Norris Cole Impresses in Pelicans Debut
Point guard Norris Cole’s debut for the New Orleans Pelicans certainly involved a lot more emotion and drama than anyone expected.
Ironically, Cole’s first night in a New Orleans uniform came in Miami against the Heat, the team he’s played for his entire NBA career until Thursday. When Cole entered the game for the Pelicans the first time, the Heat played a tribute video commemorating his tenure in Miami and thanking him for efforts.
"It was a great gesture by the organization, so many great memories here. I had to holdback a tear," Cole said. "I have a lot of great memories and a lot of great times here. It’s the only team I knew. But I’m excited about this new challenge and opportunity to play with the Pelicans."
— Norris Cole (@pg30_Cole) February 22, 2015
Opportunity abounds right now for Cole. The Pelicans brought him in to add depth to the back court with Jrue Holiday expected to miss at least another 3 weeks with a stress reaction in his right leg.
However, when both Anthony Davis (shoulder) and Ryan Anderson (knee) went down with injuries in the first half of Saturday’s game against the Heat, New Orleans’ need for playmakers exploded.
Cole logged 29 minutes of playing time with his new team, recording 12 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. The Pelicans extinguished the Heat 105-91.
"Defensively, he was a monster," Coach Monty Williams said postgame. "One time in the first half, he dove on the ball, and it was like a fish in water. It’s what he does."
Cole says regardless of being unfamiliar with the playbook and his teammates, he felt comfortable and in control. Communication with Williams during the game came easily.
"I’m going to compete on both sides of the court," Cole said. "I believe my speed and quickness, my energy, my passion for the game allows me to affect the game on both ends."
Cole is no stranger to hard work and prides himself on his intelligence and competitive spirit. The 26-year old was the salutatorian of his Dayton, Ohio high school and earned his bachelor’s degree in health sciences from Cleveland State before going 28th in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft.
"My knowledge of playoff experience – having championship habits – I hope that will help me make an impact in New Orleans right away," Cole said. "I’m going to dedicate myself to learning the plays, personnel and the playbook as I play and practice, but I hope my attitude and energy can rub off right away."
Cole’s veteran know-how will no doubt be a boost to New Orleans’ young locker room. The 6’2", 175 pound guard won two championships with the Heat – 2012 and 2013. He managed to combine that success with a humility and work ethic that endeared him to the Miami fan base and coach Erik Spoelstra, according to the Sun Sentinel:
"When you send a player like Norris Cole," Spoelstra said, "to another team, a two-time champion, somebody that came up through our ranks — we developed him, we spent a lot of time when we drafted him — that’s always tough in this business."
Cole sees a great deal of promising opportunity with his new team. He returned to New Orleans with the Pelicans Saturday night and will play his first home game Monday versus the Toronto Raptors.
"Obviously we have an up and coming superstar in AD, talented wing players and a great coach in Monty – he’s coached Team USA," Cole said. "We have a lot of great pieces, and we’re going to make a push to make the playoffs. We have a lot of talent here. A lot of talent. Once we stay focused and play better defense, we have a good team."
Cole and his teammates may once again find themselves battling without Davis and Anderson Monday.
Davis re-aggravated his sprained right shoulder in a collision with Hassan Whiteside and boarded the Pelicans bus postgame wearing a sling.
Anderson sprained his right knee when Mario Chalmers came down on shin minutes after Davis’ injury. Anderson exited the arena Saturday on crutches.
MORE FROM FOX SPORTS SOUTHWEST: