METAIRIE, La. — Monty Williams stood in a white construction hard hat emblazoned with the new Pelicans insignia and looked at the bones of what eventually will become New Orleans’ practice facility.
He hesitated, grasping at just what it was he was standing in and talking about.
Metaphorically speaking, the ongoing construction in Metairie provides hope, the next step in what Williams and team owner Tom Benson see as a championship-building process.
“I’ve heard guys talk about the fact that we didn’t have a practice site,” Williams said. “They loved what we were doing as a team. Some of them were dumb enough to even like me. They would always use that as an excuse. We were practicing here. We would play here.
“Now to have all that stuff in close proximity, it just makes this more inviting as an athlete.”
In all, the addition of the Pelicans new offices and basketball practice facility, a 50,000 square foot endeavor, will cost roughly $16 million.
That’s on top of the $15 million Benson spent to upgrade the Saints locker room, coaching offices and ticket offices just prior to purchasing the Pelicans.
The basketball practice building will include two full-size courts as well as an upgraded training room, a point that Williams pointed out is critical to having a successful team.
“I’m just really thankful for all of this, where this is going to take our program,” Williams said. “There’s no other place like this in the world when you think about campuses that have football and basketball and the cafeteria on the same grounds.”
Benson visited a couple of other basketball facilities, he said, in an attempt to see what the Pelicans new one would need to make it the best.
Wednesday he made it clear that he feels bringing the Pelicans into the same space as the Saints while building a new practice facility will put the basketball team, ultimately, ahead of others in the NBA.
“We're not crowding anything,” Benson said. “There's no excuses why we won't have a hell of a ball club.”
The new courts and training rooms are slated to be finished by the end of late August, in time for the team to open training camp at it.