Pelicans’ Austin Rivers eager to return

Pelicans guard Austin Rivers has been waiting for next week since his season ended March 6 when he suffered a broken hand against the Los Angeles Lakers.

At that point, Rivers switched his attention to working out and improving his strength and conditioning once the cast was taken off. And he began talking about playing in the Las Vegas Summer League.

The Pelicans will have a minicamp Monday through Thursday in Las Vegas, then begin Summer League play Friday against New York.

“I want to go into the season fully confident that I can have a good season,” Rivers said Friday. “That’s why I want to play in the Summer League this year, just so I can get reps in at (point guard).”

Rivers, the 10th pick in last year’s NBA draft, was selected out of Duke as New Orleans’ point guard of the future, and the Summer League, which came after workouts and practices with the team at the Alario Center, was to be his first on-the-job training. But against players hungry for a shot at the NBA, he struggled. His summer competition ended with an ankle injury, and it required minor surgery.

After a rookie season in which he struggled before coming on at the end, Rivers said he is confident this experience will be better for him. At the start of the NBA regular season, he started at shooting guard, his natural position, while Eric Gordon missed 29 games rehabilitating his right knee. At times, he also played backup point guard. He may be destined for more point guard duty this season, although as a backup.

“During the season, it was, ‘Am I a point guard? Am I a shooting guard?’ ” he said. “I was a (shooting guard) all of my life, but I felt best when I played the point (last season). I know I can play the point, but whatever position I play, I just want to get better for next season.”

Rivers is one of four who played with New Orleans last year who are on this year’s Summer League roster. Joining him are small forward Darius Miller, the team’s 2012 second-round pick; point guard Brian Roberts; and forward Lance Thomas — all reserves last season now fighting for roster spots.

Nine other players are on the roster, including Elston Turner Jr., a 6-foot-5, All-SEC guard at Texas A&M last season. He is the son of former NBA player Elston Turner.

Another player of some intrigue is forward/center D’or Fischer, who played on Northwestern State’s 2001 NCAA tournament team. Fischer later transferred to West Virginia and had been playing professionally in the Ukraine.

Missing from the team is All-Big 12 point guard Pierre Jackson, who was selected in the second round of last month’s draft by Philadelphia and reportedly was included in the trade that will bring All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans. That trade will not become official until July 10, when the NBA’s new fiscal year begins, so Jackson can’t play in the Summer League.

He has been nursing a left patella injury since a predraft workout for San Antonio a month ago. Reached Friday, he said the knee continues to improve.

“I’m doing basketball stuff, shooting jumpers and working out,” he said. “I’m trying to get back to where I was.”