Pelicans’ Davis, Cousins embracing throw-back lineup
ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 12, 2017 02:51 PM
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony (7) grabs a rebound in front of New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) and guard Jrue Holiday during the first quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
By Brett Martel, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are focused on how they can best complement one another in the spirit of past big men.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ front-court pairing is somewhat of a throwback in a league dominated by up-tempo, free-flowing offenses that space out the court and produce quick, open shots from just about anywhere inside 24 feet.
“The biggest thing for me is trying to figure out how me and Demarcus can make this thing work,” Davis said. “We’ve got the roster to match up with anybody. I think we can beat anybody. But we’ve just got to put it all together.”
A lineup with two dominant big-men worked well enough with Houston’s Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon to lift the Rockets to the NBA Finals in 1986. It worked even better when David Robinson and Tim Duncan led San Antonio to titles in 1999 and 2003.
If the 6’10” Davis and 6’11” Cousins want to be remembered in a similar vein, they have some way to go.
Davis has yet to experience a playoff victory; in his only postseason appearance, the Pelicans were swept by eventual champs Golden State in 2015.
Cousins has never even been on a playoff team, having spent his seven-year career with hapless Sacramento until last season’s All-Star break, when he was traded to New Orleans.
At least now, Davis and Cousins can share the burden of carrying a team. Ideally, they’ll dominate when together and won’t generally rest at the same time, meaning at least one of them usually will be on the court to minimize second-unit slippage.
“Everybody wants to be the man, but just being the man by yourself is not going to help you win games in this league. The league is way too talented. It’s way too competitive,” Cousins said. “Just having a talent like AD on my side, it definitely helps with carrying the burden and I know he feels the exact same way.”
Here are some other things to know about the Pelicans heading into the season:
INJURY BUG: On the eve of training camp, coach Alvin Gentry made a fist, knocked on the table in front of him and said, “Knock on wood five times,” while hoping aloud that New Orleans would have better injury luck this season than the previous two. For now, the Pelicans’ “big three” of Davis, Cousins and guard Jrue Holiday are all healthy. However, two projected starters — small forward Solomon Hill and guard Rajon Rondo — are out. Hill tore a hamstring this summer and isn’t expected back before February. Rondo had a core muscle injury during the Pelicans’ second preseason game, had surgery this week and is not expected back for four to six weeks.
ON HOLIDAY: Pelicans general manager Dell Demps is betting Holiday is about to have the best years of his career, having signed the 27-year-old guard to a five-year, $126 million extension. Holiday appears his healthiest in half a decade as he nears completion of his first preseason in four years. Gentry has said Holiday will be a combo guard who’ll be particularly focused on scoring when he’s off the ball.
“This is one of the first summers I’ve gotten a chance to really get after it and prepare myself for training camp, and a different style of play with different players — with some really good players,” Holiday said.
GUARDING GUARDS: The Pelicans suggest their big-man lineup can work in the increasingly small-ball NBA because 6’10” forward Anthony Davis is quick and nimble enough to defend on the perimeter. “I try to guard a lot of wings and guards,” Davis said. “I look forward to the challenge.”
EARLY URGENCY: Last season, a depleted Pelicans lineup started 0-8 and never recovered. A similar start could spell doom in a deep Western Conference that has added even more fire power since last season. “The way this conference is, it’s probably going to be tough to get out of that hole,” Davis said. “We’ve got to make sure that we come out with a fast start.”
The regular season opener is at Memphis Oct. 18 (Oct. 19, PHL time), followed by a home opener against Golden State. Cleveland visits before the month is out.
NBA CATS: After Rondo gets back, the Pelicans could play four ex-Kentucky Wildcats at the same time: Cousins, Davis, Rondo and small forward Darius Miller.