Pelicans Rumors

No Back-To-Backs For Zion Williamson

The Pelicans plan to be very careful with injured rookie Zion Williamson when he’s ready to start playing, writes Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said Williamson’s condition will be closely monitored and he won’t be used in back-to-back situations.

“He very likely will not be asked to take the pounding of back-to-backs initially,” Griffin said in an appearance on the team’s TV broadcast. “There will be a sort of ramp-up for him to getting back to where you would call him full strength, but he’s certainly going to be playing, and we’re trying to win basketball games. And quite frankly, we’ve done a horrible job of that.”

New Orleans is off to a 6-16 start without Williamson, who continues to recover from a meniscus injury he suffered in the preseason. He was originally projected to miss six to eight weeks, and while the team expects him back soon, he won’t meet that timetable. He has progressed to the point that he can handle some basketball activity, such as light walk-throughs and spot shooting.

Williamson was spectacular in the preseason, averaging 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per night and shooting 71.4% from the field. He suffered the injury in an October 13 game and underwent surgery eight days later.

Griffin is confident that the organization is making the right decision by allowing its star rookie to take his recovery slowly.

“Where we may be failing in terms of the short term, I’m very confident that we’re succeeding over the breadth of what we’re trying to do, which is build a sustainable winner,” he said. “And we’re well on our way to that, despite the current record.”

Latest On Zion Williamson’s Recovery

Zion Williamson‘s NBA regular season debut is getting closer, but it’s still not imminent.

According to Kristen Ledlow of TNT (Twitter link), the Pelicans‘ much-hyped rookie “turned a corner” in his rehab process, but the club continues to err on the side of caution. As such, Williamson’s return will “definitely” come outside the initial six-to-eight-week window provided by the Pels.

A source tells Andrew Lopez of ESPN that Williamson has begun doing some on-court work, including “light walkthroughs” with the team, as well as spot shooting. In addition to needing to ramp up that on-court work and begin taking contact, the No. 1 overall pick will also have to reach certain conditioning benchmarks before he makes his debut, Lopez writes.

The Pelicans announced Williamson’s original six-to-eight-week timetable back on October 21, so the eight-week mark would fall on December 16. It’s safe to say we won’t see Williamson on the court before then, which means his earliest possible target date would be on December 17, when the Pelicans host Brooklyn.

There’s certainly no guarantee that Williamson will be back for that game against the Nets, but if he can make it back during that following week, it’d be good news for NBA fans. The Pelicans are participating in one of the NBA’s five Christmas Day games this year, and a healthy Zion would make that matchup vs. Denver a whole lot more interesting.

Andre Iguodala Tabs Jrue Holiday As League's Top Defender

  • Andre Iguodala, one of the league’s all-time great defenders, has tabbed Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday as the best defensive player in the NBA today. “Best defender in the league… @Jrue_Holiday11”, Iguodala wrote on social media. Holiday is consistently mentioned as one of the toughest defenders in the NBA, with the 29-year-old making the All-Defensive Second Team in 2019 and All-Defensive First Team in 2018.

Nets Notes: Irving, Temple, Shumpert, Allen

Kyrie Irving is developing into the team leader in Brooklyn that the Celtics hoped he would be last year, according to Michael Scotto of Bleacher Report. Irving frequently strategizes with Nets coach Kenny Atkinson during games and has taken a proactive approach in helping his teammates improve. Although he has missed the last eight games with a shoulder impingement, Irving has made a difference on the court as well. He’s averaging a career best 28.5 points and 7.2 assists per game and is leading all NBA players in “clutch” points.

Veteran Garrett Temple knew Irving was special, which is why he chose to sign with Brooklyn when he had numerous other offers. Sources tell Scotto that the Nuggets, Wizards, Cavaliers and Pelicans all expressed interest in Temple.

