Daniel Sallerson:What’s going on? Welcome into the Thursday edition of the Pelicans Podcast presented by SeatGeek, I’m Daniel Sallerson. We had a great podcast yesterday with Saints and Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson, and joining me today…a very special guest. It’s Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin. Hello David, how are you holding up?
David Griffin:Really well, Daniel, thank you very much and hope you guys are doing well, as well.
Sallerson:We’re doing OK, David. So far everyone is getting adjusted to this new norm of working from home, and I know it is different for everyone. But how has it been for you, working from home from a basketball operations standpoint, balancing family and work? How has that been going so far for you?
Griffin:You know, not bad actually. So, the league just closed the practice facilities last Thursday I believe it was. And, until then we have had a really good situation in place with our guys. We had incredible turnout. All the voluntary workouts that we were doing, we were able to do. One player per basket, one coach per basket. Aaron Nelson and Tom Maystadt and their staff were doing a great job in the training room and in the weight room with Jason Sumerlin and Stan Williams. We were really fortunate that we had good turnout and the structure of the situation, the flow in the building was really good. Then when the league shut everything down on Thursday, it sort of changed things for us rather abruptly. So, I guess I would say I haven’t had to really learn a new normal yet. But, things are coming along very well and I think our guys are in a great space. We’ve checked in with them daily and all 17 of our players that were in town yesterday, reported they were doing well. So, that’s good.
Sallerson:Absolutely, great to hear. You preach family all the time. When we go into the facility, you interact with so many people, I know that must be tough. So, how has it been communicating with your ‘family’ through phone, email, and through video conferencing?
Griffin:Good, good. We’ve been really fortunate. My mom is in Phoenix. My father and his second wife are in Phoenix. So, I’m able to keep up with them by phone and it’s been good in terms of the timing of all of this. So, we’ve been blessed, I really can’t complain about anything.
Sallerson:As far as your communication with players, is it just about checking in just making sure their OK? How has that been, as far as making sure everyone with the Pelicans organization is good and being taken care of?
Griffin:Good. I think from a basketball operations perspective, we’ve been able to stay pretty close together. We have various different channels on Slack that we use and things that we’ve got built into text groups and things of that nature. Jenna Rosen, who is our clinical psychologist we brought in to be in charge of player wellness this previous off-season – she’s been really central to all of that for us, from a staff standpoint. Gets together twice a day with everybody to do mindfulness and meditation and we’d be lost without Jenna in that space for sure.
Sallerson:Now I know it’s not basketball 24/7. So, you are at home as everyone here in New Orleans and the state of Louisiana is told to stay home. So, how do you keep yourself and your family occupied during this time? What are some of the things besides keeping up with your team that you like to do to enjoy yourself?
Griffin:Well, family game nights have certainly been something we do. I have to say that my wife, Meredith, is so competitive that’s not always a whole lot of fun. But that’s been part of the plan. We’ve been fortunate we’re able to go to the park with our dog and spend time doing that. Read books and get caught up on some basketball games and some things we wanted to see previously as well. So, that’s good.
Sallerson:What kind of board games are we playing? What’s the most competitive board game that you all are playing, right now?
Griffin:Well, the most competitive game that we play is Monopoly but, that’s only competitive because I’m not allowed to buy yellows or the railroads.
Sallerson:Why is that?
Griffin:Those belong to Meredith apparently. Nobody else can have those. It’s been fun to kind of navigate that whole experience, and again there’s lots of different things you can get caught up with from a binge viewing standpoint as well. Meredith and I are big ‘Voice’ fans, so we got caught up on the season to this point so far as well.
Sallerson:I was about to say, go to the shows or movies, which ones do you kind of watch right now? I know you mentioned ‘The Voice’. Are there any movies you’re trying to catch up on or any shows that your bingeing, right now that maybe some other people that are listening to this podcast may start based on what you guys are watching?
Griffin:No, I’m not going to be very useful to anybody, from a binge-watching standpoint. But, I can tell you we’ve done some movies…nothing I would really recommend. I am proud to say we made it through all three hours and 40 minutes, or whatever it is, of ‘The Irishman’. But, other than that I can’t give a lot of recommendations right now based on what we’ve seen. We’ve watched an awful lot of ‘passing the time’ type shows.
