NEW ORLEANS (AP) Anthony Davis is bigger and expects to be better.
He also has a new coach in Alvin Gentry, who believes he can get more out of the New Orleans Pelicans’ roster with a faster, free-flowing tempo.
”I wanted the team back together,” said Gentry, who, as an assistant with NBA champion Golden State, coached against the Pelicans in the first round of last season’s playoffs. ”I just saw potential.”
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The 6-foot-10 Davis, who averaged 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game last season, has gained about 15 pounds of muscle, and now weighs about 253 pounds, which should make him stronger inside.
Meanwhile, Gentry noted, Davis’ new muscle mass ”doesn’t slow him down at all. … His game will continue to get better. We still have to remember that he’s 22 years old.”
While former coach Monty Williams was popular with players personally, the methodical scheme he ran wasn’t what a lot of players on the Pelicans’ relatively youthful, athletic roster preferred.
”Every basketball player says they want to run,” Davis said. ”So we’ll actually see if guys want to run now. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to play hard.
”It kind of reminds me how we played at Kentucky,” Davis added, referring to his one season with the Wildcats, which ended with a national title. ”We just ran all the time.”
Added shooting guard Eric Gordon, ”We’ve got very athletic guards, very athletic bigs. We’ve got some good size now and we’re some pretty good shooters. So why not play fast and give us more possessions and chances to score – to outscore you – and play very good defense?”
Here some other things to watch heading into the Pelicans’ 2015-16 season.
EVANS’ ROLE: Gentry has decide he wants Tyreke Evans to play point guard primarily, and he’ll be the starter to open the season while Jrue Holiday is on minute restrictions as he tries to overcome a lower leg injury that has plagued him for two seasons. The 6-6, 220-pound Evans, who is an aggressive ball-handler, averaged 16.6 points and 6.6 assists last season.
RESTING HOLIDAY: It’s unclear when Holiday’s minute restrictions will be loosened, or exactly what role he’ll play in the rotation when he is healthy enough to play more than 30 minutes a night. The 6-4 guard is known as a strong defender, and when he was able to play, he averaged 14.8 and 6.9 assists per game. But when the season starts, he’s expected to back up Evans at the point.
DEFENSIVE OVERHAUL: Gentry has brought in assistant Darren Erman to oversee his defense. Players have said they like the fact that he has simplified the scheme in an effort to improve communication, minimize confusion and allow players to emphasize using their athleticism and technique to execute close-outs and rotations. ”The way everybody’s feeling right now about our defense, we feel like we can be a top-5 defensive team,” Davis said.
WISH FULFILLED: Gordon might be happiest about the change. As a restricted free agent, he tried to leave New Orleans to for Phoenix, where Gentry mas coaching at the time. The Pelicans matched the Suns’ offer, which expires at the end of what will be Gordon’s and Gentry’s first season together. ”I definitely wanted to have a chance to play for (Gentry) during that time, so it’s good that I have that chance now,” Gordon said. Gentry said he can see Gordon, who averaged 13.4 points and shot nearly 45 percent from 3-point range last season, playing a bigger role.
FRONT COURT: The Pelicans have retained two 7-footers from last season, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca. They have also added Kendrick Perkins, hoping to benefit perhaps more from his veteran leadership than his minutes on the floor. Meanwhile, 6-10 power forward Ryan Anderson will help space the floor with versatility that allows him to score inside or from 3-point range.