New Orleans Pelicans are showing a shift in mentality from last season

Dennis Smith Jr. #0 of the Detroit Pistons reacts as Kira Lewis Jr. #13 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Dennis Smith Jr. #0 of the Detroit Pistons reacts as Kira Lewis Jr. #13 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

In the New Orleans Pelicans’ preseason win over the Orlando Magic, there were some noticeable mentality changes during the game and post game interviews. The new players seemingly bring things the roster didn’t have before—confidence, edge, and a basic concept of teamwork.

New Orleans Pelicans: 3 changes from last season

The Pelicans started off sluggish, shooting 4-24 in the first quarter. Amongst that rugged beginning, Jonas Valanciunas, in his season debut, began the game 0–5 but picked it up significantly as the game went on. However, he was ejected after two technical fouls midway into the third quarter. His technical fouls, whether they were fair or not, prove his passion for the game. He plays with a relentless edge that the Pelicans didn’t have a year ago.

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Trey Murphy had another monster shooting night, and is now shooting 63 percent from 3-point range in the preseason on 19 attempts in the first two games. Trey steps into shots with the confidence of a 10-year vet. Two quotes from his post game interview really show his mentality as a basketball player:

"“I mean, I’m shooting open shots and I can shoot the ball pretty well, I can’t lie to you.”“Honestly I could go 0-20, I’m still shooting the next one”"

That type of mentality is contagious, and it showed in the second quarter when the New Orleans Pelicans came back to take the lead for good. After shooting 17 percent from long range in the first quarter, they finished the game shooting 51.4 percent from beyond the arc and part of it was them feeding off Murphy’s confidence.

This last one may seem like a simple gesture, but the Pelicans rarely did this last season. Nickeil Alexander-Walker was fouled in the first quarter, and Devonte’ Graham signaled for him to stay down until he got there to help him up. On another occasion, Josh Hart was fouled, and Herb Jones sprinted to help him teammate up. Last year vs. the Detroit Pistons, Josh Jackson knocked Kira Lewis to the ground twice, and no one helped him up either time. This year so far, it has been different. There is a sense of togetherness and guys are playing for each other, not with each other.

For 82 games, this is the type of synergy that the team needs if they want to make their first playoff appearance in three years. The offense will come as the roster possess legitimate NBA talent, but the passion and effort they play with on defense along with this new mentality will be the team’s ticket to go to the next level.

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