Excitement in the Air for Pelicans as Summer League Begins

Published: July 11, 2013

Bryan Gates didn’t hold back when discussing his level of enthusiasm for the upcoming season as he prepped the Pelicans Summer League team for their first game. With Anthony Davis working on his game in the background (by choice I might add) and a gym full of young talent eager to prove their worthiness to join the already youthful Pelicans team full time, it’s a pretty good spot for a coach. Gates is well aware.

“I might be the most excited guy in New Orleans,” he said, and who could argue otherwise?

With a combined age of just under 23, Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Austin Rivers might just have the highest upside of any young core in the NBA. All are under contract for multiple seasons, and as a result they should have a rather unique opportunity to grow and learn together as the faces of what in some sense is a brand new NBA franchise.

As McNamara said in his Summer League Preview, “The Pelicans finishing five is a known entity; They are all quality young veterans who are quasi All-Stars when healthy.” There’s not another team in the league that can claim the same about their roster.

Obviously it won’t all come together immediately, and there will be setbacks and challenges, but for a coach, this is a perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity. Look around the NBA as it’s currently comprised and find another group of coaches working with so many young, talented players who under contract for years to come.

With the exception of perhaps Ryan Anderson, these guys are nowhere near their prime. Bryan Gates and the rest of the New Orleans Pelicans coaching staff will be integral in the development. You can argue that another job may be a bit easier and currently more victory-filled. Sure. But there’s something special about building from the ground up, which is what the Pelicans are doing following two rather atrocious seasons.

I asked Gates about the challenges of coaching such a young team, and his first response was to say “It’s great, man. We wake up and love what we do. This is why we coach, this is why we come to the gym. I love it. ”

He later acknowledged that  they may have to coach a little harder at times, or “cover things a couple times instead of telling them once”. But even after that brief moment of accepting that things won’t always be easy, he concluded his thoughts by saying that “it’s a terrific deal for us”.

Agreed. And it’s a terrific deal for the fans as well.

Jeff Withey

Withey came over with Tyreke Evans in the deal that sent Robin Lopez to the Blazers and Grevis Vasquez to the Kings, but he’s still not officially a Pelican.

He was at the early afternoon practice looking a bit anxious, but it wasn’t because he was scared to be the new guy.

“I played against Anthony, I played with Jrue back in high school, and I know Tyreke pretty well. So I feel pretty comfortable,” the big man said.

What’s bothering Withey is that he hasn’t been able to get into the action. It’s unclear if the Kansas product will play tomorrow since everybody in the deal hasn’t completed they physicals, the lone remaining obstacle to getting on the floor. He’ll be at the game on the bench either way after spending the past few days at practice watching.

As for the trade itself, Withey said he was “shocked.” He went on to say that it was a quick introduction to the league, drawing giggles from myself, Jim Eichenhofer and John Reid.

“You can see it in his eyes he’s ready to go. He sits down sometimes then he stands up and walks over there  and then he sits down and gets a drink of water that he doesn’t need and then gets up and then he sits down, and then he just kinda keeps walking around. He’s ready to go,” Bryan Gates said of Withey.

Withey seemed happy with how things turned out for him on draft night, and as that quote by Gates might lead you to believe, he’s really pumped to get on the floor with the Pelicans. “I think I’m a perfect fit for the franchise… Coach Monty, he loves defense, and that’s what I’m all about. I take pride on the defensive end and I love getting stops.” He went on to say that he’s “really excited”.

He been around for a few days now, and he’s “starting to get the gist of it”, but he acknowledges that he needs to get on the floor to really get the feel of things. “Watching plays and trying to get them stuck in your head is a lot different than going out and actually having defense on you.”

“If I can play tomorrow it’s probably going to be pretty rough for me.” He said that he’ll be focusing on defense if he does.

We’ll be watching. The Pelicans first game of Summer League is Friday at 3pm Central Time. You can catch it on NBA TV.


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