LAS VEGAS — Coaching the games in the NBA Summer League is a breeze compared with everything else that goes on during the week.
The New Orleans Pelicans, who play their second Summer League game against the Milwaukee Bucks at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, are still adjusting to an ever-changing roster.
Jeff Withey and Lance Thomas are listed on the Pelicans’ roster, but both didn’t play in Friday’s 77-72 victory over the New York Knicks. Withey will play once he passes his physical, while Thomas may not show up as an unsigned free agent after being waived from the team Wednesday.
On Saturday, Pierre Jackson was put on to the Pelicans’ Summer League roster for the first time, arriving in time to attend practice at Desert Pines High School, where he starred before attending Baylor. Jackson came to the Pelicans as part of the trade that sent point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans.
Forward Lance Thomas, who was released by the Pelicans last week to provide salary cap space, also has joined the Summer League team and will be available, said his agent, Raleigh, N.C.-based John Spencer.
Jackson, a second-round pick, could not participate in Summer League play because NBA transactions did not become official until July 10.
“He’s ready to play,” said Jackson’s agent, Colin Bryant.
Thomas had played for New Orleans the past two seasons before being waived. Other teams showed an interest in signing him, but Thomas — who had participated in player development workouts and practices with the Pelicans — decided his best option for now was to play in the league with New Orleans, although making its roster again appears difficult.
“Some of the other teams have rosters that are already set,” Spencer said, “and he hadn’t practiced with any of the other teams. It’s not fair to (Thomas) to be in a rotation where he doesn’t know the other players or his role. And, the Pelicans (front office and coaching staff) know him and what he can do.”
Mindaugas Kupsas, a 7-foot-1 center, was at the Pelicans’ four-day minicamp, but is no longer with the squad.
All the uncertainty could cause problems for a team if they all weren’t in the same boat.
“No (it’s not a major problem), because everybody else is doing it,” Pelicans Summer League coach Bryan Gates said. “People are saying that, ‘Well, you have this guy going to come in, this guy might happen.’ Moving guys in and out — everybody else is doing it. Everybody is playing with the same hand.”
While he doesn’t know exactly who is on his roster until game day, Gates knows what he wants to see from the 12 players who were on his roster for the game against the Knicks.
Watching someone like nonroster player Cameron Moore come off the bench for 13 points and six rebounds, or nonrostered Jon Brockman tally nine points and a team-high 10 rebounds, is certainly a plus. This makes all the roster uncertainty seem worthwhile.
“A spirited competition on the team is great,” Gates said. “It’s just going to make us better.”
Even seeing a rostered Pelican like Austin Rivers tally 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists against the Knicks on Friday is pleasing, according to Gates, because a strong Summer League showing will increase the competition among guards once the Pelicans return to camp for the start of the 2013-14 season.
Rivers knows the backcourt competition was greatly increased when the Pelicans attained guards Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans via trades. He said anything he can prove about himself will help him later this year.
“You saw it (against the Knicks),” Rivers said. “I can do both; I really can do both. I’m a scorer, but I can play the point and get people open. With Jrue there, Jrue is going to be dominant point, so I think there will be a lot of (me playing at the) two. Hopefully I can start at the two and then play extra minutes playing backup point for him. That’s what my goal is right now.”
Darrell Williams contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2014, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved