Matthew Hinton/Associated PressThe NBA is set to resume the 2019-20 season at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, on July 30, but New Orleans Pelicans star Brandon Ingram told reporters Monday he’s “not very confident” the league will actually be able to finish the season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”This is something that’s never…
“This is something that’s never been done before, and there’s still a lot of question marks,” his teammate Lonzo Ball added, per Doug Mouton of WWL-TV.
There are major question marks heading into the NBA restart, given the recent spike in coronavirus cases around the United States and the complexities of gathering 22 teams to conclude the season, even with those teams quarantined in Orlando and subject to rigorous testing and safety protocols.
While some leagues around the world have had great success minimizing the threat of COVID-19—the English Premier League didn’t have a single positive test in its most recent round of testing—other leagues have already hit major complications.
Most notably, FC Dallasannounced Monday it had been withdrawn from the MLS is Back Tournament after 10 players and one coach tested positive for the coronavirus.
The NBA has had some players withdraw from the return to play, most notably Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley and Brooklyn Nets center DeAndre Jordan, but no major stars have chosen to sit out at this point.
If major stars do test positive for the coronavirus in Orlando and are forced to miss time, however—especially once the playoffs begin—it will be fascinating to see how the NBA reacts. Namely, will they want to proceed with a postseason devoid of some of the game’s biggest stars?
That’s a hypothetical for now. And for now, players like Ingram are planning to compete for a title in Orlando. But as players like Ingram and Ball demonstrated Monday, there are very real doubts within NBA circles about how—or if—the league’s restart will actually work.
Canada set an NBA record for most non-American players on opening day rosters this season. There were 16 in all, as well as four more on two-way contracts, meaning they could split time between the NBA and its development league, the G League. Two more Canadians got called up during the year. Read More
Next up: New Orleans Pelicans rookie Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Alexander-Walker ran the full gamut of experiences in his rookie season in the NBA.
It wasn’t always the preferred experiences, but that’s more the norm for rookies finding their way in the league.
The 17th overall pick in the draft — initially by Brooklyn before a move to Atlanta and then New Orleans before he ever played a game — Alexander-Walker, who arrived in the NBA a year behind his cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, made a huge first impression during Summer League play in Las Vegas, where he finished as the third leading scorer while showing a mature ability to run an offence.
He followed that up with a stellar pre-season for the Pelicans that saw him average 15.4 points per game over five matches while shooting an eye-opening 46.7% from behind the arc.
Those performances had league general managers declaring him the “steal of the draft” in their annual pre-season survey.
But the good times didn’t last. Alexander-Walker opened the regular season right here in his hometown of Toronto and with it came the first real hurdle of his young career.
With an estimated 65 friends and family on hand for the game, Alexander-Walker made just one of 10 attempts from the field as the Pelicans lost the season opener for both teams in overtime.
Alexander-Walker handled the tough night with maturity and class, but it was the beginning of a depletion of his minutes as the season progressed.
He went from playing 15 minutes a night in October to 14 in November and down to 10 in December. He got a bit of a push in January, averaging almost 13 minutes a night but when fellow rookie teammate — and No. 1 overall pick— Zion Williamson finally was healthy enough to make his NBA regular-season debut on Jan. 22, the minutes dried up rather drastically for the Pelicans’ lone Canadian on the roster.
Already in a minutes crunch behind the likes of Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick, Josh Hart, E’Twaun Moore and Frank Jackson in a crowded Pels backcourt, head coach Alvin Gentry seemed less inclined to play a second rookie much at all with Williamson back in the fold.
Through it all, Gentry remained upbeat with Alexander-Walker’s approach. He consistently praised his fearlessness (in terms of taking shots) and his work ethic, but just didn’t seem to find many minutes for the Virginia Tech product.
In February, Alexander-Walker was sent down to the G League with minutes pretty much unavailable for him with the Pelicans.
That stint lasted only a couple of games but, when he did return, it was with a hairline fracture in his wrist and that, combined with the suspension of the season days later, brought his rookie year to a grinding halt.
To Alexander-Walker’s credit, he remained hard-working and upbeat throughout his first-year struggles and that earned him plenty of praise from his veteran teammates.
On his podcast, veteran teammate Redick raved about the young Canadian’s approach.
“We have a rookie, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who I love,” Redick said. “He basically just does whatever I do, and it’s amazing. Sometimes, I’m just trying to do (work) on my own and he’s like: ‘Hey man, can I come along with you?’”
Alexander-Walker’s wrist is now out of the cast and will not require surgery as was once feared.
But like everyone else, his comeback is on hold until this pandemic gets under control.
The best of Nickell Alexander-Walker’s rookie season:
Oct 28 vs. Golden State: 6-for-11 shooting, 2-for-4 from three, 15 points, nine assists, four rebounds.
Nov. 16 at Miami: 10-of-18 shooting, 6-for-9 from three, 27 points, three assists, four rebounds.
Nov. 17 vs. Golden State: 7-of-18 shooting, 5-for-13 from three, 19 points, four assists, five rebounds
Jan. 8 vs. Chicago: 4-of-8 shooting, 2-for-5 from three, 11 points, six assists, four rebounds
Jan. 16 vs. Utah: 5-fo-11 shooting, 2-for-4 from three, 12 points, three assists, one rebound
It’s safe to say that no one is anywhere close to giving up on this guy — not at 21 years of age and not having shown the glimpses of greatness that this kid already has at the NBA level.
His approach, his work ethic, his entire attitude screams: “I will succeed!” Opportunity is going to play a role in how soon this happens, or even if it happens in New Orleans. The Pelicans are a young, athletic team loaded at the guard position at the moment. That could change, but if not it just means more time to develop for Alexander-Walker.
