Pelicans will play faster, lean on Anthony Davis more under Alvin Gentry

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It was one of the most perplexing things about the Pelicans the last couple seasons. When the game would get tight late, one of their guards would walk the ball up the court (allowing the defense to fully get set), then usually pound the ball into the ground with his dribble before trying to create a shot for himself in the final seconds of the clock.

The Pelicans played slow (27th in the league in pace) and went away from Anthony Davis in the fourth quarters of games.

No more.

New head coach Alvin Gentry will change that.

Gentry was the best offensive mind available on the coaching market. The past two seasons he was the lead assistant for Doc Rivers with the Clippers then for Steve Kerr with the Warriors — the two best offenses in the NBA. Gentry had a heavy hand in both.

Gentry’s philosophy is to keep attacking and keep the defense on its heels — which means playing far more up tempo. The Pelicans should have been doing that already. Davis is their best player and runs the floor like a gazelle, the young big will beat his man down the court almost every time and either score or create matchup nightmares to be exploited.

Gentry told Pelicans’ GM Dell Demps and the rest of the New Orleans front office they simply were not using Davis enough, something reported by Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

Gentry believes the Pelicans have underutilized Davis’ offensive skills. Not only did he express this during his initial interview with (head of basketball operations Micky) Loomis and Demps, but Gentry also came into that session equipped with charts and graphs to illustrate his point.

By underutilize, he doesn’t just mean more touches, he also means better ones. Davis was too often the safety net for the offense, with his chance coming late in the clock after the guards exhausted options for themselves. Then in the fourth quarter the Pelicans would just stop feeding him the ball at all.

Change that dynamic and combine it with a point guard like Jrue Holiday and a sharpshooter like Ryan Anderson running to the arc and there is great potential. (It should be noted here both of those guys were injured much of last season, just having them back healthy improves this roster.)

My guess is we will see a lot more of Davis as the center, with Anderson at the four, and less of Davis paired with Omer Asik (who will come off the bench). Davis and Holiday can run a devastating pick-and-roll, especially if the floor is spread with shooters. Also, expect Davis to get the ball at the elbow and the offense to run through him more.

The offense is tantalizing, but it is the defensive end where Gentry needs to make the biggest impact. The Pelicans were bottom 10 in defensive rating last season.

He’s not known as a defensive coach, but the last two teams where he was an assistant — Golden State and the L.A. Clippers — were very good on that end. The Pelicans have the personnel to be better, but it will be interesting to see what schemes Gentry puts in place. Don’t be surprised if his lead assistant is a defensive specialist.

For the next couple weeks, Gentry can “relax” and not worry about the challenges of the Pelicans, all he needs to deal with is LeBron James. Gentry will stay with the Warriors through the NBA Finals before jumping on a plane to the land of gumbo.

Gentry was a good hire by the Pelicans, a guy who has both knows the league and is learning new things from elite franchises. Did you really want to see how Tom Thibodeau would grind down Anthony Davis after a few seasons? Gentry landed the best job that will open up this summer in the NBA — with Davis this team has incredible potential for growth.

Now he just has to get them to play faster and get the ball to Davis in the fourth quarter.

 

Report: Raptors could get OG Anunoby back during Finals

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The Toronto Raptors are headed to the 2019 NBA Finals, and they are going to need every player on their roster if they want a chance at dethroning the Golden State Warriors.

Forward OG Anunoby has been out since early April after needing an emergency appendectomy. He has not played in the playoffs yet this season, but a new report says the Raptors may be hopeful he could return before the end of this final series.

Via Twitter:

Anunoby Is a useful second-year forward who plays hard on both ends of the floor. Toronto is going to have a hard time matching up with the Warriors defensively, whether Kevin Durant plays or not. Having Anunoby available would help Toronto be more switchable and more adept at taking on some of Golden State’s smaller lineups.

We don’t have a timetable for Anunoby’s potential return yet, but the way the Finals are spaced out (Game 1 is on Thursday, Game 2 is next Sunday) it could help get players healthy and ready.

That could be good news for Kawhi Leonard, who sat out several games this year simply to rest. Leonard has looked a little banged up through these playoffs, as has just about everyone else. The bad news for Toronto is that this time between games could also help the Warriors get Durant ready to play.

Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals is on Thursday at 6 p.m. PST in Canada.

Drake gave Nick Nurse another shoulder rub (VIDEO)

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People are already getting tired of Drake being a prominent figure in the storyline of the Toronto Raptors. They will have to just deal with it for now as Toronto is headed to the 2019 NBA Finals after beating the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night.

That said, Drake is actually an ambassador for the Raptors. Some folks seem to forget that.

There was a dust-up during the Eastern Conference Finals about Drake having given Raptors coach Nick Nurse a shoulder rub during Game 4. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer thought that fans shouldn’t be interacting with members of the coaching staff or players, but the Raptors didn’t seem to think it was that big a deal.

After the Raptors won on Saturday, Drake embraced Nurse yet again, playing off of the initial kerfuffle.

Via Twitter:

Get ready to see more Drake than you’ve ever wanted.

Watch Raptors fans celebrate Finals berth in streets of Toronto (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors are headed to their first NBA Finals in franchise history. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry beat Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night in Game 6 to send them home and push Toronto into the final series of the year against the Golden State Warriors.

Raptors fans, who have been perennially disappointed by teams who were just good enough, naturally found themselves celebrating in the streets of Ontario. Videos of cars honking and people walking through the avenues surfaced on social media, with the whole thing looking like a big party.

Via Twitter:

The Raptors aren’t the most talented team in the Eastern Conference, but they did have the best player in the entire playoffs this season in Leonard. Coach Nick Nurse figured out a way to stop the Bucks by collapsing on Antetokounmpo, and Milwaukee’s shooters went cold at just the wrong time. The rest of the Raptors bench finally gave Leonard some support, and Toronto was able to mount a comeback in the series to push themselves into the NBA finals.

For that, both Toronto and the Raptors fans deserve to be overjoyed with what’s happening right now.

Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals will be on Thursday at 6 p.m. PST in Toronto.

Bucks fans greet team, Giannis Antetokounmpo at Milwaukee airport (VIDEO)

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The Milwaukee Bucks season is over. Giannis Antetokounmpo and his supporting cast couldn’t get things done in Game 6 on Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors in Canada. Now it’s Kawhi Leonard who is heading to the 2019 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

This season was a magical one for Milwaukee, one in which they took the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference and likely have the league’s MVP in Antetokounmpo.

As you might expect, Bucks fans are happy about that fact, and showed up to the Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport to greet their returning team.

Via Twitter:

It has to be nice for athletes to get this kind of treatment. Although some may want to just go home and languish in their defeat, the unwavering support of fanatics has to take the bite out of the sting, even if just a little bit.