Southwest Notes: Pelicans Future, Spurs, Tucker, Grizzlies

The recent death of owner Tom Benson could eventually result in the Pelicans franchise leaving New Orleans, Tom Ziller of SB Nation discusses in a detailed column. The Pelicans signed a lease six years ago to stay in New Orleans until 2024, but it’s still possible that the franchise could try to break that lease.

Even if Benson’s widow Gayle decides against that, the team’s current arena is 19 years old and will require major renovations if it’s not replaced altogether, Ziller notes. Should the team struggle to get funding for a building upgrade, it could grease the skids for a move, Ziller adds.

In other developments around the Southwest Division:

  • The adversity that the Spurs have faced this season has brought the team closer together, coach Gregg Popovich told the media, including ESPN’s Michael C. Wright. The reserves have received more opportunities to play and team members are pulling for one another, according to Popovich. “It’s rewarding to see guys react to the minutes that they’re getting; some of these young guys that haven’t played much,” he said. “The way they reach out to each other and stay good teammates while the lineups have constantly changed, they’ve shown a lot of empathy and patience with each other in that regard. And I think that has allowed them to keep their heads up.”
  • Rockets forward P.J. Tucker has never been named to the All-Defensive team and coach Mike D’Antoni believes that should change this season. “It doesn’t get much better than him,” D’Antoni told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The Rockets’ defense ranks third in the league since Tucker became a starter, Feigen notes.
  • Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace will be looking for better shooters during the offseason, as he told Michael Wallace from the team’s website during a Q&A session. Asked about the upcoming draft, Wallace spoke in general terms about what type of players he’d target. “As far as our team need, you can always use outside shooting in the NBA of 2018,” he said. “It’s such a premium placed on the three-point shot, you can never have enough guys who can shoot the three. We also have to get more and more athletic.”
  • Mavs guard Dennis Smith Jr. will miss at least the next two games with an ankle sprain, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. The team will play it safe with its star rookie but have no plans to shut him down. “He’s going to be out for a while, but it’s not serious,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
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