METAIRIE, La. — Monty Williams isn’t one for looking way into the future while in the middle of the basketball season.
He is self-admittedly “myopic” about things.
But at 24-37 and 11.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the future begins now for the Pelicans.
“I am myopic most of the time,” Williams said Thursday, finally back inside the Pelicans’ practice facility after a five-game, seven-day road trip. “But I’m also responsible to the future of the team. Some of the things I’m doing on the floor, putting guys in position where they get more experience.”
With 21 games left, including 14 at home, it’s all about the 2014-15 season now.
The Pelicans are in a tough spot draft-wise after trading away Nerlens Noel and their 2014 first-round pick for Jrue Holiday during the 2013 draft. While the traded pick is top-five protected, nine teams currently have worse records percentage-wise than New Orleans.
On top of that, because the picks are done by a lottery system, the Pelicans would have to likely be inside the worst five teams to all but assure themselves of a top five pick.
But they’re not paying attention to that.
“Coach always says the carryover – he always uses that word carryover – I think just playing hard and winning always just sets something up positive,” second-year guard Austin Rivers said. “Things will just tend to happen. I think teams that play hard and play to win, things good just come their way, just tend to happen.”
Under Williams, the Pelicans have fared better in the final 21 games than they have any other time during the season.
In 2011-12, after going 3-9 out of the All-Star break, the Pelicans finished 10-11 down the stretch. A season later, they went 6-15 in the final 21 after a 2-6 start following the All-Star break.
This season, they can only go up. New Orleans is 1-8 since the late-February break.
The one win, however, came in the final game of the road trip and now the Pelicans are home for 11 of the next 13 games.
Rivers said now’s the time to capitalize.
“We want to take advantage of this home stand,” Rivers said. “Obviously we know what our situation is right now as far as playoff picture and stuff like that goes. But that’s not what it’s about for us right now. It’s about us getting better. It’s about us playing and winning.”
And, Rivers said, working towards the future.
“It’s tough going home and watching teams play because you want to be out there,” he said. “That’s the best part of the NBA, the NBA playoffs. That’s where we all dream to be so that’s why these 20 games are important for us, because we’ve got to build and get better as a team.”