Posted: Apr 23, 2013 6:36 PM by AP
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The New Orleans Pelicans think they are on the right path to NBA success, despite finishing 27-55.
In their season review on Monday, executive vice president Mickey Loomis, general manager Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams all pointed to pluses at the end of the first year under new owner Tom Benson - the longtime owner of the Saints.
"We're not satisfied with the 27-win season, but we saw a lot of positive things from this team, things we needed to see in year 1 of building a championship caliber team," Loomis said. "We saw the acquisition and the development of a core of young players."
New Orleans has changed its nickname to Pelicans from Hornets, but Demps was non-committal about how many changes they plan for what is the second-youngest roster in the NBA. That starts with leading scorer Eric Gordon, who might be traded after missing the first 29 games with a lingering right knee injury.
Gordon, who played only nine times in 2011-12, was on the court for 42 of New Orleans' last 53 games. He averaged 17.0 points in the first of a four-year, $43 million contract he received as a restricted free agent.
Gordon has missed at least 20 games every year since he was a rookie in 2008-09.
"It was tough on Eric coming back from injury, not having training camp," Demps said. "I thought he really tried to fight through the situation, and there were times he played with pain . But to say I anticipate him being back or not being back, I don't know if that's something I can answer right now."
Williams, who finished his third year as Pelicans coach but first under the new management, definitely will be back even though New Orleans is 48-100 since losing All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency after the 2010-11 season.
Loomis looked past that record to the inexperienced players Williams used this season. New Orleans' preferred starting lineup was Gordon, rookie Anthony Davis, fifth-year center Robin Lopez, third-year point guard Greivis Vasquez and third-year small forward Al-Farouq Aminu. Top reserves included Ryan Anderson, in his fifth NBA season but first with the Pelicans - and rookies Austin Rivers, Darius Miller and Brian Roberts.
"We absolutely have the right head coach in Monty Williams," Loomis said. "He's everything that we're looking for to lead our basketball team."
New Orleans struggled at both ends of the floor this year, tying for 24th out of 30 NBA teams in scoring (94.1) and tying for 26th in field goal percentage allowed (.471). Williams expects considerable improvement during the team's offseason workout program.
"We have a ton of work to do, and we all understand that," he said. "As Mickey tells me all the time, this is year one for us. We got off to a great start, but we don't like our record. We're not satisfied with that, and we all have to get better."
The other objective is adding pieces around the young core. The Pelicans, who got Davis by winning the draft lottery last year from the No. 4 position, will enter the lottery at No. 5 this time. They also are about $23 million under the NBA salary cap and can be active in free agency.
Their only unrestricted free agent in the regular playing rotation is Aminu, who averaged 7.3 points and 7.7 rebounds while starting 71 times at small forward.
"When we made the decision to go with a young group, we actually had to take a step back to take two steps forward," Demps said. "We worked really hard to get that opportunity to use that cap space this summer. We really want to maximize that opportunity."