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NBA Beat: Now healthy, Pelicans have pieces for postseason push

Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, left, is among the NBA’s top 10 in a number of statistical categories, including scoring and rebounds.
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, left, is among the NBA’s top 10 in a number of statistical categories, including scoring and rebounds. The Associated Press

The key to the New Orleans Pelicans’ success can be summed up in two words from coach Monty Williams: “We’re healthy.”

Starting with last season, the Pelicans could have been a team approaching playoff contention if not for injuries.

Their marquee player, Anthony Davis, has been called everything from the next Tim Duncan to Kevin Garnett, but he missed 15 games last season.

Eric Gordon is a proven scorer, but he missed 18 games last season.

Jrue Holiday, an All-Star point guard with Philadelphia, played in only 34 games last season, his first with the Pelicans.

Ryan Anderson, the sharpshooting big man from Oak Ridge High School, missed 60 games.

It was hard for the Pelicans to make that postseason leap when so many key parts could not stay on the floor.

Injuries haven’t hit the Pelicans yet this season, and they’re offering glimpses of what they could become.

“We have some more talent on the floor so we can score in different ways,” Williams said. “It’s too early to tell where we are as far as that’s concerned, but it is a positive for us that we can play a bit faster and more in transition.”

The Pelicans entered Saturday’s game at Utah seventh in scoring at 103.7 points per game, highlighted by the spectacular skills of Davis, who is averaging 24.8 points a game, third in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Davis is living up to all the hype in his third season after being the first pick of the 2012 NBA draft. He’s also in the top-10 in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks this season.

While Davis is on the verge of superstardom, two players with local connections figure to play prominent roles for the Pelicans.

The Pelicans greatly missed Anderson’s skills last season. His ability to shoot with range from power forward allows Davis to operate with room around the rim when the Pelicans go with a smaller lineup.

Anderson hasn’t played as if the neck injury that ended his 2013-14 season has been a problem. He’s averaging 15.8 points, second-best on the team, as New Orleans’ sixth man.

“I’ve seen him get hit in a few games, and I didn’t see him shake his neck or anything different than when he gets hit in practice,” Williams said.

Then there’s Tyreke Evans, the 2010 Rookie of the Year with the Kings playing point guard, who is averaging 15.4 points per game and shares New Orleans’ assist lead (6.5) while starting at small forward.

“My biggest thing with Tyreke is he’s got to become a more complete player,” Williams said. “He has a tendency to kind of float when he doesn’t have the ball, and we’ve been talking about that for two years. Last year, I had to learn how to coach a guy like Tyreke, put him in positions where he can be comfortable and where we can be successful, too.”

Trending up

A week ago, we wondered what was going on in Denver as the team appeared to be sleepwalking through the first month of the season.

The Nuggets, however, have awaken lately, thanks largely to Ty Lawson.

Lawson helped spark a three-game winning streak by averaging 16.7 points and 12 assists.

The Nuggets have won four of five with Lawson averaging 15.6 points and 11 assists over that span.

In a league stocked with star point guards, Lawson might be overlooked by casual fans, but he’s been on a tear of late.

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The Team USA experience has been credited with several players from that team returning to their NBA teams and playing well, including DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

That hasn’t been the case for Detroit center Andre Drummond.

Drummond has started his third season shooting 39.7 percent, and the Pistons are 3-10.

Drummond is rebounding well (11.6 per game), but the growth he needs to show on offense hasn’t been evident.

Last words

“Uh … I’m from Memphis and I’m an owner. Anyone else? #WigSnatch”

Music superstar Justin Timberlake to a fan on Twitter who accused the Memphis-born crooner of being a bandwagon Grizzlies fan.

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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