6:23 P.M. (EASTERN TIME)
Stan Van Gundy, who was suspended from NBA coaching for two years, was looking for a great opportunity to return. He believes that in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram he has found exactly what Pelican found in New Orleans, a team that has, as he called it, two of the most unique talents in the league.
Van Gandhi said that Ingram, the top player in the 2019-20 NBA, can sometimes play as a playmaker and is not yet willing to call or cross Williamson.
I think you have a vision of what [Williamson], who’s a centipede, told reporters at his opening press conference on Tuesday. For a man of his size, he’s an incredible playmaker. He’s a man who can take the ball in the glass, take a break and play. He can dribble. He can end up with important people inside. He’s a man of many talents. I’m not looking at it at all, because it’s four or five o’clock. I’m not sure those names mean anything to him when it comes to him.
Van Gandhi added that the plan was to try to build as much as possible around Williamson.
I think that while we’re learning and trying to be more specific and talk to Zion about what he likes, Van Gandhi said, I think it’s more about what position we want him to be in and who’s best around him and stuff like that. That doesn’t limit him in his position. I think we’ll arrive at the beginning of the season and I think over time I’ll find out what he can do more than I think and things will develop from there.
Pelicanov’s other improved player last season was Lonzo Ball, who made a big leap in his three-point shooting. In the first two seasons with the NBA in the Los Angeles Lakers, the ball bounced 31.5 percent from the bottom, but in the first season in New Orleans, it rose to 37.5 percent.
Van Gandhi said the ball could be the best player in the NBA if he moves quickly across the field to unbalance the defense. He added that shooting with the ball can help create floor space and give players like Williamson, Ingram and Jrue Holiday more room to attack. He also compared Ball to JJ Redick, who coached Van Gandhi in Orlando, in terms of the slow start of their career before knowing what would happen next. From what he saw in the movie, the ball is a very smart basketball player.
Smart basketball players finally figured it out, Van Gundy said. I went over this with J.J. Radick. Of course, I mean, he came and it took him some time to build his career. But smart, hardworking guys find out after a while and get better and better. So I don’t think it’s any worse than Lonzo now, and he’s very good, I think we can expect a good improvement sheet for him in the next few years.
Last season the Pelicans finished in 21st place in the NBA defense standings. This side of the pitch was a clear argument for the Pelicans’ decision to follow Van Gundy (111.8).
I think the figures alone show that this team needs to be better defensive, Van Gandhi said. From this point of view, we really need to make a commitment to the management staff. That commitment is to learn a lot of things and bring them to a place where we really understand what we are doing at the end of the speech.
From a player’s point of view, we have to commit ourselves to be a very good defensive team if we want to win at a high level in a very, very talented Western conference. It will take time and effort on your part. We must all work to improve it.
David Griffin, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations at Pelicans, praised Van Gundy for his record as a regular season coach (577 wins in 907 career games) and noted that his post-season playing record was over 500 (48-43). Van Gundy won 60.5 percent of his games in Miami between 2003 and 2006 and increased that percentage to 65.7 in five seasons in Orlando.
However, when he arrived in Detroit in 2014, his teams were struggling to score successes as they scored no more than 0.500 per four seasons. Van Gundy was also the recruiter for these teams and didn’t have to worry about Griffin, Trajan Langdon’s general manager, Swin Cash’s vice president of basketball operations and Bryson Graham’s assistant general manager handling these calls.
Let me put it this way: One of the things I really want is to be able to go back to training and do other things [the Pelican’s frontline officer], Van Gundy said. The other day, Griff said I was looking at the application and I started shaking. I’m not sure that’s what I want.
I am very happy to be able to go back to our list, develop the player we have and let our team play the best possible basketball. It’s one of the most exciting things for me when I get back from that short film.