Pelicans enjoy playing in practice facility for first time
September 3, 2013
Like with a new pair of sneakers – or their recently unveiled blue, gold and red uniforms – New Orleans Pelicans players had been eager for months to “try on” the hardwood at the club’s state-of-the-art practice facility in Metairie. On the morning after Labor Day, the Pelicans finally tested out their new digs by participating in a voluntary intrasquad scrimmage. Afterward, players provided glowing reviews of the 50,000-square-foot building, housed on the same Airline Drive campus as the New Orleans Saints.
“I’ve been smiling since I walked in,” Pelicans forward Lance Thomas said. “This is really a world-class facility. We’re just excited to be in here. A gym like this, people are going to have to kick players out of it (to get them to go home), because it’s so nice.”
“There was a lot of eagerness to get over here,” guard Brian Roberts said. “We can see that it’s going to be a great facility and something we’re going to enjoy as a team. I think it’s going to help us get better.”
In addition to the structure’s considerable amenities – there’s even a barber’s chair inside the locker room – an invaluable aspect of the move to Metairie is that the facility is exclusively for the Pelicans. Since moving from Charlotte in 2002, New Orleans had practiced at the Alario Center in Westwego, a state-owned multi-purpose facility 10 miles south across the Mississippi River.
After the franchise changed its nickname to the Gulf Coast region-appropriate “Pelicans” in April, players believe that having their own building has helped make the team’s new era feel even more tangible.
“It’s really starting to feel like ‘Pelicans basketball’ with the new colors and everything having that name on it now,” Thomas said. “Being able to have all of this space that’s just ours, it makes us embrace it even more.”
Starting point guard Jrue Holiday, who spent the first four previous years of his NBA career with Philadelphia, appeared to make himself right at home in the spacious facility Tuesday, repeatedly swishing pull-up jumpers during the scrimmage. Holiday immediately called the building one of the best in the NBA. The 76ers practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, sharing the college’s Activities Center gym for part of the year.
“This is day-and-night better,” Holiday said. “It really invites you to want to come in and work on your game.”
Holiday, who later ate lunch with teammates in the shared Saints/Pelicans cafeteria, said the setup also reminds him of his college days at UCLA, with multiple sports teams interacting on a regular basis.
“You’ve got guys like Drew Brees here, someone who has perfected his craft,” Holiday said of the Saints’ star quarterback. “He’s also a guy who had people telling him, ‘You can’t be this. You can’t do that.’ And look at him now. That’s something admirable and special.
“To have another team here, it’s pretty dope. Right next door, you can converse with guys on the same campus, pick their brains and hang out with them.”