Sallerson:Another thing that you all have been able to do, and I think the Pelicans and Fox Sports New Orleans, and you guys have done a great job, even the digital team, is these “Pelicans Playbacks.” I have enjoyed them, not only just re-watching some of these games and also the thing that you appeared on, with Jen (Hale), with Pelicans Playback, and Trajan Langdon, and Swin Cash last night. What’s been the best part about just being able to do that and kind of relive some of the greater moments of the season for you guys?
Griffin:Well, I think so far, the games we’ve done have been interesting because I probably wouldn’t have selected them as the games we would have replayed, because they weren’t moments that stood out to me. And, what ended up happening was, I watch those now and realize all the incredible things that happened at that point, particularly once we hit the Christmas trip. That road trip really changed everything for us from a basketball perspective. We had a level of buy-in and connectedness, beholdenness to one another on a part of the players that was really evident. So, going back to the Christmas Day game against Denver, by way of example, was really revealing in that way. The game we played that Trajan did the Pre-Game show against the Pacers...that was a really, really complete effort on our part. While it was a strange game to use because it was a 20-point blowout in the fourth quarter, it showed an awful lot of where we had grown and the improvements we had made. So, it’s been fun for me because it hasn’t just been about big highlights or big statistical moments but, it’s been real landmark games that were sort of watershed moments for our development as a team.
Sallerson:Has that been encouraging for you when watching these games, as far as, this team it feels like has won in so many different ways. Whether it’s come from behind wins, whether it’s game-winning shots, whether it’s being shorthanded, whether it’s…you know, so many things, blowout wins. Has it been encouraging to see that your team, being such a young team, has found so many different ways to win ball games this season?
Griffin:Well, I think the thing that was really encouraging about our group was we were really tight-knit throughout the season. Even when we weren’t able to get over the hump, even when we went through a very long losing streak the guys stayed together. They weren’t pointing fingers and blaming each other and I think that’s one of the things that, when you’re struggling as a team your character on the whole is going to reveal itself in adversity. And, I was really pleased with our character when adversity hit: how we dealt with it, how we decided to bond together and come together and play for each other. And, once we got healthy and had the ability to put a representative lineup out there and our coaches were able to have the rim protection they needed when Derrick Favors came back, by way of example, things changed pretty dramatically because we have such good character and players that want to be about each other. When the snowball starts to move in a positive direction, it moves very quickly. Unfortunately we were in a situation in the beginning of the year where we really didn’t have enough veteran presence and leadership – opposite JJ Redick, from a vocal standpoint – to really be the dam, as it were to keep it from going overly negative. Once all the injuries hit then there was nothing Jrue (Holiday) and JJ could do. It was tough from an injury perspective early on, and I’m just proud of the way we bounced back.
Sallerson:Speaking of JJ, we are putting together radio highlights and some of our re-airing of games on our flagship station and you know, we’re coming up on the Kings one that we will re-broadcast this week. The JJ Redick game-winner with a little floater there – the underneath floater from JJ. Is there a favorite game for you so far, or one your looking forward to watching or just because there are so many great moments that it’s really hard to kind of pick one?
Griffin:No, you know, I don’t think there is one for me that stands out as being better than another. There are some wins that you look at and think those are impressive wins. But for the most part I look at our season and I just see such constant growth, and that’s the thing that excites me the most is that as we’ve learned how to integrate Zion (Williamson) into the flow of the offense and as he’s gotten in better shape as he’s started to sort of find himself, the way we’re all working together and seamlessly working with a ball dominant presence that good says an awful lot about Lonzo (Ball) and about Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday and what their mindset is. They’re about the right things and I think because of that we’ve been able to progress rather quickly. So, it certainly makes you hope that when we do come back – and I believe that will happen – that we can pick up where we left off, because the image that we’ve created for ourselves of late is certainly the image we wanted fans to be left with. It’s what we wanted people to think of us as and we wanted to play meaningful games in March and April. Now, unfortunately because of what’s happened in this horrific pandemic, I think we’ll probably end up playing meaningful games in June and July, and that’s okay too. We just want to leave people with the right impression of who we are. Certainly, I think Josh Hart has been a big part of that as well. He’s showing the level of desire and passion on both sides of the ball that matters for us and sort of leading us emotionally in that way.
Sallerson:Well, we are very lucky to have such great guys on and off the court and lucky to have you as our leader, David, through this tough time. Whether you’re interacting on Twitter, on the Pelicans Playback, it’s been certainly fun to relive some of these games as we move forward here and kind of take the time to kind of reflect on some of the things going on right now. David, I really appreciate your time today and we hope to talk to you again soon.
Griffin:Thank you so much, Daniel. I enjoyed it.