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Transcript: Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry media availability - July 28, 2020
On the Pelicans’ practice tonight and how much Zion Williamson participated:
"He did some light stuff. We had some three-on-zero things, and then five-on-zero things up and down [the court]. From a physical standpoint, he didn't get involved in any of the five-on-five stuff. We have another practice again tomorrow, and we'll see where he is."
On what goes into the process of Zion Williamson being cleared to play on Thursday:
"I think it's a combination of both: it's how he feels, but it's also the medical staff too. The medical staff will have to evaluate and see where he is, and see (if) it make sense for him to go out and play."
On the overall effect of having Zion Williamson back at practice:
"He's well-liked by his teammates, and obviously he likes being around his teammates. Just to have him back in the gym, I think, is a real positive. It's a lift in energy anyway when he's in the building. It's just a matter, like I said, of us figuring out where he is from a basketball standpoint. It's been a little while since he's done things on the court, but he was able to do some five-on-zero things today. We'll just have to see where that leads too."
On the Pelicans performance in last night's scrimmage and if the effort displayed can carry over to the regular-season games ahead:
"Well, I hope that it is. I mean, it's just basketball. You can say whatever you want, but it's just basketball. We played against a team that is a very good basketball team. They played their guys the majority of the time, almost as a rotation. We played our guys in a rotation form. I thought we did a good job defensively. [With] that being said, Giannis (Antetokounmpo) still ended up with 25 points, but I thought we were good against them…as good as you can be considering the circumstances. I thought offensively, we did exactly what we set out to do. We talked about the way they play defense and what they take away. You're going to have to make some three-point shots, and we shot over 40 of them. Our goal was to shoot 40 [three-pointers]. I thought we played well and did a good job. I thought the last crew that we had in there, the young guys and a couple of vet guys, did a good job of closing out the game – the last 12 minutes – because our starters didn't play at all the last 12 minutes."
On if the decision to play Zion Williamson on Thursday is difficult if he is cleared by the Pelicans medical staff:
"It really isn't a tough decision, guys. If he's ready to play, he'll play, and if he's not, we won't play him. You're not going to risk anything long term for something very, very short term. We'll see and evaluate tomorrow where he is. The medical people will [evaluate him], and so will Zion. Zion will tell us how he feels, and then from there, we'll go and see and make decisions based on what is best for him and what is best for our team."
On the pressure to make a playoff push while maintaining long term success for both the players and the franchise:
"Well, I think as competitors you want to make that push. That was our whole goal when we started the season: to be in the playoffs. Anybody that follows our team understood that we went through a stretch when we lost 13 consecutive games, but we all kind of – the biggest thing was that we stood together. We stayed together, and we said that we still felt that we have an opportunity to make a run at the playoffs, and we did. We played some good basketball. Obviously when we got Zion (Williamson), he was a big lift for us from the standpoint of what he brings to the team and all of those things like that.
Our goal is to make the playoffs, but we're not going to do anything ridiculous. We're not going to make crazy decisions based on trying to make a playoff run. We're going to do it the best way we possibly can. We're going to manage our team the best way we possibly can. We know that we have a bright future, so we won't risk anything based on that."
On if the Pelicans are ready to resume regular-season play with or without Zion Williamson:
"Obviously, guys, we would love to have Zion [back and ready to play Thursday]. Let's be honest, he's one of those generational players that can do a lot of things, and we would like to have him [on the court], but if he's not there, we did play 44 games without him and had some success. We had a stretch in there where we were 12-4, so you’ve just got to look at it that way. Injuries are a part of the game. Sometimes there are other situations where it doesn't involve an injury. It may be a matter like he had, a family matter. He gets back here, [and] you're not going to do anything crazy as far as pushing him over the edge, but you want to know that he feels good about it and your medical team feels good about it. Then we make decisions based on that."
On the Pelicans’ defensive development and the small scheme changes that were made:
"Well, we did. We just made a couple of things. We talk to Jeff (Bzdelik) every day. We talked about a couple of things that he initiated that we may want to change, and we did. We think it's going to help because it gives us an opportunity to take some of the guessing out of some of the things that we were doing. I just feel like the guys are locked in. Obviously, from a defensive standpoint we’ve got to be good on that side of the basketball because I think offensively, we're pretty good. The way that coach (Chris) Finch has us playing and the way that our offense is spread out, we feel pretty good about that. But in order to be a playoff team or make a run at being a playoff team, you're going to have to be solid defensively."
On the importance of playing five-on-five in practice and if that helped get the team ready for the upcoming regular-season games:
"Well, we like to play five-on-five because we think that that's the way the game should be played, so we don't do a ton of drills in practice. Usually, when we do, they're five-on-five drills also. We just feel like doing that and learning on the fly is better than doing a ton of drills. It's just our philosophy. People approach it differently, other coaches do. But we like getting out, and we feel like you can find out if you have (your) basketball legs under you from playing five-on-five, so we get up and down the court quite a bit."