Center Greg Stiemsma relished the chance to become a starter when the New Orleans Pelicans called about signing him after being waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves in July.
And, guard Anthony Morrow was eager to be in a stable situation after being traded three times since 2010.
With the start of training camp on Oct. 1 fast approaching, both were introduced to the media by the Pelicans on Tuesday as free-agent acquisitions who will play big roles. Morrow was signed to give the Pelicans a boost off the bench as a 3-point specialist along with forward Chris Anderson, who led the team in that area last season.
Stiemsma, 6-foot-11, 260 pounds, will team with Jeff Withey, a rookie from Kansas, as the main post players, although veteran center/power forward Jason Smith also will be in the mix. Stiemsma had passed on a chance to play with New Orleans’ NBA team two years ago, but said the chance to start this time was key, even though he and coach Monty Williams have yet to discuss whether he’ll start or come off the bench.
“I’m going to look at this as a great opportunity … to start a lot of games,” said Stiemsma, who has been a backup with the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves the past two seasons. “That’s the mindset that I’m going to have going into camp, that someone is going to have to take that away from me. I’m going in with the confidence to play at that level and own up to that position, too, hold myself accountable, be responsible for that spot and go ahead a take it.”
Stiemsma was brought in because of his defensive abilities, experience and to provide a physical presence near the basket, being somewhat of a bodyguard alongside talented and versatile but slender 6-11 power forward Anthony Davis.
“My resumé kind of speaks for itself about what I’ve done so far, and what they want me to do here is not going to change,” Stiemsma said. “Obviously blocking shots, being a physical presence inside, not (allowing) anything easy, kind of take it personally, you own the paint, do the things that don’t show up in the stat sheet.”
Morrow entered the league with a splash as a member of the Golden State Warriors in 2008. In his first game, against the Los Angeles Clippers, he scored 37 points, the most by an undrafted player in his rookie season. He also made 46.7 percent on 3-point shots, the highest ever by a rookie with at least 150 attempts. He also was the first rookie and first Warrior to lead the league in 3-point shooting.
However, the summer after his second season, he was traded to the New Jersey Nets for a second-round pick. Then, in July, 2012, the Nets sent him to the Atlanta Hawks as part of the trade for All-Star guard Joe Johnson. At that trading deadline last season, the Hawks shipped him to the Dallas Mavericks for Dahntay Jones, a more athletic and defensive-minded player.
Morrow said he considered it a blessing when the Pelicans called after the free-agency period began. “After coming out of Atlanta and Dallas, it was a learning a experience,” he said. “I understood it was part of the business. It wasn’t a character thing with me. I never had any problems.
“Finally signing here, talking with (General Manager Dell) Demps over the last three or four days (before signing), it was real comforting to know they wanted me here.”
When Demps reached out to Morrow, he contacted Jarrett Jack, a former Georgia Tech teammate who had played under Williams in New Orleans and when Williams was an assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers. Jack told him he’d love playing for Williams. However, Morrow had better be ready to put defense first.
He said he knew that would be a big part of competing for minutes with the Pelicans, but that his time with the Nets under New Orleanian Avery Johnson had prepared him. Williams and Johnson are, in part, disciples of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
“Playing for Avery for two years, I think Monty is kind of cut from that mold,” Morrow said. “I see a lot of that, and I’ve heard a lot of those comparisons.
“That was one thing I was worried about coming to play for Avery. So now, I’m just coming in and competing, and I think it’s going to be the same type situation.”
To Stiemsma, playing for a defensive-minded coach is a dream come true, he said.
“Everybody knows that everybody can score in this league, and the teams that are successful, that go far, are the ones that can stop people,” he said. “And, when you have a head coach that’s his No. 1 priority, you lick your chops when you get to be a part of that.”
Stiemsma said that’s what makes him a good fit.
“We have guys that can get up and down the floor, we have guys who can score,” he said. “Just my defensive presence is going to be what this team needs.”
Morrow said the other Pelicans make him a good fit, too.
“We have a lot of guys who can get to the rim, a lot of guys who can penetrate,” he said, mentioning starting point guard Jrue Holiday and guard/forward Tyreke Evans, both also new key acquisitions, as well as shooting guard Eric Gordon and second-year point guard Austin Rivers. “And, just having Ryan Anderson out there knocking down shots.
“I’m seeing ways I can get shots now in pickup (games), and, it’s probably going to get easier once we get some (offensive) sets when camp starts and the season gets rolling.”
Copyright © 2014, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved