The New Orleans Pelicans kick off the first challenge of this year’s Las Vegas Summer League when they take on the New York Knicks’ stacked perimeter at 3 p.m. CT on Friday.
Second-year players Austin Rivers, Brian Roberts and Darius Miller are all out to make a statement.
Rivers is returning from a fractured right hand that cut his rookie season short just when he seemed to be making progress as a professional.
He’ll start on Friday and play both guard positions throughout the game’s duration.
Rivers says he’s using this time to shore up some weaknesses.
“Incorporate my mid-range jumper, create for other people, read the pick-and-roll better. This is a really good chance to play against great competition,” he said.
New Orleans assistant Brian Gates is the Pelicans’ Summer League head coach. He’s looking for certain things out of his young squad.
“The big things we’re concentrating on are defensive rebounding, the ability to guard the pick-and-roll, appreciation of the value of the basketball. We don’t want to turn the ball over. There is going to be some excitement because we finally get to beat on somebody else,” Gates said.
Pelicans rookie center Jeff Withey did not participate in Thursday’s practice, but he’s hoping to play as he works to master the flow of the organization.
“I’m defense first. I love blocking shots, rebounding. I’d like to say that I’ve been working on my offensive game. My 15-foot jump shot is something I’m very excited about. I’m just a hustle player. I do the dirty work. That’s what kind of player I am,” Withey said.
The San Diego native and former Kansas Jayhawk says he’s excited to be part of the infusion of talent on New Orleans’ roster.
“I think it’s going to be a really good team with a lot of young players. I played with Jrue, I played against Tyreke and Anthony so…I’ve known these guys for a while so I’m just really excited to be a part of the program and I can’t wait to get started and live in New Orleans,” Withey said.
This summer every participating summer league team will play three games, then receive seeding for a tournament that start July 17 and wraps up July 22 with a championship game.
The Pelicans’ second game will be against the Milwaukee Buck Sunday, July 14. The Cleveland Cavaliers will be the Pels third challenge on Monday, July 15.