His three-point game which was on point through the pre-season and summer league, clearly needs some fine-tuning, as does his ability to protect the basketball. Even for a rookie he was far too turnover-prone in those few moments he was given the rock and told to run the New Orleans offence.
Alexander-Walker, though, has the confidence and the desire to turn those negatives into positives.
He was making just less than $3-million for 2019-20 and will top that mark next season in the second year of his rookie contract. The Pelicans have teams options the following two seasons with a modest bump in 2021-22 and then a larger one up to just more than $5-million in 2022-23 assuming the ’21-22 option is picked up.
The rookie season may not have gone as smoothly as Alexander-Walker might have hoped, but he has given no one any indication that he can’t grow from it.0 Comme
LeBron James had a triple-double as the visiting Los Angeles Lakers overcame the absence of All-Star forward Anthony Davis and defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 122-114 on Sunday night. Davis, who averaged 36 points as the Lakers won the first three meetings with his former team, sat out because of knee soreness one night after […]
NEW ORLEANS — Of LeBron James’ many talents, this one might remain underrated: The man has a sense for the moment. He felt that moment arrive with just over two minutes, as he grabbed a rebound securing a triple-double for the night, then seconds later pulled up for a 3-pointer over Zion Williamson — the…
Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis, left, grabs a rebound next to New Orleans Pelicans’ Lonzo Ball (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson (1) looks on from under the basket during free throws next to Los…
Rookie power forward Zion Williamson contributed 25 points as the leader of the New Orleans Pelicans attack, who won at home 115-128 at the Portland Trail Blazers. The Pelicans, who led by up to 22 points, have won four of their last five games and enter the fight for eighth place in the Western Conference. […]
• The Toronto Raptors begin a five-game road trip (Nov. 8-16) Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center. This matches Toronto’s longest trip of the season. The Raptors will also play five in a row on the road March 1-9. Toronto will not play at home again until Nov. 18 vs. Charlotte. The Raptors play eight of 13 games on the road in the month of November. Toronto was 11-4 on the road vs. Western Conference opponents last season.
• The Raptors have won eight of their last nine games against the Pelicans, including their last four visits to New Orleans. In the first meeting this season, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam scored 34 points apiece, as Toronto beat the Pelicans 130-122 in overtime in the NBA’s season-opening game. Siakam is averaging 25.0 points in his last three games vs. New Orleans. With a victory Friday, the Raptors would sweep the season-series for the fourth time in the past five years.
• Pascal Siakam scored 11 of his 23 points in the third quarter Nov. 6 vs. Sacramento. He has now scored 10 or more three times in the third quarter this season, including 19 points Oct. 30 vs. Detroit. Siakam is currently averaging 9.7 points in the third frame – second in the NBA behind only Damian Lillard (10.5).
• Serge Ibaka scored a season-best 21 points (9-16 FG, 1-4 3PT, 2-2 FT) in 24 minutes as a reserve Wednesday night against the Kings. Ibaka has now led (or tied) the bench in scoring in every game this season; averaging 14.9 points. Ibaka averaged 12.2 points in 23 games as a reserve last season.
• Toronto ranks first in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage (.407). The Raptors have held their opponent below 40 per cent shooting from the floor three times in the first seven games of the regular season.
• Fred VanVleet finished with 12 points and five assists in 35 minutes of action Nov. 6 vs. Sacramento. VanVleet has now recorded at least five assists in a career-long seven straight games; averaging a teamhigh 6.9 assists during this stretch.
• Kyle Lowry (39.0) and Fred VanVleet (37.4) currently rank first and third, respectively, in the NBA in minutes per game. Lowry has played at least 34 minutes in every game this season. VanVleet has logged 40+ minutes three times, including a career-high 44 minutes in the season-opener vs. New Orleans.
• OG Anunoby is one of only five players in the NBA – along with Bam Adebayo, GiannisAntetokounmpo, Andre Drummond and Jonathan Isaac – with at least 10 steals and 10 blocks this season. Anunoby has already set single-game career bestss in both categories with five steals Oct. 28 vs. Orlando and four blocks Oct. 26 at Chicago. •
Patrick McCaw underwent arthroscopic surgery Wednesday to remove a benign mass on the back of the knee. The procedure was performed by Dr. Riley Williams at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. A timetable for McCaw’s return has not been established. He will be reevaluated in four weeks and his condition will be updated as appropriate.
In their first meeting of the season, Brandon Ingram scored a team-high 22 points for New Orleans to go with five rebounds, five assists, one steal and two blocks…Jrue Holiday added 13 points, four rebounds, six assists and two blocks…JJ Redick registered 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-6 from deep…Josh Hart posted a double-double off the bench for the Pelicans with 15 points and 10 rebounds…Nicolo Melli added 14 bench points for New Orleans on 5-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-5 from deep.
In their first matchup of the season against New Orleans, Pascal Siakam recorded a game-high 34 points to go with a game-high 18 rebounds, five assists and one block…Fred VanVleet also posted a game-high 34 points on 12-of-18 shooting, including 5-of-7 from long range…Kyle Lowry added 22 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals for the Raptors
. Alvin Gentry is 12-16 (.428) all-time against the Raptors…Nick Nurse is 2-1 (.667) all-time against New Orleans.
Raptors Assistant Coach Jamaal Magloire played for New Orleans from 2002-05…In 187 games, Magloire averaged 11.9 points and 9.5 rebounds…Magloire represented New Orleans in the 2004 NBA All-Star game, the lone All-Star selection of his career.
Pelicans G Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a native of Toronto…Alexander-Walker briefly attended Vaughan Secondary School in Vaughan, Ontario.
Raptors G/F Stanley Johnson appeared in 18 games for New Orleans during the 2018-19 season, posting averages of 5.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6