New Orleans Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps just returned from Euro camp, where he and assistant general manger Tim Connelly scouted many International players.
Asked about the trip, Demps said he was not at liberty to talk about the prospects individually, but he did say he saw a lot of talent.
“We weren’t looking just at draft guys but players who are free agents, as well,” Demps said. “We’ve done pretty well over there the past couple of years, we think, with Gustavo (Avayon, who was traded) and (backup point guard) Brian Roberts. “It’s so competitive over there now, and we can start watching those guys at younger ages, and as we track guys here, we can start tracking guys there, as well.”
With the Pelicans having a need at small forward, no one at that position was among the three players who visited the Pelicans for workouts/interviews Friday.
The Pelicans were said to be interested in Croatian Daric Saric, a very skilled, 19-year-old small forward, but he pulled out of the draft after his agent could not get a guarantee that a lottery team would select him. Saric is under contract with KK Cibona Zagreb in Croatia, and his contract would have to be bought out.
A different route
Quality European players usually go pro rather than go to college.
However, Alex Len, who is from the Ukraine, decided to play at Maryland, and he could be the fifth pick in the NBA draft on June 27.
“I think college basketball is the best transition to the pros,” said Len, who played two years for the Terrapins. “At least it was for me.”
Len, who did make a cameo appearance in one game in the Ukrainian League and two in the Russian UTB League before entering college, is the only European player listed in the NBA’s official draft guide who played collegiately.
Len, who interviewed with the Hornets on Friday, turned 20 this weekend.
Best of both worlds
Draft prognoses have Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams, a 6-foot-6 point guard, as one of those players whose status is uncertain, with a number of teams as possibilities.
Most players say they just want to go to a team that’s a good fit, but for Carter-Williams, there’s some ego involved, as well.
“I go back and forth with that,” he Friday at the Alario Center. “There are two sides to it.
“I want to be the first point guard taken. But the other side says go to the team that’s the best fit for you, and the one you can best help win. Maybe it will be both.”
At his news conference announcing that he had been selected as an assistant coach for the United States’ national team, Pelicans coach Monty Williams was wearing a USA Basketball shirt.
Was it something that had been sent to Williams for the occasion? Uh, no.
“I’ve actually had this shirt for a while,” Williams said. “A buddy of mine works for USA Basketball and is always sending me stuff. I didn’t think I could wear this anywhere and just kept it in my closet. But (Monday) I finally had a use for it.”
Not just mending
Demps, of course, keeps tabs on the rehabilitation of Pelicans players who had surgery.
Guard Austin Rivers is fully recovered from his broken hand and is working out. Shooting guard Eric Gordon, who had ankle surgery May 12, is rehabbing and working out at the same Los Angeles facility where he rehabbed his knee last fall, Demps said. Point guard Greivis Vasquez, who had ankle surgery two weeks later, also is rehabbing in L.A.
However, Demps’ eyes widened when he was asked about backup center/power forward Jason Smith, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum March 7 and missed the rest of the season. Demps had been in contact with the others by phone, but Smith has remained in New Orleans, and the GM ran into him Friday at the Alario Center, where team members work out.
“Jason looks good,” Demps said. “He looks like he beefed up a little bit, looks like he’s in really good shape.”