Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: New Orleans prepares for ‘big test’ in Boston

by Jim Eichenhofer

BOSTON – Local reporters wanted to discuss just about anything besides Tuesday’s New Orleans-Boston game with Pelicans forward Anthony Davis during shootaround this morning, but the 24-year-old wasn’t interested. Asked a speculative question about fan interest in Davis, the four-time All-Star politely changed the subject, saying, “We’ve got a big one tonight. It’s a great Celtics team. Kyrie (Irving), Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al (Horford). It’s a lot of isolation basketball, so we have to load up defensively and talk. We have to come ready to play tonight.”

Coming off two straight weekend wins over Portland and New York, New Orleans (22-20) faces one of its most daunting challenges on its January schedule, going up against Boston (34-10), which is 18-5 in TD Garden. Despite losing marquee free-agent pickup Gordon Hayward to injury only a few minutes into the regular season, the Celtics have the NBA’s second-best record, behind only Golden State (36-9).

“They’ve been playing very well, especially starting the season,” Davis said. “Everyone thought they were going to slip when Gordon went down, but they kind of picked it up. When one of your star guys goes out, guys have to step up and make plays. They’ve been doing that all year.”

Davis said Sunday’s comeback win at New York was “good for our confidence as a team, especially coming into a game like tonight, the No. 1 team in the (East), they’ve won seven straight. It’s going to be a big test for us.”

Other notes from shootaround in Massachusetts:

Davis on Rajon Rondo, former NBA champion in 2008 with Boston: “He’s a great point guard. He sees the floor very well. He’s always a leader on the floor, coaching us, making sure we’re in the right spots. He’s been doing some great things for us. He’s helped me out a ton. I like having him, for sure.” …

Davis on DeMarcus Cousins: “He’s a great player. He commands so much attention on the floor. He has the ability to pass the ball, shoot it, take it off the dribble. When he’s going into his move, I try to find a spot on the floor where he can see me, in case he has to (pass). Being able to play with him for almost a whole season has been pretty cool.” …

Surrounded by several familiar faces to him in the Boston media, Rondo said of Tuesday’s visit to his old stomping grounds that “it’s home, but it’s still a road game. I come here to win. Anything else is irrelevant at this point.” …

One of the more impressive aspects of Boston’s 34-10 start is that it nearly completely overturned its roster personnel in the offseason. Certainly it helps when one of the acquisitions was the ultra-talented Irving, but the Celtics seemed to quickly gel and become a cohesive unit. Boston is leading the NBA in defensive efficiency.

“It’s completely different,” Rondo said of a Celtics team he faced in Round 1 of the playoff last spring while playing for Chicago. “Kind of the same style, but for the most part guys’ tendencies are different. Horford, (Marcus) Smart and (Terry) Rozier were here, but other than that, the roster is a little bit shaken up. Nevertheless, they’re pretty successful right now.” …

Rondo on it being 10 years since he won an NBA title in Boston: “I’m looking for another one. It’s been a long time. I’ve got a 19-year-old rookie (Frank Jackson) on my team; he was in middle school, so it’s kind of funny.”