Brian Roberts’ fourth-quarter exploits and Anthony Davis’ continued good play aside, the best news to come out of Thursday’s win was Eric Gordon’s 21 points in 21 minutes.
It was the first game in which Gordon played this preseason after using training camp thus far to “ramp up” his conditioning. Gordon, who missed 40 games last season and did not play in back-to-back games with a patella disorder in his right knee, had ankle surgery on May 10 and had been rehabbing it.
“One thing I was worried about was my leg, but it came out alright,” Gordon said after shooting 6-of-9, including 2-of-3 on 3-point attempts, and 7-of-8 on free throws.
Being that it was his first game since the end of last season and that he only recently returned to scrimmages in practice, he had a minutes restriction. Given his health issues the past two seasons, that likely will continue at least through the rest of the preseason.
“Yeah, that was the plan,” Gordon said concerning being held to 21 minutes. “I just want to be ready when the season starts.”
He had passed a conditioning test on Oct. 10 and was cleared to begin practice last Monday.
“He has been very aggressive,” said guard Austin Rivers.
I remember you
Roberts, a reserve guard, has a big fan in backup shooting guard Anthony Morrow, and not just because the two appear to be key parts of what is shaping up to be a formidable bench this season.
Roberts was coming up with his late-game heroics once again, scoring 10 of his 14 points during the fourth quarter in the victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night in Tulsa, Okla.
Roberts also sank a 6-foot floater that put New Orleans ahead for good with 30.6 seconds remaining. It was the third game in which Roberts has taken over in the fourth quarter to lead the Pelicans to victory this preseason. He did so against Dallas, in his first game back after spraining his ankle on the second day of training camp, and again in the next game against Orlando.
Morrow said he finds himself pulling for Roberts, as he would any teammate, but because he knows it hasn’t been easy for Roberts, 27, to make it to the NBA. Roberts, who played in Europe for four years, is in his second NBA season. Morrow went undrafted but was signed by the Golden State Warriors in 2009.
“I have been knowing B-Rob a long time,” said Morrow, 28. “We know each other from AAU camps and games back when we were 14 and 15 years old.
“He could always shoot the ball, and make big shots, even back then. Right now, his offense may be overshadowing the good defense he’s playing. It’s just good to see a guy finally get his chance in the NBA, and he’s making the most of it.”
When center Greg Stiemsma committed an offensive foul while trying to set a screen with 56 seconds left in the game Thursday, it was a recurring situation for the Pelicans and coach Monty Williams.
The team’s big men have committed a number of fouls when the team has tried to execute the play this preseason. It’s one reason Williams hasn’t been too concerned with Arinze Onuaku averaging about four fouls a game.
“Those fouls are occurring when our bigs try to set a high screen for our guards,” Williams said. “The guards are leaving too early. So that puts the bigs in a situation where they stick there hip out, and the officials are conditioned to call that. We have to get that straightened out with our guards.”
It appears Onuaku, 6 feet 9, 275 pounds is an easy target, Williams said.
“He’s a big, strong dude, and when he brushes up against people, they bounce off,” Williams said.
Hardly knew ye
When free agent small forward Lazar Hayward missed the game against Orlando on Oct. 9 with “flu-like symptoms,” it all but signaled the end of his training camp with the Pelicans.
Hayward, generously listed at 6-feet-6, again was ill for the team’s game on Sunday against Atlanta and was waived. Hayward, a former Marquette small forward who has had stints with the Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves and in the NBA Development League, apparently was having second thoughts about another try in the NBA after gauging his chances in New Orleans.
He’d received interest from Italian team Reggio Emilia before opting to try and land a spot on the Pelicans’ roster.
“Look at all the wings we have,” Williams said. “It was going to be tough for him to make the team anyway. We liked him. He defended, really made some good plays in that Houston game.
“We never want to waste someone’s time and have him here just because we need bodies, if he’s got an opportunity somewhere else, overseas. I don’t like that. It’s counter-productive for us and the individual.”