Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: New Orleans to open preseason in Chicago

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

CHICAGO – New Orleans plans to be one of the NBA’s fastest-paced teams in 2018-19, but at the Pelicans’ first morning shootaround of the season Sunday, there was zero running up and down the court at the United Center. Condensation on the hardwood – likely partly a result of a Chicago Blackhawks preseason NHL game on Saturday night – created a slippery surface in a few spots, leading to training-camp invitee Darius Morris losing his balance and nearly falling, mere seconds after first setting foot on the court. As a result, instead of working on anything involving their transition game, the Pelicans focused on halfcourt drills and individual shooting.

Other notes from Sunday’s shootaround:

In addition to Alexis Ajinca, who likely will miss all of the preseason as he returns from knee surgeries, three other New Orleans players are on the club’s injury report. Jahlil Okafor (toe) is listed as probable, while Nikola Mirotic (Achilles) is questionable in what would be his first matchup vs. his previous NBA team (the Pelicans had already faced the Bulls twice before Mirotic was acquired last season). Darius Miller is doubtful with a left biceps strain. Expect an update from Alvin Gentry during his pregame session with the media at approximately 4:30 Central. …

Sunday’s game will mark the unofficial Pelicans debut for several players, including Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton and Frank Jackson. Randle on his objective early in preseason on his new NBA squad: “Just go out there and play, get a feel for my new teammates. I’m not putting much emphasis or stock on how things go right away. Just go out and play hard. The chemistry will come.” …

Jackson missed the entire 2017-18 campaign, so he’s still technically an NBA rookie. Jackson on getting his career started Sunday: “I’m super excited. This time last year I was watching. It was tough. I definitely learned a lot, but I’m excited about the team we have right now. I think we’re loaded at each position. I’m excited for the season.” …

Although many understandably focused on New Orleans’ up-tempo pace and the offensive performance of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday during the team’s 20-8 close to the ’17-18 regular season, the team’s defense also dramatically improved in March and April. The Pelicans and defensive-focused assistant coach Darren Erman are hoping to see more quality results this season, with several players a year more familiar with the plan and their teammates.

“We definitely have a lot of potential,” said Randle, responding to a question about the defensive pairing of Holiday and Payton. “Starting with those guys as our frontline (of the defense) and those guys getting into the ball, picking up the ball. We’ll definitely be able to switch and cause havoc on that end.”

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