The New Orleans Pelicans (4-0) put in a hard practice Wednesday morning and then headed to the airport to put their undefeated preseason record to the test in Oklahoma City Thursday night, in what will be a battle of the unbeatens against the Thunder (3-0).
"It's very competitive. Tyreke has been out, but that's the guy I usually go against. It gets heated: me and him talk trash to each other every single day," guard Austin Rivers said. "Eric Gordon is a quiet guy. He doesn't really talk too much, but Eric comes out and is very aggressive on the court. Everyone competes because everyone wants something. Everyone wants more, as we should. We're a hungry team."
The Pels may have yet to lose in the pre-season, but they still have plenty of room for improvement.
New Orleans dropped all four contests against the Thunder last season as the Hornets, so they're looking for redemption this regular season against Kevin Durant and company. Thursday night is the perfect warm up.
"We haven't done anything yet, so we have a lot to prove," Rivers said. "This pre-season is great. We're off to a great start. It means a lot, but it doesn't mean a lot at the same time. At the end of the day, we're 0 - 0."
The Pels reserve 7-footer Jason Smith will not play because of a hip injury, according to head coach Monty Williams. Smith also sat out of Sunday's win over Atlanta due to the same ailment.
"He's got what they call an impingement," Williams said. "I feel like it's smart to rest him right now."
Guard/forward Tyreke Evans' status for Thursday is a question mark. Evans is rehabbing his left ankle, but has told the media he hopes to be able to play against the Thunder. Evans' last game action came on Oct. 5 in the preseason opener at Houston.
"He's working out, trying to get his conditioning back," Williams said. "He still has some soreness, but there's nothing new to report."
Following Thursday's game in Tulsa, the Pelicans will head to Lexington, KY., to play the Washington Wizards on Saturday night. The game will unfold inside Rupp Arena, which will no doubt bring back a flood of memories for Kentucky products Anthony Davis and Darius Miller, who will not play because of a stress fracture in his left foot.
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