Nickeil Alexander-Walker scans the defense at Atlanta

Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Nickeil Alexander-Walker impresses through two preseason games

by Jim Eichenhofer

New Orleans is teeming with talented backcourt options, including a handful of veteran NBA guards possessing significantly more pro experience than he does. As a result, Nickeil Alexander-Walker was the 13th and 11th Pelicans player to enter the game, respectively, in wins at Atlanta and Chicago. The Virginia Tech product also did not appear until the third quarter of either contest. That didn’t stop him from being exceptionally productive.

The No. 17 overall pick from June’s draft has averaged 12.5 points and is 5/13 from three-point range, including draining a tying trey in the final two minutes of a 127-125 comeback victory over the Bulls. Afterward, he even had the presence of mind to include the franchise’s marketing slogan during the answer to a postgame radio question about what the Pelicans showed in rallying from a huge fourth-quarter deficit.

“Exactly what we go by, our identity – Won’t Bow Down,” the 21-year-old said. “That’s living proof of it right there. Down (23), to a good team, we found a way to pull it out.”

Alexander-Walker’s maturity and steady play on the court have already made an impression on some of his older Pelicans teammates, including guard Jrue Holiday (who will not play Friday due to a left quad contusion).

“I love him. I’ve loved him since summer league,” Holiday said of Alexander-Walker’s play. “He’s going to be good. He’s definitely somebody this league should watch out for.”

Holiday noted that the rookie’s intangibles have all been pluses as he begins his NBA career in the Crescent City.

“His character,” Holiday noted. “How calm he is at all times, no matter when he steps on the court. He doesn’t get rattled. It doesn’t matter who he’s playing against – he plays his game the same way. I know as a young guy coming in, going against some of the best players in the world, you start to think (too much) and speed up, and do whatever, but he always keeps his cool and I like that about him.”

Other notes from Friday’s shootaround:

Jahlil Okafor is questionable with a right knee contusion. Okafor has been excellent in preseason, shooting 9/11 from the field and averaging 12.0 points in roughly 16 minutes per game.

Holiday on Nicolo Melli’s traits that he brings to the Pelicans: “Toughness. The way you play in Europe is completely different from here. Super smart, really easy player to play with. The way he sets screens, the way he gets players open, and he can shoot. It makes it a lot easier for everybody.” …

Zion Williamson shot 12/13 from the field in Wednesday’s come-from-behind win at Chicago. Holiday on Williamson’s knack for getting to the basket: “There are only a couple guys I’ve seen do that. One is Tony Parker, but (Parker) is like a whole foot smaller than (Williamson). To be able to get into the paint as easily as he does, I don’t think people know that he’s as quick or agile as he is, especially for his size. Once he gets around the rim, he’s probably not missing.”

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