Quincy Pondexter makes instant impact in Pelicans debut

by Jim Eichenhofer

PHILADELPHIA – He finished Wednesday’s win with nine points, three three-pointers, six rebounds and three assists, but Quincy Pondexter wasn’t interested in statistics as he discussed his debut with the New Orleans Pelicans, a 105-94 victory against the Pistons.

“Who cares if I find the way in the offense?” Pondexter asked rhetorically after the game. “I don’t care about scoring, never have. I just care about winning games. As long as we’re doing that, shots will come. We’ve all got to be unselfish a little bit. That’s what I’m trying to bring to this team, making the extra pass, doing the little things and having fun.”

Pondexter’s first game as a Pelican was enjoyable for everyone in a dark blue uniform, as New Orleans won on the road for the first time since Dec. 21. The Pelicans also posted their third-biggest margin of victory away from the Big Easy in 2014-15. Pondexter, officially acquired Monday in a three-team trade, made an instant impact 48 hours later, helping New Orleans continue to solidify its rotation. A question mark early in the regular season, the Pelicans have beefed up their small-forward position markedly by adding Pondexter and Dante Cunningham (Dec. 4 free-agent signing).

“I thought (Pondexter’s) defense on (Detroit guards Brandon) Jennings and (Jodie) Meeks was really good,” New Orleans Coach Monty Williams said. “He just understands how to move his feet. He understands concepts. He and Dante give us a bit of an edge at that spot.”

Despite having only one practice and one shootaround under his belt, the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder enjoyed a smooth transition into New Orleans’ second unit, drawing praise from teammates for his reliability at both ends of the floor. Although he’s only in his fifth NBA season, Pondexter has the third-most playoff experience on the Pelicans’ roster, having played a total of 25 postseason games (22 with Memphis, three as a New Orleans Hornets rookie in 2010-11).

“He’s fun to have on the floor because he talks (defensively) and he’s a veteran,” Pelicans guard Eric Gordon said. “He will definitely help us down the line. It’s good to have a veteran like him who’s been on a winning team and talks like that.”

 “He’s a great all-around player, can move the ball, penetrate, shoot the ball obviously and he defends,” said Cunningham, who played one season with Pondexter in Memphis. “(Having) another player like that is going to make our team better.”

Following the win over Detroit, Pondexter was eager to take advantage of more preparation time, including Thursday’s practice at Temple University. The Pelicans, who practiced without Jrue Holiday (questionable, right ankle inflammation) and Anthony Davis (questionable, left toe sprain), visit the Philadelphia 76ers at 6 p.m. Central on Friday.

“There are some things I’ve got to improve, but at the same time it was pretty seamless,” Pondexter said of quickly being called upon to play by his new team. “I had a lot of fun out there and I’m looking forward to the next one already. I’m looking forward to getting to practice and getting to know these guys… I’ve got to be our best defensive player night in and night out. So I have to get in a lot of film hours, learn the tendencies, learn the calls and learn what the strengths and weaknesses of players are, and continue to be a leader. That’s what I came here to do.”

Pondexter’s chief objective is to help the Pelicans reach the playoffs, something the California native has done every year of his NBA career. New Orleans (19-19) is 2.5 games behind eighth-place Phoenix in the Western Conference standings.

“I’ve seen what it takes on good teams,” he said. “I see so much potential in these guys. I see that we can be a playoff team. Doing the little things and giving yourself up for the team is all that matters.”