“Any time you go to a different team, and you don’t get traded there and choose to go to a different team when you’re a star, you have a chance to not right wrongs but become the person that you want to be,” Temple said. “It’s kind of a clean slate. The league is kind of a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of league anyway. Kyrie comes here, and if he’s the person I’ve seen the last four weeks, then all of those pundits are going to change their tune because he’s been here since Labor Day, we’ve been working out, and he’s been a great leader. He hasn’t tried to show up any young guys. He’s been a hard worker doing his thing, and when you win, it cures a lot of ills too. He said he failed as a leader. He’s going to try to change that, and he recognizes that.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • Atkinson said Irving has been able to begin “on-court work,” tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Although Irving has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game, Atkinson calls it a positive step toward his eventual return.
  • Brooklyn will face a difficult roster decision when Wilson Chandler returns on December 15, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The Nets signed Iman Shumpert when they were permitted to temporarily add a 16th player after Chandler served the first five games of his 25-game ban. Shumpert has played well, which means Brooklyn may decide to unload someone else to make room for Chandler.
  • Jarrett Allen has improved nearly every part of his game in his third NBA season, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Allen is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds and leading the league in field goal percentage, but free throws remain a problem. Lewis suggests that Allen can learn from free agent addition DeAndre Jordan, who has steadily improved after starting his career as a poor shooter from the line.

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Davis, Griffin, Gentry

Excitement is building in New Orleans for the debut of Zion Williamson, even though a target date hasn’t been set, writes Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The top pick in this year’s draft is recovering from meniscus surgery, and a return before Christmas is still considered possible. He is able to do partial, weight-bearing workouts, but hasn’t been cleared to take contact.

“He’s dying to be back out here,” Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said. “He’s taking his rehab very, very serious. He’s chomping on the bit. We’d love to have him out there because he is a game-changer. Who wouldn’t want him out there? … It’s been tough for him only to be able to play in the preseason and not play now. He’s going to be special regardless because he is a team-first guy. And team-first guys seem to succeed in this league and have an impact on their team.”

The Pelicans are expecting Williamson to contribute right away when he does return. After a 6-12 start marked by a long string of injuries, executive vice president David Griffin said the team needs Williamson’s “energy” and “unbridled joy” for the game.

“He’s a monster,” Jrue Holiday added. “Having Zion has been really cool. He definitely surprised me professionally. Obviously, coming from college at 19, he is a little kid at heart. But the way he handles it is like an ultimate professional.”

There’s more from New Orleans, all from Spears:

  • Former Pelicans star and fellow No. 1 pick Anthony Davis met with Williamson when the Lakers traveled to New Orleans this week. Davis could have been Zion’s teammate, but didn’t back off from his trade request after the Pelicans won the draft lottery. “I told him to get healthy,” Davis said. “Obviously, they’re waiting on his return and they’re trying to hold on until he gets back.”
  • Gentry cites “a change of culture” since Griffin was hired to run the organization in April. The move was part of a front office overhaul that included adding Trajan Langdon as general manager and former WNBA star Swin Cash as vice president of basketball operations and team development. “The players know that everything is first class,” Gentry said. “Not that it hadn’t been before. But just the overall feeling and overall environment in a more positive way.”
  • One change that wasn’t made was on the bench, where Gentry was retained despite a 33-49 record last season and a 145-183 mark in his first four years in New Orleans. Griffin had previous experience with Gentry in Phoenix and is confident that he can eventually produce a winner. “Everybody says, ‘Why didn’t you start over with a new coach?’ ” Griffin said. “‘Well, I don’t know a lot of other coaches that I went to the conference finals with, with a roster similar to this.’ The fearless Alvin that coached the 2010 Suns to the conference finals is a different animal than he was able to be here. My job is to get to channel as much of that person as I can because that was a masterful job that I watched him do.”

Lakers Notes: Kuzma, Ingram, Davis

Kyle Kuzma continues to search for his fit on this year’s Lakers, as Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes.

