Expect changes with Pelicans Expect changes with Pelicans Associated Press photo by Don RyanPortland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, right, looks for help as New Orleans guard Roger Mason, Jr., defends last season. Contracts of several players expired at end of season DARRELL WILLIAMS| Special to The Advocate June 28, 2013 Comments Things likely will get interesting this summer for the New Orleans Pelicans. The team has the sixth spot in the draft, which is expected to add a good, but young, player. However, the team has many spots available for when free agency begins on July 1. The contracts of Al-Farouq Aminu, last season’s starting small forward, key reserve Roger Mason Jr. and reserve shooting guard/small forward Xavier Henry expired when the season ended, as well as that of power forward Lou Amundson, who was signed late for the rest of the season. The team also has options on the contracts of starting center Robin Lopez, reserve forwards Lance Thomas and Darius Miller and backup point guard Brian Roberts. And, key reserve Jason Smith is listed as being under contract next season but said at a recent function that it is not guaranteed. “When you had the record we had (27-55), there are going to be changes,” coach Monty Williams said, “and we have a lot of money to spend this summer.” The only players listed, besides Smith, as having guaranteed deals for next season are power forward Anthony Davis, last year’s overall No. 1 pick in the draft, guard Austin Rivers, the No. 10 pick in 2012, starting guards Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon and forward Ryan Anderson. The Pelicans are approximately $23 million under last season’s salary cap figure of $58 million. Faith with work Obviously hoping to be re-signed or just staying in shape and enhancing their skills for another opportunity, as many as six players who were on last season’s roster have been working out at the Alario Center. And, that is without Vasquez and Gordon, who have been rehabbing ankle injuries, and Rivers, who has been working out in Florida. Smith has been working with weights but is not able to scrimmage or practice while recovering from shoulder surgery. “We’ve had guys in the gym the past six weeks, and I don’t know how many NBA teams can say that,” Williams said. “We have five or six players in at 7 (a.m.) so they can get their work in.” Taking exception San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich received a lot of criticism for the Spurs’ loss to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, particularly after Game 6 when the Spurs lost a late lead with a chance to sew up the championship. Popovich took out All-NBA player Tim Duncan late in that game, as well as point guard Tony Parker. Williams played under Popovich and counts him as his main mentor. Williams said it was unfair. “If you study San Antonio, they’ve done that on a number of occasions,” Williams said. “And, they’ve been really successful with that plan. “But when you’re on the big stage, you’re open to criticism; that’s just part of our job. But I don’t think it’s merited, and I don’t think it’s warranted.” Retired for now Grant Hill and Jason Kidd, who both came into the league in the 1994 draft, recently retired after 18 NBA seasons. Hill is a good friend of Williams, a former teammate with the Orlando Magic, while Kidd was named the coach of the Brooklyn Nets. “Jason becoming a coach, that’s cool,” Williams said. “I was happy for them both; they’ve had great careers. I’ve talked to Grant since he retired, and he seemed to be really happy.” Williams said there will be big things in Hill’s future, too. “I look for him to be an owner some day,” Williams said. “He may have the finances, he certainly has the connections, and he’s got the presence.” Fat chance The Pelicans have been listed as having 150-to-1 odds of winning the 2014 NBA championship, along with eight other teams. The Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic, who had the worst records in the league last season, are listed at 500-to-1. The Miami Heat are favored to repeat as champions at 5-to-2 odds. Oklahoma City is second at 6-to-1. The San Antonio Spurs, who advanced to the NBA Finals this season, are listed at 10-to-1 to win the championship next season.