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Pelicans Media Day 2013: Playoffs on the Mind
There was no shortage of playoff chatter at the first ever Pelicans media day, with some players going so far as to say that it’s the only real barometer for success this season. With a state of the art practice facility, an owner who wants to win now, and a brand spanking new identity, the time for excuses is gone.
Did I mention that there’s a plethora of healthy talent on the team?
We’ll start our Pelicans Media Day recap with Darius Miller, who has the unfortunate distinction of being the only player on the team with anything even resembling a serious injury. Monty had initially exclaimed that the team was healthy during the days opening press conference, but Miller and his walking boot showed up about two hours later begging to differ. He suffered a stress fracture in early September and will miss almost certainly miss the start of the season.
While I haven’t been at this all that long, it’s so far been a really rare occurrence to speak with an injured player who is happy. When you play sports for a living, being unable to even walk around normally seems to be hell. Darius said what you’d expect, that he’s healing and ready to get back to work. Next!
Ryan Anderson had a really unfortunate offseason, and it was encouraging to see him back out there working through it. He gave a brief, emotional statement in which he discussed the death of his girlfriend, Gia Allemand, and then took a few questions. Fighting back tears, he touched on the personal battle he’s facing in the aftermath of her death. He thanked God/Jesus for helping him to get through the pain and struggles, and he had a message for those who may need it– “whatever you are going through in life, you aren’t alone”.
Jason Smith actually came up behind Ryan to provide support when his fellow big man began to tear up. It’s notable because Ryan himself expressed his gratitude for Monty getting him back together with the team, and for the rest of the squad who has been there for him throughout. This is a tough situation for all involved. As Greg Stiemsma said, “there’s nothing you really can say to somebody like that to make it all better. As a team we can just be here for him and provide some kind of comfortable space where he can get away from certain things and be himself.”
Speaking of Jason Smith, he was otherwise his usual jovial self, and is ready to get back to full action. He’s been cleared to play and is looking forward to battling with the new big men up top in camp. While the doctors will ease him into fill action, it seems a safe bet that he’ll be at 100% by the time game one rolls around.
He’s been living and loving in New Orleans, and sounds a bit more like a local every day. We spoke for a few minutes outside of the scrum about the Saints and general NFL fandom. As a Coloradoan, Smith grew up a Broncos fan. It was only when Tom Benson personally gave him seats to a game and implored him to attend that his allegiance started to waver. Today he’s well on his way to becoming a full fledged Saints fan. He’s attended every home game this year, and is only missing tonight game against the Dolphins because of a Pelicans team dinner.
As for whether or not there are any Saints he’d like to see on the court once football season is done, Jimmy Graham was the first answer. The former University of Miami basketball player probably doesn’t have a true position in the NBA, but Smith thinks he’s strong and athletic enough to earn some time and be a bit of an enforcer. While I tend to believe Smith was exaggerating Graham’s potential value, it’s interesting to see signs the two teams becoming closer as a result of their proximity to one another. This will be a popular topic for local and national sportswriters for years to come.
Jason also said that those who say Hornets instead of Pelicans should get a bop on the head, like in this V-8 commercial.
Eric Gordon, heart and all, were in attendance. He said that for the first time in New Orleans he’s at 100%, although he’s yet to play 5-on-5. Let’s hope for an uneventful first scrimmage.
It’s not lost on Gordon that people have expected more from him than he’s delivered, and appeared to acknowledge that his time is now. Asked about the potential to be traded and how it affects him, he responded that there wouldn’t be a reason to trade him since the team is going to be winning games. Boom.
I didn’t really realize until I listed to the recording, but Gordon’s interviews have improved dramatically since his arrival in New Orleans, especially compared to the odd exchange we had two summer ago at Team USA trials. I’m not sure if that’s a sign of his increased comfort in from of the camera or in New Orleans or what, but it’s hard to see it as anything but a positive. Phil Jackson he’s not, but the progress is undeniable.
New Pelican Tyreke Evans agreed that it’s not important who starts, but who finishes. You can tell he’s excited to be on a team with so much young talent, and ready to get out there and show what he can do. Monty talked about how Tyreke was likely going to come off the bench, but Tyreke himself was unwilling to cement himself to that role.
Evans spoke for a bit about the potential for a three-guard lineup and what kind of role he’s expecting to have on the floor with guys like Jrue and Eric Gordon out there. Frankly he didn’t shed too much light on the X’s and O’s, but did say he’s looking forward to playing both on and off the ball, which should allow him to get free a bit more often than he did in Sacramento. Defensively he’s excited to have a player like Anthony Davis behind him to shore up any mistakes, and sounds up to the challenge of working hard for a defensive-minded coach like Monty.
Al-Farouq Aminu traveled to Nigeria this summer for the first time ever, despite actually representing them in the 2012 Olympic Games. He’s excited to be part of Nigerian basketball and has high hopes for their future. While he’s not ready to declare himself the leader, deferring to former Hornet Ike Diogu, he’s definitely making a concerted effort to stay involved.
Greg Stiemsma was the last player to be interviewed, and as a result he got a bit less attention than his peers. He’s happy to be in New Orleans fighting for the starting spot and working alongside Anthony Davis. His plan is the same as it’s always been– “Set screens, get rebounds, block shots”. He described his team and their scrimmages as “fast”, and seemed excited to get out and run.
As a guy who has been around the league for a while, I figured Stiemsma would have something to say about the new practice facility. What I did not figure is that he’d rate it hands down the best that he’s seen. “This is top of the line for me. I don’t know if anybody else has this much.”
He did add that “it doesn’t mean a whole lot if you can’t produce.”
Chris Trew will have a column out tomorrow which will certainly touch on this, but asked to describe himself in three words, Stiemsma went with “Physical, tough… and uh… silky”.
Yes, silky. If one day the Pelicans get nickname jerseys, Greg’s is going to say “Silky Steamer”