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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After being an NBA champion, a member of three NBA Finals teams and playing with the likes of Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce and Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins is accustomed to maximum effort and a commitment to winning.
So far in his first season with the New Orleans Pelicans, the veteran center has been disappointed with some teammates’ effort.
“It’s very disappointing. At the end of the day, this is not what I signed up for,” Perkins told Yahoo Sports before Wednesday’s win against the Sacramento Kings. “I signed up after I looked from the outside, coming in to a good young team that has been making strides in the right direction. We got real comfortable. We ain’t got long to make a push.
“At this point in time, we are all just searching to find the right lineups and who is going to come out and compete at a high level every night. That’s been our main problem before anything else. We just come out too many nights and don’t compete at the level we need in order to win. What really is the key to everything is our level of competitiveness.”
Two-time All-Star forward Anthony Davis and the Pelicans were expected to take a step forward this season after advancing to the playoffs in 2014-15. But with coach Alvin Gentry in his first season with the Pelicans, major injury issues have hampered the team, leading to 17 different starting lineups being used this season.
The Pelicans have the Western Conference’s third-worst record at 12-26 and have lost seven of their last 10 games, including a 95-91 road setback Tuesday to the Los Angeles Lakers, who own the West’s worst record.
“I’m frustrated with losing and our energy and effort on the floor,” Davis, who missed the Lakers’ game because of a bruised back, told Yahoo Sports. “But I know guys are really trying. They go out and compete every night. The frustration comes more when we don’t. Like in the Laker game, we didn’t bring it. It’s even more frustrating when I can’t play.”
Davis and Perkins refuse to use having a new coach as an excuse for the team’s early struggles, and Davis added that the early injury woes can’t be used as an excuse anymore because the Pelicans are relatively healthy now. Guard Tyreke Evans told Yahoo Sports he isn’t expected to miss time after having his right knee drained Thursday.
When asked why the intensity was so much better in Wednesday’s game than against the Lakers, Gentry told Yahoo Sports: “I don’t even have any idea. I don’t even know how to start to explain. I really don’t.”
Davis is placing the blame on himself for the team’s struggles, saying he has to provide energy and motivate his teammates whether he plays or not and that he needs to show better composure in games when things don’t go the Pelicans’ way.
“We can’t pick and choose when we want to play, especially with the position we are in as a team,” Davis told Yahoo Sports. “It’s been a roller-coaster. I don’t think anyone comes out and says, ‘We are going to pick to play tonight,’ or ‘We are going to play tonight.’ I think it just happens. It starts with me.”
With the Pelicans’ season not going as planned, the franchise has begun exploring the possibility of change. Shooting guard Eric Gordon and forward-center Ryan Anderson, both in the last years of their contracts, and Evans have been discussed in potential trade scenarios, but nothing is imminent, league sources told Yahoo Sports. The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 18.
But despite what may be going on peripherally, the Pelicans, who entered Thursday five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with 44 to play, still believe the season can be salvaged.
“Even though the West isn’t what it used to be, we can make up some ground [to make the playoffs],” Perkins, who won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2008, told Yahoo. “But we got to make it up sooner rather than later. [The coaches] are trying everything. They’re trying to put us in a position every night to be successful. The effort is not on coach. It’s on players.”
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