New Orleans’ NBA team is getting a fresh start this upcoming season: a new name, a slick logo and a rejuvenated spirit.
After years of uncertainty, the New Orleans Pelicans are poised to further integrate themselves into the Crescent City when they move into their own state-of-the-art practice facility in Metairie after this Labor Day holiday. It’s the only campus in the country where a city’s NBA team will share space with its NFL counterpart.
The Pelicans and Saints will cross paths in places like the cafeteria, media room and parking lot. Imagine the competitive knowledge young stars like forward Anthony Davis can soak up over gumbo while sitting alongside Saints quarterback Drew Brees at lunch Saints tight end and former University of Miami basketball player Jimmy Graham is already drooling over envisioned pick up games.
“We’re very excited,” Davis said. “Plus it’s close to my house instead of going all the way over to the Westbank. It’s about five minutes from my house. We’re very excited to go in there. After we’ve been running, some guys have gone in there to just look around. Guys are very excited and we just can’t wait to go in there.”
Players are also ready to turn the page on the past and re-write what the sport of basketball can accomplish in New Orleans. Nine of the players on the current roster are now in the city, organizing their own workouts, to be prepared to capitalize on this upcoming season’s opportunity.
“We’ve been working,” forward Lance Thomas said. “We get conditioning in, court work in, lift and play. We’re putting in a lot of work right now. It’s going to pay off.”
Last year’s number one pick- and the player this team has been rebuilt around- is one of the main organizers of these voluntary workouts. Davis has noticeably matured in just one season as a pro, evidenced by the way he speaks, the confident manner in which he now handles the media and his leadership in preparing what is meant to eventually be his team.
“We’re all just excited,” Davis said. “We’ve probably got 10 or 11 guys here who are doing conditioning in the morning, lifting weights, then playing pickup. Guys are dedicated. You can’t ask for anything more.”
A hungry atmosphere surrounds these voluntary workouts at the Alario Center, as several unsigned hopefuls usually join the Pelicans, to make sure they have ten players on the court and to keep their own dreams alive.
“We appreciate the other guys coming out there to help us,” Thomas said. “Everyone is just trying to get better and keep carving out their spot in the league. We’re trying to create good work habits. We only want people here who are going to bring it. That’s how Coach Monty coaches us and what he demands from us. We’re going to continue to just up that.”
Besides Davis and Thomas, the other Pelicans players participating in voluntary workouts are Jason Smith, Arinze Onuaku, Darius Miller, Austin Rivers, Brian Roberts, Jeff Withey and Tyreke Evans.