NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -
Last season, but especially in the playoffs, it was Jrue Holiday re-emerging as a premier guard in the NBA. And as we get ready to begin the 2018 campaign, the question is: who will break out this year? Nikola Mirotic certainly seems poised to make more noise nationally if he picks up where he left off in the post-season, but the Pelicans also point to one of their newest guards, Elfrid Payton.
"The thing I like about him is that he's not afraid to ask questions," says head coach Alvin Gentry. "He wants to know, 'Why are we doing this? What are we trying to get out of this?' And I think anytime you've got guys like that, they're usually locked in and pretty good."
But Payton's debut with his hometown team certainly won't be an easy one. Houson's Chris Paul and James Harden represent one of the most talented back courts in the league.
"They like to run," says Holiday. "They like to shoot from 35 feet, which the further you go out, the harder is to guard after two or three dribbles. Everybody has to sit down and play one-on-one, which with them, you have James (Harden), who's probably going to get a foul, Chris Paul, who's in the same position, and Melo, who can isolate you from anywhere. So it's really about sitting down, being competitive and really just working on your match-up. "
The Pelicans insist that facing Houston is just another game, and it is just one of 82. But on the national stage, going up against a team that was very, very close to making it to the NBA finals and maybe winning a title a year ago, it’s a chance for New Orleans to send a big statement to the rest of the league.