Excited Jeff Withey ready for Pelicans exhibition opener

Rookie center Jeff Withey will be playing in his first NBA game when the Pelicans play at Houston on Saturday night, and he said he’s extremely excited, even though it’s a preseason game.

“I’ve dreamt this my whole life, and now it’s here,” said Withey, who played at Kansas collegiately. “It came so fast. I hope I’m ready. I’m excited for it.”

It remains to be seen if he’ll get a chance to play against Houston All-NBA center Dwight Howard.

“It’s going to be a handful, but I’m excited for it,” said Withey, smiling. “He’s obviously a great player, and that’s going to be a tough team.”

Withey, 7-foot, 222 pounds, has had his hands full in practice going against starter Greg Stiemsma, a physical player, and also Arinze Onuaku, a 6-foot-9, 261-pound bruiser who has played overseas and in the Development League.

After just four days in his first NBA camp, things have been eye-opening for Withey.

“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s been three, four days of nonstop basketball. You go two-a-days, going against strong guys.

“Your body gets a little beat up, and you’re learning a lot. So, I’m just trying to stay focused and pay attention to what the coaches are saying. I’m learning a ton right now.”

He said it can be a bit overwhelming, if not for the Pelicans’ staff.

Roberts still healing

Backup guard Brian Roberts continues to nurse his ailing ankle, missing practice Friday, and Pelicans coach Monty Williams said there was no update regarding his status.

Roberts sprained his ankle during Wednesday’s morning session and has experienced a lot of swelling, Williams said. He is unlikely to play against Houston.

“There’s nothing to report there,” Williams said. “We’ll just wait and see until we start playing games. It’s just training camp. (Injuries are) part of it.”

Road trip

After the game at Houston, the Pelicans play at Dallas on Monday night then against Orlando at Jacksonville on Wednesday, meaning they will be on a five-game road trip.

Such a trip can make for valuable bonding for a young team with so many new players, but a trip with three games in five days generally affords little time for practicing and teaching.

The Pelicans next game after the trip, technically a home game, is Oct. 13 in Biloxi, Miss., against the Atlanta Hawks.

Getting ready

Williams said Friday’s practice was good, one in which the team scrimmaged more than it has in training camp as it prepared for the first preseason game.

The big thing was that he and his staff went over with the players all the things that have been taught so far in training camp.

“We got up and down (the court) a lot more,” he said. “We didn’t put any thing in worth talking about. We’ve just been reviewing all of the information that we’ve given the players.”

Rose buzz

Pelicans second-year guard Austin Rivers was asked about Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook having a second surgery on the knee he injured during last season’s playoffs.

He is expected to miss the first six weeks of the season.

“I was surprised he had another surgery,” Rivers said. “I thought he was going to be back for opening game. Maybe not preseason.

“It’s sad. You just don’t want to see any player go through an injury like that, but not a superstar.”

Rivers said it makes him think of how much players put on their legs during their careers and during a season.

“When his injury happened, he didn’t go into the lane,” Rivers said. “It happened near half court.”

Rivers said he believes, though, that when Westbrook comes back, he’ll come back strong.

He said reports of another star point guard — the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose — coming back from a knee injury have been extremely good.

“I’m hearing that Derrick looks better than he did before, which is scary,” Rivers said. “People I know who worked out with him said he’s doing crazy dunks, looks even more explosive than before.”

Rose was injured during the 2012 playoffs and sat out last season.

Lasting impression

Williams has said that power forward Anthony Davis is more confident and comfortable heading into his second season.

Outgoing probably can be added, too. While Rivers was interviewed this week by a TV station, Davis came in from behind and totally photo-bombed the footage.

Last season, Davis was much more reserved as a rookie, which can be understood. He played better and better as the season went on, and toward the end, he became more engaging during interviews and once even joined in on a teammate’s interview.

However, nothing like the one this week. It brought to mind what his mother said about Davis during an interview in May about what we don’t know about him.

“He’s much more outgoing than what you all have seen in New Orleans, more of a practical joker,” she said.