The Pelicans face the Dallas Mavericks this weekend as part of NBA Saturdays, the NBA’s European primetime game initiative. Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry talked about coming up against Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, as well as what they have to do as a team to improve this season.
Q: Is there anything in this last stretch of struggling in these games that you can pin it on?
A: “What we’ve done consistently is that we have not executed down the stretch. We’ve almost like taken the easy way out rather than drive it to the basket, try to create situations. Then we haven’t come up with stops. We’ve had miscommunication some defensively or we hadn’t closed out in the big situations and in close games that can be the difference in the game.”
Q: It’s been six weeks since Zion (Williamson) had surgery. How is he progressing?
A: “I think he’s fine. I don’t think there’s anything that can be rushed. Six weeks is what we said but obviously he’s making progress and when the time comes for him to start on court and do things like that he will. But it’s not anything that’s going to be rushed or cut short. It’s just a matter of taking the time to make sure that he’s fine.”
Q: Is his mental state OK?
A: “He’s fine. He’s itchin’ to be back on the court and be able to do basketball things. In these situations sometimes you have to protect players from themselves. We’re not going to put him out there obviously. We’re going to be overly cautious about it to make sure he’s 100% before we do that.”
Q: You’ve played them earlier this season, but Dallas seems to be hitting its stride especially with Doncic and Porzingis. What kind of problems do the Mavericks present?
A: “Both of them, especially Doncic if you look at what he’s averaging: almost 30 points and close to nine assists and almost eight or nine rebounds. He’s having what would be an MVP type year considering where they were projected and where they are right now. Unless an injury happens, I don’t see them slowing down very much.
Doncic is just a really, really difficult matchup because of his size, because of his speed. Everybody looks at his size and doesn’t realize how quick he is with the ball and where he can get it to. Then when you think about the shooting and what he’s done over the course of the last 10 to 12 games where he’s had 40-point triple doubles and just dominated games. Porzingis is now just coming into his own. and then they have other guys that no one talks about a lot. Take a guy like (Dorian) Finney-Smith he’s been great for the role he’s played for them and what he’s done. Their bench has played well, so they’re going to be a solid team for the rest of the season unless some type of injury happens.”
Q: Has the transition from Dirk Nowitzki to Doncic and Porzingis been successful?
A: “Dirk will always be part of that franchise, but it’s been a great transition. Both of those guys have played the type of basketball that’s been more than fan-friendly, it’s exciting type of basketball. Doncic being a 20-year old and doing what he’s doing now has been amazing. I try to tell everyone he’s done that since he was 15 years old – this is not anything new to him. He’s played at the highest level and was the MVP of the European Championships (Euroleague) two years ago.”
Q: How valuable is JJ Redick to the Pelicans?
A: “He’s a heck of a shooter and if you get him the ball he’s going to make more than half of them. that’s the way he’s been since he’s walked into the NBA. We’ve just got to do a better job of getting him into situations where he has open shots.”
NBA Saturdays presented by NBA2K20 on Sky Sports – part of a record 48 Primetime games live on Sky Sports starting from 8.00pm every weekend. This week on 7 December the Dallas Mavericks host the New Orleans Pelicans on Sky Sports Arena from 7.00pm.