The New Orleans Pelicans held their annual Media Day Monday morning ahead of the start of training camp and most of the talk surrounding the completely renovated roster was about the franchise’s biggest offseason acquisition in the No. 1 overall draft pick Zion Williamson.
“He’s a mutant,” Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said of his 6-foot-7, 285-pound teammate.
Nearly every player on the roster described Williamson in a similar fashion as they explained how excited they were to play with a player that’s able to do the things he’s demonstrated.
But Williamson is just one of the reasons the Pelicans are excited. Thanks to a few key offseason moves, including trading All-Star forward Anthony Davis, New Orleans’ roster is loaded with promising young players and experienced veterans.
And the optimism for this season on full display Monday.
“Obviously, I’m really excited bout the opportunities that we’ll have this season,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “(Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin) and his staff have done and outstanding job. Really, really outstanding job of taking a really tough situation and converting it into something that’s very beneficial for our franchise.”
Gentry, who is heading into his fifth season as the Pelicans coach, said he couldn’t recall a time where the city was more excited for the start of a basketball season. Several of New Orleans players said they’ve felt the excitement from fans as well.
The general excitement around what this team could become had several of the players very eager to get to work.
Most of the roster was in for workouts ahead of the mandatory start date, Griffin said, and new Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli, who had a minor knee surgery, even skipped his honeymoon to make sure he’d be ready to go for the start of training camp.
His new bride likely wasn’t too thrilled.
“Let’s not talk about it,” he said with a laugh. “It’s something I’m gonna deal with next summer for sure.”
It wasn’t just the young players that were excited to get to work as the vets were eager as well. Center Derrick Favors specifically asked the Utah Jazz to be traded to New Orleans.
Favors said he'll get to show off more of his game with the Pelicans. The Atlanta native also thought it was cool that the Pelicans share a facility with the New Orleans Saints as he is a big football fan. He had to learn the hard way that, as a fan of his hometown Atlanta Falcons, he’s in hostile territory.
“People around here take it serious though,” Favors said with a laugh. “I told one of the Uber drivers I’m from Atlanta. And he was talking about the Saints, when Drew Brees got hurt, and he asked me who’s my team. I was like ‘I don’t know if I should tell you’ I ended up telling him I’m a falcons fan and he stopped the car.”
Favors said he certainly won’t be wearing any Falcons apparel as he gets accustomed to his new surroundings.
His teammate J.J. Reddick, another veteran the Pelicans acquired this offseason, is looking to quickly get accustomed to his new surroundings as well.
Reddick told reporters at media day that he was trying to convince his kids to take a swamp tour. But his main goal is to win. And he’s let his teammates particularly Zion Williamson know that he doesn’t want his streak of 13-straight playoff appearances to be broken.
“My first real conversation with Zion was a couple weeks ago, we got to chat for like 20 minutes after one of the workouts,” Reddick said. “ I said 'Look man, don’t @#$% this up for me.’”
Williamson laugh profusely when he recalled the conversation.
“It was so funny,” the rookie said. “He’d just gave me some great advice then the whole mood shifted,” He was like ‘I’m 13-for-13. Don’t mess this up for me.’
“I’m like J.J. why are you telling me? I’m a rookie.”
The Pelicans open training camp Tuesday and fans will get their first look at this revamped squad Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Smoothie King Center when the team hosts an open practice.
Fans can download free tickets at www.pelicans.com/openpractice.