In his first public comments since the season began, New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps expressed disappointment in the team's 12-26 start and a willingness to make moves to correct the team's current path.
"We're not pleased at where we are right now," Demps told the Black and Blue Report, the in-house podcast for the Saints and Pelicans. "I thought at the end of the season last year, we're gonna bring this group back and have something to build on to try and take that next step. And right now, we haven't done that. And so we're looking at any and everything. When you're in this position, you've got to look at any and everything."
That includes exploring the trade market.
"We will do what's needed to get this team on track," Demps said. "Obviously we dug ourselves a deep hole. And it's going to be tough for us to fight back into it this year. But we're always looking for the long term as well as the short term. We haven't given up on the season.
"People always ask about trades: 'Are you gonna make a trade? Are you gonna do something for the short term?' I say, 'We have to do what makes sense.' We can't just make a trade just to make a trade, get rid of a guy and bring back lesser talent, or that's going to make the team deficient. So we're looking right now. But we gotta be smart, we gotta make sure that we're looking at the right things. But at the same time, we're gonna look internally, gonna look to see if we can find the right combinations out on the floor that can help us win right now."
Starter Eric Gordon and sixth man Ryan Anderson are set to hit free agency this summer, and ESPN's Marc Stein reported in December that the Pelicans have listened to offers for Anderson but are not actively shopping him.
Demps noted that he believes the value of expiring contracts isn't as high as it was 10 years ago.
"I think with some of our expiring contracts, could it help us in the short term and long term? Possible," he said. "But it's not something that I think that we want to think that that's going to be like the savior."
In the follow-up to a banner season that saw their first postseason berth since the trade of Chris Paul, the Pelicans are 13th in the Western Conference standings. As of Friday afternoon, they are 4½ games out of a playoff spot with an 8 percent chance of making the cut, according to ESPN's BPI playoff odds.
First-year coach Alvin Gentry has criticized his team's effort at times this season, saying after a 95-91 loss to the nine-win Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday that "It doesn't involve soul-searching. It involves looking in the mirror and being able to say, 'I gave the best effort I could tonight.' And that's not what we're getting."
Demps said players are trying but need to be more consistent play-to-play.
"As a team, we've got to collectively play together and come to play every night," he said. "I think each person, individually I think [is] talented. I think we have some guys with some really good basketball individual skills. But the key is meshing that together and becoming a good team. Because teams win in the NBA. It's a team sport. And guys will sometimes have to sacrifice and do the extra and do more the dirty, blue-collar stuff to help us get over the top. And I think those are the areas where we've had problems. Getting tough, defensive rebounds at times. Understanding your defensive assignment."