NEW ORLEANS - The new-look, new-name New Orleans Pelicans are all set to take flight this season amidst sky-high expectations, armed with a fortified roster and bolstered by a confidence building 7-1 pre-season.
The clouds of doubt about ownership are now banished: Wednesday night fans will see a New Orleans-themed team that drips with Crescent City references at every turn in its new branding scheme.
A fresh roster infused with the talents of names like Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Anthony Morrow should mean this team is much more fun to watch, as in they should get to the basket much more often.
Returning veteran guard Brian Roberts is well aware the team needs to build on the preseason success and deliver, now that the regular season has arrived.
"That's going to be big for us. With a new group of guys, and a whole new theme to the team, just a whole buzz around the Pelicans now, it's important to get off to a good start," Roberts says. "We're starting off right away with a great team in Indiana. We know they're going to come in here with a playoff type of effort, and we've got to match that. We're excited to get it started, but we know it's important to get off to a good start."
Last season - the then-Hornets were 7-23 through the month of December, and the team only enjoyed one non-losing month an 8-8 record in January.
Several of the starring faces for this season weren't here for those trials, but Roberts recalls it ever so well and will use those dark memories as motivation.
"I just remember that we had a streak there where we couldn't get a win. It was tough for us," Roberts said. "It kind of weighed on us because we were a young team and we really had never been through something like that before, most of us. So we can use that as a point where we can look back and if we're in that situation again, which we hope we're not, that we can fight through it and get a win when we need one."
Besides a revamped look and roster, the Pelicans are also starting this season with a healthy Eric Gordon, who says he's now in a much better place physically and mentally.
The improved roster takes some pressure off of Gordon, and the shooting guard readily admits his preseason performance - an average of 17 points per game and 58 percent shooting from the field - helps increase his comfort level that his knee and ankle are fully healed.
Fans will need to stay tuned to find out who Coach Monty Williams will start at center, new addition Greg Stiemsma or veteran Jason Smith, who's ready to make up for lost time after a torn labrum in his right shoulder last season.
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