“It’s tough sometimes, but you just have to be positive, have an even-keeled mindset. But that’s easier said than done,” Kuzma said. “It’s something I’ve got to kind of figure out. But it isn’t anything I can’t handle.”

Kuzma has scored 10 or fewer points in half of the 14 games he’s played this season. In 70 games last season, he scored 10 or fewer just seven times as well.

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Brandon Ingram spoke with Mark Medina of USA Today about the environment in Los Angeles last season. “The team was a little rattled. Coming in every day, it wasn’t always good,” Ingram said. “It wasn’t always good energy.” The former No. 2 overall pick was sent to New Orleans in the Anthony Davis deal.
  • The trade talks surrounding half the players on the Lakers became public last season and while it would have been better to keep the discussions out of the spotlight, Ingram says he isn’t too bothered by how everything went down. “I’ve never been in a position of GM. I don’t know how it could’ve been handled,” Ingram said (via Medina’s piece). “I know it’s hard decisions to be made. I know these decisions had to be made to make them a better team, and they’re obviously a better team this year. So I don’t know how I would’ve handled it. They had to handle it how they handled it, and it worked out great.”
  • Davis, who has been reunited with DeMarcus Cousins in Los Angeles, believes the duo could have done great things in New Orleans if they would have been given more time together, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register relays. The Pelicans allowed Cousins to leave in free agency in 2018.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southwest Division:

Brandon Ingram, Pelicans, 22, SF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $23.8MM deal in 2016
More appropriately, Ingram’s stock is way, way up. Ingram’s last season with the Lakers was cut short by a blood clot issue. He averaged 18.3 PPG but there was still skepticism just how good Ingram was. He’s answered that emphatically in his first 13 games with the Pelicans, posting All-Star level numbers (26.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 45.9 percent on 3s). The Pelicans will make him a restricted free agent by extending a $9.48MM qualifying offer. Will Ingram re-sign with New Orleans, sign a big offer sheet, or sign the QO and test unrestricted free agency the following summer? For sure, he’ll get paid.

Courtney Lee, Mavericks, 34, SG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $48MM deal in 2016
Lee’s value to Dallas is mainly his expiring contract, which could prove useful as the Mavs look to acquire another piece to their vastly improved squad. Lee’s playing time has been mainly limited to garbage-time minutes. After two solid seasons with the Knicks, Lee’s career has declined the past two seasons. His 3-point prowess (38.7 percent for his career) might earn him a short-term deal next summer but he won’t be making anywhere near $12MM next season.

Gerald Green, Rockets, 33, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2019
Have we seen the last of Green in the NBA? That’s a strong possibility, considering his age and long-term rehab from a foot injury. He underwent surgery in late October and is expected to miss the regular season and likely the postseason as well. Green, a 12-year NBA veteran, has made prior stops with Boston, Minnesota, Houston, Dallas, New Jersey, Indiana, Phoenix and Miami during his professional career. He was a major contributor off the Rockets’ bench last season, averaging 9.2 PPG and 2.5 PPG in 73 contests. Another veteran’s minimum deal is his best hope.

Marco Belinelli, Spurs, 33, SG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $12MM deal in 2018
Belinelli’s perimeter shooting has made him one of the league’s most reliable second-unit players for years. The shooting touch has abandoned him, one of the many reasons the Spurs have struggled this season. Belinelli is shooting just 29 percent from the field while averaging 5.2 PPG. He has averaged in double figures off the bench for the past four seasons. Gregg Popovich has continued to give him steady minutes, so Bellinelli’s production should return to the norm. But if his playing time is reduced, he may have to settle for the veteran’s minimum next summer.

