Demps likes Pelicans’ core, expects all back

NEW ORLEANS (AP) The left knee surgery Eric Gordon had scheduled on Wednesday was little more than an arthroscopic ”cleanup” and all five of New Orleans’ injured regulars should be ready for the start of next training camp, Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said Wednesday.

Demps, who spoke as the Pelicans prepared for Wednesday night’s season finale against Houston, could not immediately discuss the results of Gordon’s procedure, but asserted, ”I don’t think it’s a major surgery. … Obviously, any time someone has surgery, it’s a concern, but from what we’ve been told he’ll be ready to go at the beginning of next season.”

Ryan Anderson, who had neck surgery this month on a herniated cervical disk, also is expected to recover fully this summer, Demps said. The same goes for Jrue Holiday, who had surgery in late February for a fractured right shin; Jason Smith, who had right shoulder surgery in March; and Anthony Davis, who has been sidelined since last week with back soreness.

Whether all those players are still wearing Pelicans jerseys when next season starts remains to be seen. Demps did not rule out trading anyone other than All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who he called ”the cornerstone of what we’re doing here.” Yet Demps also indicated he wanted to see more from the group of players he brought in last offseason with the hope of making a playoff push right away.

New Orleans’ top five scorers – in terms of average per game – are Davis (20.8 points per game), Anderson (19.8), Gordon (15.4), Holiday (14.3) and Tyreke Evans (14.3).

Those players were in the lineup together for only 12 games this season and Evans is the only one who made it to the end of the season, though he has missed 10 games as well.

”I didn’t think we got a good sample of the group playing together,” Demps said. ”We’re still confident with the core that we have, but obviously we want to continue to do everything that we possibly can to improve.”

Demps said the injuries also made it difficult to evaluate what type of job Monty Williams did in his fourth season as a head coach. The Pelicans entered their season-finale with a 33-48 record, well out of the Western Conference playoffs, which this season will not include a team with fewer than 49 victories. Still, despite constantly changing lineups comprised largely of players who either began the year as backups or were acquired as free agents during the season, the Pelicans managed to beat a number of playoff teams – including victories in just the past month over Miami, the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City.

Williams ”was put in an impossible situation with the injuries that we had,” Demps said. ”The way our guys competed, I am happy with that. … Our team played hard and I thought they gave maximum effort. They have established a culture, a blue-collar mentality and I think Monty (deserves) the credit for that.”