Devonte' Graham drives against New York's Alec Burks

Pelicans shootaround update: Devonte’ Graham upgraded to probable, Brandon Ingram doubtful for Phoenix game

by Jim Eichenhofer

There was a mixture of potentially good and bad news on the injury front for New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon, as it prepared to face Phoenix on national TV (9 p.m. Central, TNT, 100.3 FM). The Pelicans’ updated injury list featured guard Devonte’ Graham (left adductor tightness) being upgraded to probable, after he was listed as questionable a day earlier. Meanwhile, Garrett Temple (left ankle sprain) is also probable.

On the negative side of the ledger, Brandon Ingram (right hip contusion) had his status changed to doubtful, after he had been listed as questionable on Monday’s official injury report.

Other notes:

Last season, New Orleans-Phoenix games felt a bit like a reunion, with numerous Suns personnel having spent time in the Pelicans organization, including head coach Monty Williams and veteran players Chris Paul, E’Twaun Moore and Langston Galloway. Moore and Galloway are no longer on the Phoenix roster in 2021-22, but Tuesday’s matchup in Arizona now features New Orleans’ first-year head coach returning to a previous stop.

Willie Green’s connection to Williams and Paul goes back a decade to the 2010-11 New Orleans Hornets, Williams’ first NBA head coaching job. Green is now two weeks into his own career as the Crescent City’s sideline leader. As an assistant coach last season, he helped the Suns reach the NBA Finals, the franchise’s first appearance in the title round in 28 years. He and Williams are close friends.

“It’s been great,” Green said Monday of their relationship. “Monty is like a big brother to me. We played together my rookie year in Philadelphia. He coached me here his first season in New Orleans. It’s been awesome to have a guy like Monty, who I can bounce things off of. We talk about coaching, talk about our families. Just a wealth of knowledge that I get. I’m blessed to have him in my life.”


Offensive efficiency rank: 23 (103.1)

Defensive efficiency rank: 22 (109.1)

Net rating: 25 (-6.0)

Pace: 10 (101.50)

Streak: Won 1

Go-to guy: Suns shooting guard Devin Booker joined Atlanta’s Trae Young as the two biggest breakout stars of the 2021 postseason, delivering epic offensive performances en route to Phoenix’s first conference crown since the Charles Barkley era. Booker produced two games of 40-plus points in the NBA Finals vs. Milwaukee. By the Kentucky product’s standards, he’s off to a rough shooting start to this season, at 42 percent from the field and 29 percent on threes, but he’s regularly put up big numbers vs. New Orleans (22.1 career scoring average vs. the Pelicans).

On the rise: Small forward Mikal Bridges was Phoenix’s fourth-leading scorer last season, but he’s jumped to No. 2 on the chart early in 2021-22, averaging 15.2 points. The Villanova product, a college teammate of Josh Hart, has developed into a very good three-point shooter, connecting on 43 percent of his attempts through five games. He also shot 43 percent from distance last season while appearing in all 72 regular season contests.



Saturday loss vs. New York

Devonte’ Graham, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas

Notes: This group is 0-1 and was the third different starting five used by New Orleans this season. The same combination, but with Ingram instead of Hart at forward, went 1-4. On opening night, in a home loss to the 76ers, the starting forwards were Hart and Ingram. … New Orleans is one of three West teams with only one victory. There are three West teams with exactly two wins, including Phoenix.


Saturday win vs. Cleveland

Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton

Notes: The Suns have started this group in all five games, the same quintet that spearheaded Phoenix to the 2021 Western Conference title. … Every Suns starter is averaging between 29.6 and 32.8 minutes. The club’s most used reserve is Cam Johnson at 21.0 minutes per game, followed by Landry Shamet (17.4), Cam Payne (16.5) and Elfrid Payton (16.3), the latter a former Pelicans guard.



Williamson is already sidelined, but if Ingram also can’t play in Phoenix, that’s 50-plus points of production out of the New Orleans lineup. The Pelicans need contributions from each member of their rotation to have a chance to spring an upset over the Suns.


New Orleans ranks in the bottom 10 in field-goal percentage (43.0), but one way to compensate for shooting struggles is to chase down missed shots. The Pelicans are sixth in offensive rebounding percentage, with Valanciunas grabbing 4.7 O-boards per game. However, defensive rebounding is a major Suns strength (third in NBA in percentage).


In his rookie NBA season, Jones has carved out a role in New Orleans’ starting lineup as a defensive-minded, hustling contributor (who also tallied a career-high 12 points both Friday and Saturday). For Phoenix, Bridges makes a similar impact on the defensive end, often tasked with slowing down the opponent’s most dangerous wing scorer.

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