Demps: Randle, Payton additions make Pelicans higher

METAIRIE, La. (AP) – Whether the Pelicans are higher off with Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton than they have been with DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo stays to be seen.

All basic supervisor Dell Demps may do on Friday, as he sat between his two new gamers, was provide assurances that New Orleans All-Star Anthony Davis was an ardent advocate for signing Randle and counsel that the “two-way” talents of Payton and Randle give the Pelicans a promising alternative to construct on a method that served them nicely late final season.

“When we finished the season last year, we felt like found a rhythm, found an identity,” Demps mentioned, alluding to the playoff push and first-round sweep of Portland that the Pelicans pulled off with out Cousins, who was rehabilitating his torn left Achilles tendon.

“We feel like the team’s improved,” Demps mentioned. “On paper, everything looks really good. But, obviously, we have to do it on the court.”

Before Cousins spurned New Orleans in favor of a one-year, reported $5.three million deal to hitch defending champion Golden State this month, the Pelicans’ occasion line had been that they needed Cousins again.

But with Cousins nonetheless recovering from a critical harm, the Pelicans wouldn’t provide the utmost allowable contract for NBA free brokers who’re eight-year veterans: Five years and round $177 million. They tried to barter a shorter deal as an alternative, to no avail.

Cousins, who turns 28 subsequent month, was named a 2018 All-Star earlier than his harm in late January. He averaged 25.2 factors and 12.9 rebounds in 48 video games final season. But Cousins additionally averaged 5 turnovers and usually could possibly be seen lingering close to the basket after missed photographs, expressing dissatisfaction with officiating whereas opponents raced five-on-four the opposite approach.

After Cousins’ harm, the Pelicans improved defensively, performed with a quicker tempo and went 21-13 to complete the common season sixth within the Western Conference.

“Obviously we want to build off the success we had last year,” Demps mentioned, emphasizing that Randle and Payton “are two-way players” who can “push the ball in transition.” In addition to speaking up Randle’s and Payton’s defensive play, Demps highlighted their relative youth and repeatedly referred to them as “unselfish.”

The 6-foot-9 Randle, who turns 24 in November, averaged 16.1 factors and eight rebounds in simply 27 minutes per sport with the Los Angeles Lakers final season. He additionally led Los Angeles in assists seven instances.

Demps mentioned he heard from Davis the second phrase unfold that the Lakers had determined to let Randle go after agreeing to phrases with LeBron James.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re on it,’” a grinning Demps recalled.

Randle mentioned Davis additionally referred to as him “like three times in a row to pretty much get the job done.”

Randle referred to as Davis‘ outreach a “very important” consider his determination.

“It’s their star player,” Randle mentioned of Davis, whom he additionally knew as a result of they each performed in school at Kentucky. “So for him to see me fit in well to that plan A and a part of their future means a lot.”

Randle additionally mentioned he expects his sport to enhance alongside a dynamic front-court participant like Davis, who Randle mentioned will likely be “the best player in his prime that I’ve played with.”

Randle additionally performed one full season with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles in 2015-16, however that was the final of Bryant’s 20 seasons.

Like Randle, the 23-year-old Payton is coming into his fifth NBA season, having averaged 12.7 factors and 6.2 assists final season Orlando and Phoenix.

Rondo, who will flip 33 subsequent season, averaged eight.three factors and eight.2 rebounds final season. But his manufacturing spiked within the playoffs, when he averaged 10.three factors and 12.2 rebounds – and displayed a knack for locating Davis with lobs on the rim.

While the 6-Four Payton is a New Orleans native who performed in school at Louisiana-Lafayette, he downplayed how a lot his Louisiana ties influenced his determination to signal with the Pelicans.

“It didn’t matter if this team was in – wherever,” Payton mentioned. “I simply felt like this was one of the best match.

“I’m greatest in transition, after we’re pushing the ball,” Payton added. “It definitely fits my strengths.”

Demps mentioned he had studied Payton since earlier than the guard turned professional and “always felt like he was a great fit for our group, especially the way we want to play.”

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