Mental toughness will be key for Pelicans’ success in Orlando

Mental toughness will be key for Pelicans’ success in Orlando
New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick, left, drives against Sacramento Kings forward Richaun Holmes during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -

Pelicans guard J.J. Redick didn’t hold back with his final answer to the media on Friday.

“To say that we have any sort of comfort level would be a lie,” says Redick.”

The NBA veteran laid out a clear picture of how he’s feeling on Friday. And the way he described it, Redick is likely not the only player that’s anxious about heading to Orlando to play in the NBA’s bubble.

“There is no comfort level,” says Redick. “We’re not with our families. We’re not at our homes. We’re isolated in a bubble in the middle of a hot spot in the middle of Florida while there’s social unrest going on in the county, and we’re three months away from potentially the most important election in our lifetimes.”

Simply put, it’s a lot for anyone to deal with right now. So to ask players to compartmentalize that and then focus all of their efforts on winning basketball games, you can see where mentally, playing in Orlando won’t be easy. As Josh Hart put it, maybe the best way to think about the situation is to come to terms with the current reality.

Mental focus will be Pelicans' biggest challenge in Orlando

“I think you’re going to have to be OK with some type of risk,” says Hart. “I’m kind of just putting my faith in them. I think they’ve handled it very well. I think the bubble will be safer than a lot of other places or a lot of other markets there are. In New Orleans, cases have been going up…California, New York. So I feel like the bubble is probably the safest solution to what we’re living with right now.”

As for their approach on the court though, this Pelicans teams seems as locked in as anyone. From veterans like Redick and Jrue Holiday, to younger players like Hart, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson, the mission right now is basketball, and they seem just as committed to the league and their teammates as they do to creating positive social change by using their platform to keep making progress.

And especially with Zion in the lineup and appearing to be in even better shape physically than the last time we saw him on the floor, the team confidence is sky high.

“The addition (of) him made us more aggressive, more dynamic,” says Hart. “It definitely put us in an amazing (spot) to make a push for the playoffs. I mean, I think if we had him at the beginning of the year, the story wouldn’t be fighting for the eighth seed. It would have been: we’re a four or five seed in the West. "

“I think this team can be really special when we’re all healthy,” says Williamson. “It’s just a matter of us coming together and fighting those mental battles of being in the bubble.”

The moral of the story: the team that will emerge as NBA champion may not be the most fit or the healthiest. COVID-19 has proven that it can strike at any time in bunches. It’s the team that can weather those punches in Orlando that will find the most success.

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