NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Pelicans opened training camp Tuesday, surrounded by new logos, colors and training facilities. But the most important change for this team is its upgraded roster, including guard Tyreke Evans, guard Jrue Holiday and center Greg Stiemsma.
"Just from right now, if you ask me to compare it to last year, it's two totally different teams," guard Austin Rivers said. "But that doesn't mean anything unless we show it on the floor. In reality, we have to win games. We could have a way better team and still have the same record. We've got to put it on the floor."
This re-tooled team has already been working to achieve that for the past month during voluntary workouts, in which the majority of the team has participated. Now, with a week of two-a-day practices ahead, they'll officially start putting the pieces together.
"Even after just one practice today, you can already see how many weapons we have. It's ridiculous," Rivers said. "It's hard to get a stop just during drills. Just go down the list: guys can score at every angle."
On this first day of training camp however, Coach Monty Williams never mentioned offense, true to form. Defense was the sole point of emphasis.
"It was a hard practice. Really intense. A lot of teaching. A lot of confusion," Williams said. "It was physical, and guys went hard. We went longer than I thought we would, but we had a lot to teach. There's a lot of stuff we want to get in. They're overloaded right now, but it's just going to help us in the long run."
Everyone on the roster is healthy, including forward Jason Smith, who's coming off surgery for a torn labrum, and guard Eric Gordon, who received final medical clearance just a few days ago.
Gordon is now ramping up into full "basketball shape," according to Williams. Don't expect Gordon to go hard or play much during the upcoming pre season games, which begin Saturday.
"If I had to put a time on it, I would say in another two weeks he'll be ready to play in a game," Williams said.
Williams does expect Gordon to be 100 percent for the start of the regular season.
"I do. I really do. I think he'll be more than ready for the opener," Williams said. "There's a part of me that I have to push to make sure he's doing the things necessary to not work at his pace, but work at the pace I think he needs to work at to be ready.
Williams will consult with Gordon's doctors and the team training staff to make sure Gordon doesn't push too hard too quickly. Williams does not want Gordon re-injuring himself and only being available for intermittent games, as was the case last season.
The Pelicans go on the road to face the Houston Rockets Saturday in what will be the first measuring stick for how much better this team really is – or is not.
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