Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Pelicans Notebook: New GM, Flops, and Time to ‘Focus on Training Camp’

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WASHINGTON — They were three basic characters with their own intersecting storylines. There was Mo Williams, playing his first season in Washington as a reserve, bringing flare and intensity to the team’s offense; and De’Aaron Fox, the franchise point guard from Kentucky, given a fresh start after his lone pro season.

Then there was Anthony Davis, the young Pelicans power forward with not much of a post-up game and probably too much of a tendency to put the ball on the floor in transition.

Then, for the final six games of the season, there was the team’s status.

The Pelicans finished fourth in the Western Conference, with their best postseason since 2012.

Mr. Fox said he hoped to do even better in his second season. Mr. Williams declined to talk about retirement, and Mr. Davis was not available to speak to reporters.

So the two young players, along with the rest of the Pelicans roster and coaching staff, stayed focused on their training at U.S. Sports Academy on Monday in the midst of a three-week break. There are more regular season games to play, after all.

“We just looked at it as training camp,” guard Jrue Holiday said. “It’s the same thing every year. We have to get better, go in and have to work hard. It was like going in and playing basketball, but the game doesn’t start until 20 minutes in. The reality is we have to get ready for three more games in April.”

That is the amount of time left before the start of free agency, which begins on July 1. For the first time in his career, Mr. Holiday can exercise the mid-level exception, a $5.9 million contract for a player who was younger than 24 when he entered the league in 2011. He declined to state whether he would explore that option.

The Pelicans must waive those three players to reach the salary floor set by the salary cap. Chris Kaman is the player at the age limit, and he is nearly six months removed from surgery to repair a knee ligament. The other two would have to be waived and become free agents.

The team has to decide whether it will lose the trio for nothing, or to a team that offers a larger contract and financial security.

“What it comes down to is we’re going to get better — as long as we got better,” Mr. Fox said. “I think it will come down to my value around the league and whether they want to give me $30 million over three years. There are teams that might see me as a savior for their organization and sign me for $30 million over three years. And if not, then the same thing will probably happen here, but we’ll have to see.”

As of Monday afternoon, Mr. Fox said he had yet to speak with Pelicans management about next season, saying he wanted to sort through his feelings first.

Mr. Holiday said the team, which added Nikola Mirotic during the season, also should look to add a center next season.

Mr. Fox said the Pelicans would have a new general manager in Anthony Robles, who began the process on Monday. Mr. Turner, Mr. Robles’ predecessor, left the team after a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on May 15 to pursue other opportunities.

Pelicans employees who have been there for all four of the previous seasons understand the changes ahead, according to Mr. Fox.

“I think our staff will be in this together for the next four years,” he said. “To me, it’s just how these games are played — it comes down to one guy taking advantage of it and taking advantage of the ability he has to make a play on the floor.”

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