Red Hot Start Helps the Pelicans Take Down the Lakers

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Published: July 13, 2014
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Courtney Fells called himself a “more athletic Anthony Morrow” last week, and for one day at least he didn’t look so crazy. Fells dropped 25 points on just 13 shots, going 4-6 from deep to help the Pelicans defeat the Lakers 90-73. Fells jumper was working early, and that helped the Pelicans race out to a double-digit lead early in the first quarter, but he wasn’t one-dimensional by any means. Fells was able to drive to the rim and finish with both hands and also got to the line a couple of times.

But Fells wasn’t alone, as Dominique Jones and Arinze Onuaku made big contributions after not playing in the first game. Jeff Withey and Patric Young also provided a physical presence to start off the game, as Coach Gates moved Young into the starting lineup, and as a result the Pelicans controlled the boards (33-23). Russ Smith struggled to find his shot and had a few head scratching turnovers, but you could not possibly question his effort or his desire to get his teammates involved (8 assists). And Patric Young joined him in the effort department, as he dove for any and every loose ball, while going 5-6 from the field (10 points) and grabbing 6 rebounds, leading the team with a +25.

It was a balanced effort on the offensive end combined with just enough defense today, as the Pelicans move to 2-0 in Summer League. There is a solid amount of talent on this team, but what really stands out is their effort. You never see a defensive possession where guys are just standing around or an offensive possession where at least one or two guys don’t aggressively crash the boards. They are a fun team to watch, and without a doubt, an easy team to root for.

Notes and Observations

– Jeff Withey got some opportunities in the low post and made the most of them, but the most impressive play to me came up in the 2nd quarter when Withey got the ball on the wing, faced up and drained a smooth jumper. Teams are going to give him the 14-16 footer this year, and while I don’t want him taking a bunch of them, it would be nice if he can hit them.

Patric Young showed off a nice little jump hook early on, but he also air balled one from a little further out later in the game. But, this is not where he is going to impact our team if he makes it in October. Any offense is just gravy with Young. His defense is terrific already, and he will go after any and every ball, whether it is on the glass or on the ground. I don’t know if he could get any playing time if he were to make the roster, but just having that guy in your locker room and at your practices is valuable.

– Russ Smith was the spark plug early, as he got into the lane at will and made some great kick out passes for open threes. Where he struggles is when he tries to pass the ball in and across the lane. It’s going to be an adjustment for him with all the size in the NBA, but it is hard to believe that he won’t figure it out. The one thing that will be hard for him is when his man cuts back door on the defensive end. Several times in this game, the Lakers just threw the ball over his head as his man cut and it resulted in a layup or two free throw attempts. He is a terrific on ball defender, but I can see him struggling off ball, especially since he isn’t exactly a huge deterrent when he closes out on his man.

Onuaku is still a beast. Not very skilled, but he is a physical presence, and he (along with Withey and Young) gave Julius Randle some problems in his first game. In fact, on the buckets Randle scored, he pushed off hard with his off arm and I have to think that will get called by NBA officials. Onuaku has no chance of making our team, but I would like to see him in the league. I mean, if Hilton Armstrong can get playoff minutes….

– Josh Howard shows flashes of a guy who can still play in this league. I am really curious to see if he gets a shot.

– The Asik trade should come any time now, probably tonight or early tomorrow. From there, it will all be about locking down a solid SF. Can’t wait to see who that guy is for Demps. Edit: The Pels have traded a handful of non-guaranteed contracts for Asik and Omri Casspi. They still have the Room Exception ($2.7 million) to lock up another small forward. Dell did amazing work this summer. Hats off to him.