Four of the five spots in New Orleans’ 2017-18 starting lineup this season are spoken for, with its frontcourt featuring two current All-Stars and backcourt consisting of two recent All-Stars. The fifth slot would’ve gone to small forward Solomon Hill, but a left hamstring tear has sidelined him for 6-8 months, forcing the Pelicans to explore other options.
Pelicans third-year head coach Alvin Gentry said Monday at Media Day that one objective of training camp will be to determine the team’s fifth starter. The decision ultimately could be to rotate different players in the role, based on the situation.
“There may not be (an every-game starting small forward),” Gentry said, when asked if that is a possibility. “Obviously Solomon was that guy, and if he was healthy, that would be decided already. We’re going to have to take a look in training camp at a couple different combinations, and how we can take advantage of certain people in that spot. I do think there are a few options there.”
In some circumstances, Gentry may rely on three-guard lineups, with a player who is generally considered a shooting guard sliding over to fill in at small forward.
“Jrue (Holiday), Tony (Allen) obviously, E’Twaun (Moore) can do it,” Gentry said, listing some of the guard-to-forward options.
Although small lineups are becoming extremely prevalent in the current NBA, there are some situations where it’s not feasible to move the 6-foot-4 Holiday or the 6-4 Moore into the frontcourt. Gentry cited the example of defending against Golden State, which sometimes uses the listed 6-9 Kevin Durant – who many believe is closer to a 7-footer – as its small forward.
“There are definitely going to be some games where there are three guards out there with two bigs,” Gentry said. “Sometimes even four perimeter players with one big. It’s going to be predicated on the opponent we’re playing and the situation.”
Other notes from Pelicans press conferences Monday with the local media:
Asked if there are concerns that New Orleans didn’t add enough perimeter shooting this offseason, Demps responded, “We got Ian Clark, who you can classify as a shooter. That’s what he did in Golden State, and he’s a playmaker somewhat.
“We just tried to add guys we thought were going to fit in with what we’re trying to do. Every guy we added to the team brings something to the table. I don’t know if you’d classify (Rajon) Rondo as a great shooter, but he’s a great basketball player. And the same thing with Tony Allen. Adding them to the mix helps our team. A lot of those guys add an element we weren’t missing, but we added a higher level of it – the toughness and competitiveness they add. To win in this league, especially in the West, you have to have that toughness factor.” …
Dell Demps provided injury updates on Hill (hamstring), Omer Asik (Crohn’s disease) and Frank Jackson (foot).
Hill is out 6-8 months from the time of his injury, which potentially could mean his return is “around February, but we’re not sure.” Hill will return to New Orleans in a few weeks and be back with his teammates.
There is no timetable for Asik, who is at The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota being treated for his ailment. “There have been improvements, but he’s not ready to play basketball,” Demps said of Asik’s health status. “The most important thing for Omer right now is getting healthy. Once he gets healthy, he’ll be able to return. But at this time we don’t have an estimated date for his return to play.”
Jackson had Sept. 1 surgery on his right foot. His return to play is “approximately three to four months, which will be sometime around January.”