Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Rebounding an area of focus for New Orleans vs. Cleveland

Cleveland may be entering Friday’s lone visit of the season to New Orleans sporting a 17-41 record, but the Cavaliers have gone 3-1 under their new head coach and are elite in at least one category: rebounding. The Central Division team is ranked No. 1 in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage (29.9) and is fourth in overall percentage (51.4). Those season-long numbers are even more impressive when you consider that the Cavs only recently traded for the league’s best individual boardman in center Andre Drummond, who’s only played five games for them.

Drummond has already been ruled out of Friday’s game due to a calf injury, but even with him sidelined, New Orleans (25-33) is placing an emphasis on trying to be as effective as possible on the glass. In a Jan. 28 matchup vs. New Orleans, the Cavaliers hung around into the second half partly due to a 46-41 rebounding edge, including grabbing 14 offensive rebounds (Tristan Thompson collected five).

“It’s definitely one of the keys for tonight,” point guard Lonzo Ball said. “We know they are one of the best rebounding teams, especially offensive rebounds. (An emphasis is on) just blocking out guys and getting to the ball faster than other people can.”

“That’s a focus every single night,” forward Brandon Ingram said. ��Rebounding helps start our (fast) break in transition. It helps us get in our offense. That’s the key for tonight, going into the game.”

Other notes from Friday morning shootaround:

Speaking of New Orleans’ offense, the Pelicans are fourth in the NBA in offensive rating (114.9 points per 100 possessions, via NBA.com) since Christmas, making them a significant challenge for a mostly young Cleveland squad that is 29th over the same timeframe in defensive rating (115.6). The Pelicans are third in assist percentage over the past two months, at 65.8.

“We’re just trying to find the best shot on the floor,” Ingram said of the team’s approach. “Driving, penetrating, kicking out to open threes. It’s fun basketball.”

“We finally started playing together – the whole team is pretty much back now,” Ball said, alluding to early-season absences by starters Derrick Favors and Zion Williamson. “The chemistry is getting better and better every game. Guys know where each other are going to be.” …

Since taking over at head coach during the All-Star break, Cleveland’s J.B. Bickerstaff has led the Cavs to wins over Washington, Miami and Philadelphia (his only loss was at Miami).

After being asked what has appeared different about Cleveland on the court lately, Ball said, “It looks like they’re having more fun, for sure. Guys are getting into their spots a lot quicker than they had been in the past.” …

Ball on what the Pelicans are trying to do that is leading to a very effective offense: “Find the hot hand, find the open man. Those are two things we have to do. Especially with a lot of guys who are capable of scoring, like we have on our team.”