The faith that first-year Pelicans coach Willie Green showed in his players during a horrendous start is beginning to pay off, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. It appeared New Orleans might be headed for a lost season after opening with a 3-16 record and having no clarity on the return of star forward Zion Williamson, who had offseason foot surgery. Williamson still hasn’t played, but his teammates have turned things around, winning eight of their last 13 games and moving to within two games of the play-in tournament.
“That patience came with a lot of prayer,” Green said. “It was rough at the beginning, and it was challenging, even on me, to stay patient. It’s a long season, and this is an unbelievable group — high-character guys. We can see improvement every week. We didn’t get the results initially, but the guys are believing more and more.”
After making coaching changes the past two offseasons, Pelicans management needed Green to succeed, Guillory adds. Beyond the results on the court, the front office was looking for someone who could get through to the team’s best players and convince them to buy into what he wants to do.
“He didn’t change. … He continued to believe in what got him the job and continued to believe in us,” Josh Hart said. “That was the biggest thing for us — to obviously have a coach who’s confident, a coach who has trust in us to go out there and execute and play.”
There’s more from the Southwest Division:
- Injured Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. doesn’t have a return date yet, but he’s continuing to make progress with his bruised left thigh, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Porter, who hasn’t played since December 3, has been ramping up his workouts over the past week. “We’re getting there,” he said. “It has been a work in progress, but we’ve just been making progress each and every day. I’m feeling good. We’re taking steps forward. It’s always hard waiting. Honestly, when it first happens, I feel like it’s the worst because (the rehab) is a long-ball game, but almost being back is a boost of confidence and (to) your self-esteem about everything every day, everything you do daily.”
- Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News takes a closer look at the six hardship additions the Mavericks are making in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak. Theo Pinson, Marquese Chriss and George King have already joined the team, and the signings of Charlie Brown, Carlik Jones and Brandon Knight are expected to become official soon.
- Jared Dudley, a first-year assistant coach with the Mavericks, talks to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times about the transition from playing to coaching. “I really wanted to play one last season with the Lakers, to be honest, but I’m also loving coaching,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a coach and for (Jason Kidd) to give me this opportunity, I am so grateful.”