Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: NOLA lineups to have different look vs. Heat

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

MIAMI – A few key players were added to the roster this summer, but the New Orleans starting lineup has been very predictable through three games of preseason so far. Elfrid Payton and Jrue Holiday were the guards, Anthony Davis and E’Twaun Moore represented two-thirds of the frontcourt, and either Julius Randle (first two games) or Nikola Mirotic (third game at New York) filled the fifth slot.

Wednesday’s exhibition tilt at AmericanAirlines Arena will dramatically alter that script, however, because Alvin Gentry told the media Tuesday that Holiday, Davis and Moore won’t play against the Heat. As a result, there will be at least two first-time-in-preseason New Orleans starters on the floor, with the Pelicans (0-3) also having the option of pairing Randle and Mirotic for the first time (Randle missed Friday’s game at New York, while Mirotic didn’t play in last week’s trip to Chicago and Atlanta).

Randle is returning to game action in Miami from a bruised tailbone, the result of a nasty fall to the floor he took in Atlanta while being fouled.

“Just constant stretching, treatment, ice, all that type of stuff,” Randle said this morning in Florida of his recovery from the injury nine days ago.


Other notes from Wednesday’s shootaround on the Heat’s home floor:

Randle on playing in a preseason game with Mirotic for the first time tonight: “I’m excited. Niko is an unselfish player, he can really shoot the ball, really knows how to play. It will be fun to play off each other and get reps playing with each other.” …

Thursday’s game vs. Toronto was described as a “dress rehearsal” by Gentry yesterday. It will be a final chance to look at what the Pelicans’ regular rotation may look like, while facing another NBA team. Randle on how the starting group gelled in the first two games he played: “It’s been great. The pace of play, we’re really active and long on the defensive end. Everything was coming in a flow.” …

Jahlil Okafor (ankle sprain in Sept. 30 game at Chicago) is getting closer to a return to action, but he won’t play tonight in Miami. The center said at shootaround that he doesn’t want to put an exact target date on returning, but has been encouraged by his recent improvements.

“I’ve made a lot of progress over the past week and a half,” Okafor said. “We’ll see how I feel tomorrow. I’m trying to get out there as soon as possible and be able to play.” …

Randle on the Pelicans’ main objectives during this Wednesday/Thursday back-to-back, which will precede several days of practices and Game 1 of the regular season Oct. 17 in Houston: “Just getting our rotations and be sharp going into the 17th. As far as offensively, there are still things we can get better at. Defensively just (focus on) our rotations and individual defense, rebounding.”