The New Orleans Pelicans have been having a quiet offseason, and that’s a good thing.
In the aftermath of the Charlotte Hornets being eliminated in the play-in, their young players have shown a great level of immaturity, and two things are evident in their actions: They lack a respected adult in that locker room, and no one is there to truly teach them how to be professionals. That’s not on knock on Gordon Hayward and Miles Plumlee, but the voices and who it comes from in a locker room matters.
Since David Griffin was hired to be the New Orleans Pelicans’ Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, he’s ensured that the Pels had a veteran in the locker room. They decided to keep Jrue Holiday and bring in JJ Redick. Those two worked as the “grown men” in the locker room as the young core came into age as professionals. Soon after, the short stint of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams happened, but the experiment didn’t pan out.
The New Orleans Pelicans have had their own incident in the past, with Jaxson Hayes finding himself in some off-the-court trouble, so they know the importance of having professionals who can set an example for the young guys.
The 2021-22 season came around, and Griffin brought in Jonas Valančiūnas, Garrett Temple, and, eventually, CJ McCollum. Those additions really pushed this Pelicans team forward on and off the court. From Garrett Temple teaching Herb Jones the ropes with the referees, to Valančiūnas showing up to pressers dressed to the nines (along with Temple), to CJ McCollum getting Zion to come out of his shell during rehab.
In a recent interview on the Ryen Russillo Podast, Griffin went into detail about what having a veteran like CJ McCollum has meant to this team:
"“CJ’s presence, while enormous on the court, and he’s tremendous as a player…what he’s done for us off the court is every bit as big and maybe bigger…he has a professionalism to him…he came here with a leadership voice.”"
The team has been training together essentially since being bounced out of the first round. The level of professionalism has sparked a new atmosphere while simultaneously turning the team into one of the more serious franchises in the NBA.
Having the right veteran leader matters, and the New Orleans Pelicans appear to have found their guy in CJ McCollum.