The New Orleans Pelicans beat Los Angeles in Paul George’s debut with the Clippers last week.
The Pelicans could find themselves facing another marquee player in his debut with a new team Tuesday night.
New Orleans hosts the Portland Trail Blazers, and newly signed Carmelo Anthony is expected to be with the Blazers for the first time and might make his debut.
Portland has been one of the more disappointing teams in the young NBA season, but the arrival of Anthony, even though he’s 35 years old and a year removed from his last NBA action, has the Blazers excited about possibly get their season on track.
“You’re talking about a guy who’s scored 25,000 points,” Blazers guard CJ McCollum told OregonLive.com. “He’s a 10-time All-Star. He knows how to play the game. He gives us another guy who can score, another guy who can stretch the floor. He gives us another dynamic.”
News of Anthony’s signing came as the Blazers were embarking on a six-game, 10-day road trip that began Saturday night in San Antonio. Portland beat the Spurs 121-116 for just its second victory in an eight-game stretch.
But the Blazers moved on to Houston on Monday night and lost to the red-hot Rockets 132-108.
The Blazers might not have gone after Anthony if they hadn’t been left short-handed by a series of injuries.
Starting power forward Zach Collins is out until March because of shoulder surgery, center Jusuf Nurkic is rehabilitating a fractured leg, and veteran forward Pau Gasol has yet to play this season because of a foot injury.
“I was excited about it,” guard Damian Lillard said of the Anthony signing. “With so many guys out, we’re not in a position where we can pick and choose. We’re low on bodies. And he’s a Hall of Fame player. There are things that he brings to the table that we can use, that can make us a better team. To me, it made perfect sense.”
The Pelicans have just four victories this season, but two of those wins have come in the past three outings, starting with the decision against George and the Clippers last Thursday.
New Orleans’ most recent game was a 108-100 home win over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, when Pelicans guard JJ Redick scored a team-high 26 points.
The Pelicans have their own series of injuries, but they hope to have leading scorer Brandon Ingram (knee) back on Tuesday. He is listed as questionable, as are guards Lonzo Ball (groin) and Frank Jackson (neck).
Center Derrick Favors (back) and swingman Josh Hart (ankle/knee) are out, and reserve center Jahlil Okafor (ankle) is doubtful.
The injuries have enabled young players such as rookies Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes to get valuable playing time.
“They’re going to play hard,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “I don’t think anything can take the place of experience of being in the game and learning from your mistakes or just figuring out what you can do to help the team in a positive standpoint.”
Alexander-Walker had 19 points against the Warriors, one night after leading the team with 27 points in a 109-94 loss at Miami. Hayes made his first start against Golden State and had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“Hopefully this is going to be something that helps us down the road because when we do get healthy and all the players get back then I think our depth will help even more because these guys won’t be put into situations where they have to play 25 to 35 minutes,” Gentry said of the youngsters. “They’ll be back to a normal role that they would be accustomed to.”
–Field Level Media