It's taken a season and a half now, but Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry may finally have the right personnel to try to replicate the fast-pace offense of his more successful teams. That now includes Donatas Motiejunas, the 7-foot Lithuanian that can run the floor and stretch defenses.
“I think he’s a good passer,” says Gentry. "I think anytime you have a big man who’s a good passer, it helps your offense a lot. He’s got a good feel for the game.”
Motiejunas is a versatile scorer, but he also appears to bring a team-first attitude to his new home. He says he’s eager to play in Gentry’s system because it’s very similar to that of his former coach with the Rockets, Mike D’Antoni. It also helps to play alongside a superstar like Anthony Davis.
“It opens up so many opportunities for me to deliver the ball to different players,” says Motiejunas. “I’m looking forward to helping Anthony Davis get the ball in different situations and helping the point guards move the ball from side-to-side.”
That has to be music to Gentry’s ears, now that the Pelicans are committed to the smaller lineup that doesn’t include Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca. Asik hasn’t played in the last five games. Ajinca hasn’t seen any action in the last four. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have won four of the last five. Plain and simple, the big men don’t fit in the lineup that allows New Orleans to play their fastest and most efficient basketball.
The only caution flag with Motiejunas is his injury history. He spent five months trying to make his way to another NBA roster after seeing trades and contract offers fall through because of back issues that showed up in physical evaluations. However, “D-Mo” says he’s medically cleared and ready to go with the Pelicans.
“They saw a big opportunity for me here,” says Motiejunas. “I kind of felt like this is the best fit for me, and I’m going to be benefiting the team.”
Gentry hopes Motiejunas uses his doubters as motivation.
“Usually in those situations, a guy likes to prove to everyone that they’re wrong,” says Gentry. “So you really get the best from that guy that you’re going to get. That’s what we’re hoping in this situation right here.”
In 2014-15 in Houston, his most productive season where he played 71 games, Motiejunas averaged 12.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. If he eventually becomes a steady contributor with the Pelicans, he could very possibly improve on those numbers.
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