Heading into Friday night’s game against Cleveland, Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson was shooting at a torrid pace since returning from a fractured toe.
Anderson was 10-of-16 on 3-point attempts, and the 62.5 percent shooting had him first in the NBA, although after only two games. Also, however, teammate Anthony Morrow, whom the Pelicans signed in the offseason to form a lethal one-two punch from behind the arc, was at 57.1 percent (16-of-28), second in the league. And, he’s a career 42.4 percent 3-point shooter.
Morrow, however, has taken just six 3-point attempts in the four games before Friday’s. With his 3-point shooting percentage, one would think having Morrow shoot more would be advantageous for the Pelicans.
“That’s just the flow of the game,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “I just think guys have to do a better job of recognizing Morrow and Ryan on the floor. And (Morrow) is another guy, like Ryan, who can make things easier for Tyreke (Evans), Eric (Gordon) and Jrue (Holiday), where if (the guards) try to find those guys earlier, they can open things up for them to get layups.”
Anderson shook his head in wonder about the prospect of he and Morrow both clicking on a high number of 3-pointers at the same time in games. Anderson said multiple players would sometimes get hot on 3-pointers when he played with the Orlando Magic, although that team was built around dominant center Dwight Howard, and its approach was different than that of the Pelicans.
“In Orlando, we definitely had a 3-point shooting group – J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson,” he said. “That’s just a fun way to play basketball, and this group, I think it has even more energy and can play an even more up-paced game than we did in Orlando.”
Cavaliers forward Anthony Bennett, the first player chosen in the 2013 draft, headed into New Orleans struggling mightily. Some might even call it a mess.
Bennett, 20, was shooting an incredibly low 13.5 percent from the field (5-of-37) this season heading into Friday’s game. Cleveland’s previous game, a seven-point loss at home to Washington on Wednesday night in which they had trailed by 27 points, marked a low for Bennett, as well.
With the Cavaliers on a 9-2 run late, he attempted a 3-point shot and launched an air ball. That elicited a chorus of boos from the home fans.
A big part of the frustration and head-scratching concerning Bennett is that he hasn’t come close to looking like the player he was at UNLV last season, when he drove hard to the rim and dunked hard, a Cavaliers observer said. Bennett had surgery on his left shoulder before the draft, and it’s been speculated that he still doesn’t trust being hit hard on it.
And, he didn’t work out enough after the surgery and came into training camp at least 20 pounds overweight. At 6-foot-8, he’s listed at 259. He, however, has asthma and sleep apnea, which is making it difficult to get in shape.
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was asked when Bennett may be able to contribute to the team.
“There’s progress with him every day,” Brown said.
Using his hands, he said sometimes the progress is steep, sometimes not so steep, and sometimes Bennett takes a step back.
“Only time will tell,” Brown continued. “The good part about right now is we’re not pressed to play him, so he can develop slowly.
“It’s almost like some of the quarterbacks that you take in the NFL (draft). If you throw them out there too soon, sometimes it may not work. And, so the more patience you can have with younger players, then the better it is for you and your team.”
Jarrett Jack walked into New Orleans Arena on Friday morning for the Cavaliers’ shootaround smiling broadly. He recognized old faces and, as a former member of the New Orleans Hornets, the Arena is one of his old haunts.
When someone called out to Jack about a game he had late last year while a member of the Golden State Warriors, the reason for Jack’s big smile clearly was evident. That was “The Big Payback” game, in which Jack torched New Orleans late, then mentioned the James Brown record. His performance, he said, was his way of showing that New Orleans should have kept him.
He noticed the changes to the Arena and said he has been following the name change and all the free-agent signings going on with the team.
“I’m not so surprised” about all the changes,” he said. “I’m just happy about it. There was so much uncertainty around the franchise moving forward, whether they were going to stay here or move or ditch the name or keep the name.
“And, I’m glad they’re able to cement themselves here for a little time now, create their own identity with the Pelicans and be able to kind of forget that half name they kind of had with New Orleans and Charlotte and kind of stand alone in a sense.”
Jack said he’ll never forget his season in New Orleans, 2011-12.
“Getting an opportunity to be a night-by-night starter that coach Williams gave me is something I’m always thankful and indebted to him for,” Jack said. “I think that was the only time people noticed me, so to speak, and knew that I was kind of the player that I always thought I was.”
For Jack, the game represented a reunion of sorts with Morrow. The two were teammates at Georgia Tech. Morrow, of course, was a good shooter there, too, but Jack was asked if he thought his Morrow’s abilities would translate to the NBA.
“Oh, no question,” Jack said. “(Morrow’s shot) was always effortless, and he was always a guy who was very, very confident in his abilities. When you have that combination, you’re destined to do great things, and I’m happy to see him doing well.”
Jack said an opponent better not leave Morrow open.
“Not for too long,” Jack said. “One, he’s going to shoot it every time he touches it. Two, he’s going to shoot it every time he touches it.”
When the Utah Jazz arrived Tuesday night for their game Wednesday against the Pelicans, the team, like all in the NBA who come to New Orleans, couldn’t wait to go to a good restaurant.
Coach Tyrone Corbin, who has been with the team since 2004, first as an assistant coach, certainly is familiar with the finer spots in this city. So, where did Corban make a bee-line to after checking into his hotel room?
“Popeyes,” he said.
Corbin was asked if it was because Salt Lake City doesn’t have Popeyes.
“We have two,” said Corbin, who is from South Carolina. “But actually, I had a taste for some Bojangles chicken, but there are none here. So, I went to Popeyes.”
Corbin, who is fit and trim, said he usually eats healthy.
“I decided I was going to eat bad, and if I’m going to eat bad, I wanted to really eat bad.”
A good message
Austin Rivers said he was feeling frustrated about not having played much as the season unfolded.
Then he received a message from an unexpected source.
“I got a DM message on Twitter from (Clippers guard) Jamal Crawford,” Rivers said. “I’d never talked to him in my life. He DM’d me about a good paragraph of things he went through. He said he didn’t play much his first four years. He was a lottery pick, and he was in and out (of the playing rotation).
“But look at him now. He said, ‘I just stayed patient.’ He said stay ready, man, stay positive.’ ”
Rivers got a chance to play more during the team’s recent road trip. He has been effective in the past two games in particular. In the game on Nov. 16 vs. Philadelphia, he had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Then, in Wednesday’s game vs. Utah, he scored just three points on 1-of-1 shooting and a free throw, but Williams lauded his play, specifically how he helped get the team back to playing at the right tempo.