). But Favors may not be able to add to that tally Thursday, because the center is listed as doubtful due to right knee soreness and did not participate in shootaround. When Favors was sidelined Monday vs. Golden State, Jahlil Okafor (12 minutes) started at center, but Jaxson Hayes ended up logging twice as many minutes (24), partly because the rookie provided a needed spark in the second half of a one-sided affair. …

Although Holiday’s presence may help, New Orleans (0-4) knows it must also play significantly better on the defensive end team-wise. Okafor noted that talking more on the court is a big piece of that improvement, particularly with the Pelicans incorporating so many new players on their roster. Okafor: “Communication is probably the biggest thing. As we were watching film, guys said they assumed this or assumed that. The way to fix that is just communicating. It’s about making a conscious effort that (a player) is going to talk. Talking as a unit. We’ve been quiet out there, and it showed the last game (vs. Golden State).” …

New Orleans also ranks No. 28 in overall rebounding percentage (via NBA.com), collecting just 46 percent of the available boards (only Indiana and Chicago are worse, at 45.2 and 45.8 percent, respectively). Some of the problems have come from opponents’ missed three-point attempts, such as the Houston game when the Rockets shot poorly from the arc but were able to track down some key long rebounds. Okafor: “We watched film and of the (offensive) rebounds we’re giving up, the effort just wasn’t there. We all know that and own up to that. We need to fix that tonight.” …

Reserve forward Nicolo Melli on what Pelicans need to do to be better at defensive rebounding (New Orleans is last in the league in percentage at 64.8): “Be a little bit more physical. Be a little bit more aware of what’s going on. Rebounding is just a matter of positioning and will.”

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