Pelicans seek ‘special guy’ among non-roster players

LAS VEGAS — League rules prevent Monty Williams from assuming his Pelicans head coach position in minicamp this week and when they open the NBA Summer League on Friday.

But Williams’ philosophies will be passed on to the three roster and approximately 12 nonroster players because Bryan Gates, his assistant coach for player development, is the Summer League head coach.

The Pelicans, who were in the third day of a four-day minicamp in the basement of UNLV’s Cox Pavilion on Wednesday, open the 22-team Summer League against the New York Knicks at 3 p.m. CST on Friday. For the first time, every team will play three games before being seeded into a tournament.

Gates, who enters his fourth season as an assistant with the Pelicans, not only must prepare his team for a tournament, but he is also trying to make sure that all players know what being a Pelican is about. He said that there are “thousands” of principles that Williams has established for the Pelicans.

“(My roles is) to implement the culture that we have established in New Orleans when it comes to our principles that coach Williams has declared for our team,” Gates said. “(I’m also) making sure that the timing of practice flows and making sure that we cover those principles.”

Gates has the credentials for being a head coach at any level. One year before joining the New Orleans coaching staff, Gates completed a three-year stint with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League with a 101-51 record, tying for highest win percentage in Development League history. His team also won the league’s championship in 2007-08.

But winning a title is not Gates’ top priority as he coaches the Pelicans for two weeks in July. He has two groups of players he has to separate: roster and nonroster players. Guards Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts and forward Darius Miller are here with the Pelicans two days before the start of the Summer League.

“For our roster players returning (there are) the important things we know they need to get better at, from rebounding to being more vocal,” Gates said.

One of the roster players here is Roberts, who was signed as a free agent on Aug. 3, 2012, shortly after impressing the coaches during last year’s minicamp and in five NBA Summer League games (three starts).

Roberts went on to lead New Orleans or tie for the lead in assists nine times and in scoring four times during the 2012-13 season.

“Find that special guy,” Gates said about his most important goal concerning the nonroster players.

“Last year, we found that special guy in Brian Roberts. It usually doesn’t happen until the middle of the (second) week.”

As for one of the other two roster players, the Pelicans are asking the 23-year-old Miller to adopt more of a me-first approach, according to The Pelican Blog.

In one statistic from Miller’s rookie season, he attempted only eight free throws in 694 minutes.

Coaches are working with Rivers on shooting and improving his dribbling with his off hand, also according to The Pelican Blog.

He also has a tendency to release his shot on his way down from jumping rather than firing while at the peak of his jump. Getting the ball up with greater arc and consistency are even more areas being worked on with Rivers.

Notes

The Pelicans’ second Summer League game will be against the Milwaukee Bucks at 7:30 p.m. Sunday; and the third contest, against the Cleveland Cavaliers, is slated for 5 p.m. Monday. The tournament starts July 17 and ends on July 22 with a championship game.