Pelicans shootaround update: NOLA players in bigger roles than anticipated due to injuries

New Orleans first-year head coach Willie Green acknowledges that no one is content with the Pelicans’ first 10 games of 2021-22 from a bottom-line standpoint, at 1-9 overall. But Green believes that the current circumstances will benefit the Pels down the road. Out of necessity, numerous young players have been tossed into the deep end early in the 82-game schedule, filling roles beyond what anyone anticipated.

“The biggest thing is we’re asking everybody to do more,” Green said of being without starting forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, as well as fill-in starting forward Herbert Jones for the past two games. “It’s extremely difficult to do in the NBA, but not impossible. We’re always asking guys to take one or two steps higher than what they would be if we were fully healthy. And that’s OK, because they’re getting great opportunities, in-game experience. Once we’re whole (as a fully healthy team), we’ll be that much better off, from those guys getting those experiences… I believe we’ll be a deeper team because of it.”

For a team missing so much of its offensive firepower, the schedule has been anything but kind to New Orleans, including a four-game road trip that culminates tonight in Dallas against the Western Conference’s current third-place club. Every opponent on this Week 3-4 excursion is at least .500, including NBA-leading Golden State (8-1).

“We know we can’t go into games relying on one person to score 50 and win a game for us,” Green said. “We have to do it collectively as a group. I’ll continue to reiterate that I’m proud of what our team is doing right now. Our record doesn’t show it – none of us are happy about that – but we understand we’re building.”

Other notes:

Second-year forward Naji Marshall on how the Pelicans need to deal with a rough start: “Tough times don’t last long. How we handle adversity is who we really are. (I am) just trying to stay energized and help other guys who may not be as energized.”

DALLAS SCOUTING REPORT

Offensive efficiency rank: 23 (103.2)

Defensive efficiency rank: 20 (107.4)

Net rating: 24 (-4.3)

Pace: 22 (98.72)

Streak: Won 2

Go-to guy: By his lofty standards, Luka Doncic is off to a relatively slow start, ranking 11th in the NBA in scoring average (24.9), while shooting just 29 percent from three-point range. However, his cumulative statistics are a bit misleading based on a couple one-sided Dallas defeats that limited his minutes. Doncic has scored at least 23 points in all six Mavericks victories, topped by his season-best 33 points Saturday in a narrow home victory over Boston.

On the rise: A fan asked to guess Dallas’ second-leading scorer early in 2021-22 might run through several options before coming up with the name of backup point guard Jalen Brunson. The son of a retired NBA player, Brunson is averaging 14.8 points, while shooting 49 percent from the field and 38 percent on three-pointers. He’s averaging 23.0 points on 60 percent shooting over the last three games.

PREVIOUS GAME STARTING LINEUPS

NEW ORLEANS (1-9)

Friday loss at Golden State

Devonte’ Graham, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Garrett Temple, Josh Hart, Jonas Valanciunas

Notes: This group is 0-2, a combination necessitated by injuries to Williamson, Ingram and Jones, all of whom would potentially fill forward slots. … This lineup has logged 34 minutes together, the second-most of any combination this season for New Orleans. The group of Graham, Alexander-Walker, Valanciunas with Ingram and Jones at the forwards has 78 minutes under its belt. … Ingram and Jones are listed as questionable; Williamson is out.

DALLAS (6-3)

Saturday win vs. Boston

Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Kristaps Porzingis, Dwight Powell

Notes: This group is 3-1, having started the first three games of the season (wins at Toronto, vs. Houston, a loss at Atlanta) before returning Saturday upon Porzingis getting back in uniform following an injury. … Dallas has used four different starting lineups and eight different first-stringers. Brunson and Reggie Bullock started twice apiece, while Maxi Kleber started once. Kleber has been out three straight games with an oblique strain.

FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME

BOUNCE BACK

Mentally and performance-wise, Friday’s 41-point loss at Golden State was painful. New Orleans needs to get back to the highly competitive way it was playing over the seven-game stretch preceding the defeat at Chase Center.

LIMIT LUKA
In two Dallas victories last season, Doncic averaged 39.5 points against New Orleans (he did not play in the Pelicans’ win over the Mavericks). New Orleans can’t let the perennial All-Star have a big night again in Texas.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

At 7-foot-3, Porzingis is a unique matchup quandary for a lot of Dallas opponents, but particularly for New Orleans, which out of necessity Friday started a pair of forwards who are both 6-5. Making matters even more interesting, Powell is Dallas’ starting center, possibly drawing the Valanciunas matchup.

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