Alvin Gentry Embracing Pelicans’ Growing Pains

Published: October 24, 2019

Game One of the New Orleans Pelicans’ next era of basketball hit one theme hard, throughout the night:

This Team Will Experience Plenty of Growing Pains.

At times, the Pelicans’ rhythm and synergy left jaws wide open in amazement. While at other times, it left most of the viewers cringing. It’s not surprising with this roster: ten players on the team are under the age of 25, with seven of them seeing minutes in Tuesday’s game.

However, what may have been the biggest surprise of the night became how Alvin Gentry handled these growing pains. For Alvin, this season looks to be one of experimentation, while embracing the struggles that are bound to appear.

In total, 12 players each saw at least 12 minutes of play on the night. Gentry’s maneuvering around different lineups and seeing how they fit together became a clear theme for this game. This included plenty of mix-ups in the three-guard sets, trying to find the right balance between his backcourt players.

Only five of the 12 players that saw the floor were on the Pelicans last year (Holiday, Williams, Okafor, Jackson and Moore). Gentry seems like he is going to take his time, swapping players and lineups around at will.

Honestly, can you really blame him?

With Zion Williamson being out six-to-eight weeks, this is Alvin’s chance to find out his rotation in full, before the starting forward enters the fray. It gives his younger players a chance to show how they can handle different situations and defensive schemes. It will be the younger core’s chance to shine.

And, of course, there’s going to be quite a bit of pain along the way.

Tuesday’s game saw a chance for a the Pelicans to steal a win on the road, versus the defending champions of the league. Alvin took the final frame to let his younger players experience closing a game with a small lead. Having Frank Jackson, Jahlil Okafor and Josh Hart on the floor instead of the starters late is a confusing prospect in a regular season game. The group played quite well in their attempted closeout, yet they could only force overtime.

Overtime, however, did not fare as well for Alvin. His overtime core switched a few times, flipping between players. Lonzo Ball and J.J. Redick saw the floor together to start the extra frame. Derrick Favors came in cold in overtime, subbing for Nicolo Melli. It left the Pelicans a bit dysfunctional, costing them the game at the end.

While fans might not be happy when the pains show, this is likely to be the norm. Alvin Gentry is going to be swapping lineups like crazy all season, playing plenty of different unit selections in each scenario, to see where his strengths and weaknesses of his roster lie.

It’s very early on in the experimentation phase for the New Orleans Pelicans. Fans might not be happy with the end result of Gentry’s late game rotations. Still, this season is a marathon, not a sprint. The long term goals New Orleans looks to reach are going to require sacrificing some wins in the early process. It’s a long season.

The growing pains will hurt, but the roller coaster of a ride is just beginning for the Pelicans. So make sure your seat belt is fastened, be prepared for the highs and lows of excitement along the way, and enjoy what is bound to be a fantastic ride.


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