Second-year guard works in transition to point
LOS ANGELES — The New Orleans Pelicans took an eight-game losing streak into Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, with second-year guard Austin Rivers enduring the effects of that struggle as he makes the transition to the point at the sport’s highest level.
He’s had good games and bad games, but the team results have been dismal as the Pelicans try to compete without injured Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith.
On Saturday night, New Orleans hit its lowest point, also in L.A., in a 108-76 blowout loss to the Clippers team coached by Rivers’ father, Doc, who was a standout point guard in his 15-year NBA playing career.
Pelicans coach Monty Williams called it “the worst loss we’ve had this year” after New Orleans scored a season-low in points, despite a season-high 19 by Rivers.
Afterward, Rivers was the stand-up guy in the media-shy New Orleans locker room, much like his father was on the Atlanta Hawks, almost from the moment he broke into the NBA.
“We just have to keep our heads up, keep moving forward,” Rivers said. “I think we just got to hold each other accountable and just keep pushing each other.”
Williams said Rivers “gave us some juice” Saturday off the bench. But with the notable exception of Tyreke Evans, the coach was disappointed by the Pelicans starters’ inability to compete with the Clippers from the start.
“It’s never fun to lose like that,” Rivers said. “I think stuff like this has to hurt, it has to bother you. This can’t just be another game for us, like all right, we’ve got another game in a couple of days.
“I mean, this has to stop. I don’t mind losing when you put everything out there, but it’s a bad feeling when you lose and you just feel like your team didn’t give their best. That’s how I felt (Saturday night).”
There was some good on a personal level Saturday. It was also the day Rivers’ brother, Spencer, helped Winter Park, Fla., win a state championship. Austin Rivers led Winter Park to back-to-back titles in 2010-11.
“This is huge, one of my proudest moments,” Austin Rivers said. “I love my brother more than anybody. It’s the only sweet moment right now — he led his team to a title when no one thought he could.
“I’m going to do something special for him.”
End of the road
Tuesday marked the eighth and final day of the Pelicans’ Mardi Gras road trip — and, as Williams noted, it could have been worse.
“It can be rough on you,” the coach said. “I talked to (Sacramento coach) Michael Malone last night, and they had a 13-day road trip.
We’re glad to have ours out of the way, and that we haven’t had to deal with one of those.”
The wrong direction
Monday’s 96-89 loss at the Kings was a lot less unsightly than Saturday’s to the Clippers, and New Orleans might have pulled the former out with a normal game from All-Star forward Anthony Davis. But he had his second poor shooting night in a row (4-of-14), and has made just five of his past 20 attempts after going 14-for-18 from the field Friday at Phoenix.
“He set a high bar,” Williams said. “We expect him to be other-worldly. Against Phoenix, he was like that.
“Teams are trying to take him out, and (the past two games) he hasn’t played as well as he wants to.”
Davis, and the Pelicans, looked a lot better with off-season acquisitions Holiday and Anderson in the lineup, and Williams is looking forward to when they’ll be reunited next season.
“I don’t think Anthony would be where he is (in his second season) if we hadn’t had Jrue and Ryan on the floor with him to start the season,” Williams said.