Dillon Brooks, Grizzlies, 23, SF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.8MM deal in 2017
Brooks was limited to 18 games last season, mainly due to a toe injury that required surgery in January. He has come back at full strength and started every game this season for the Grizzlies. He’s the team’s third-leading scorer at 13.3 PPG while making 38.7 percent of his 3-pointers. It’s a foregone conclusion the Grizzlies will extend a $2MM qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent this summer. The 2017 second-round pick will get a substantial pay raise regardless of how his free agent journey unfolds.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Josh Hart Apologized For Comments About Lakers

Former Lakers guard Josh Hart called some of his ex-teammates and front office members to apologize for comments he made in a podcast this summer after being traded to the Pelicans, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

The incident took place in a video version of his Sept. 6 “LightHarted Podcast” that included Lonzo Ball, who was also part of the deal that sent Anthony Davis to L.A. Ball was talking about a trip to Lithuania to visit his brothers when they were playing there and called the country “very depressing.”

“I wouldn’t do it again,” he said. “… It’s like hella gloomy, nobody smiles, it’s like everybody just hates that they’re there. I’m like ‘Damn.’ I had to get out of there, bro.”

Hart responded with “Sounds like L.A. … No, I’m not talking about the city.” When the producer promised to “edit that part out,” Hart laughs and said, “I was going to say the Lakers organization.”

He later went on social media to explain that he was upset that the Lakers didn’t give him prior notice that he was about to be traded to New Orleans. He learned about the deal on social media after taping another podcast.

“When my sarcasm, that wasn’t supposed to be in that — it was supposed to be cut — was in there, I called some of the people in the [Lakers] front office, I called some of my teammates that I had and made sure they knew that none of this stuff was about you guys,” Hart said in an ESPN interview last night. “I loved my time here. I loved my time here and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I love Laker Nation. They show so much love, so much support.”

Pelicans Should Consider Ball Off The Bench; Long-Term Deal With Ingram Appears Certain

  • The Pelicans should consider using Lonzo Ball off the bench now that Kenrich Williams has claimed a starting spot, contends William Guillory of The Athletic. Injuries forced coach Alvin Gentry to use 11 starting lineups in the first 15 games, but he has more options now that the team is getting healthier. New Orleans has played very well when Brandon Ingram and J.J. Redick are on the court together, and with Jrue Holiday holding one starting backcourt position, that doesn’t leave room for Ball.
  • Ingram has displayed All-Star potential through the first month of the season, observes Scott Kushner of The Pelicans didn’t reach an extension with Ingram before last month’s deadline, but Kushner believes a long-term deal this summer is virtually certain, even if it means the team has to match an offer sheet for the restricted free agent.

David Griffin On Zion Williamson: “Getting Better Every Day”

The Pelicans have been without 2019 first overall draft pick Zion Williamson for the entire regular season thus far as he recovers from meniscus surgery. As New Orleans awaits Williamson’s debut, president of basketball operations David Griffin told ESPN New Orleans 100.3 that the 19-year-old is progressing as expected.

“We’re really optimistic, and most importantly, Zion is really excited and that’s where we want him to be,” Griffin said.

Before undergoing surgery on October 20, Williamson showed the talent that made him this year’s top pick during preseason play. He averaged 23.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 2.3 APG while shooting 71.4% from the field. Thus far, without Williamson, the Pelicans have gone 6-9 but have won their last three games.

With a healthy Williamson, the Pelicans would likely expect a strong push for a postseason spot. According to Griffin, the Duke product is physically recovering well and the next step will be mentally preparing the phenom for his regular-season debut.

“The physical part is easy for him,” Griffin said. “He has an incredibly high basketball IQ. He loves being a teammate and getting better. He’s really rare among truly elite young players in that he enjoys the process of getting better. He loves the process of learning the game.”

The original six-to-eight week timeline had Williamson returning anywhere from the end of November to mid-December. Griffin noted that New Orleans would “err on the side of caution” with their potential superstar. A recent report from TNT’s Reggie Miller noted that Williamson is on track for a mid-December return.

“Right now, I think we’re on target for eight weeks,” Griffin said. “Probably not to the day, but in and around that.”