Pelicans VP David Griffin pledges roster changes after playoffs sweep: ‘It’s time to get better’

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After the New Orleans Pelicans failed to win a playoff round for the sixth consecutive season, team executive David Griffin said the time has come for changes.

Griffin, New Orleans’ executive vice president of basketball operations, told reporters Tuesday that he was disappointed to be speaking with them rather than continuing to contend for a title after the team’s 49-win season. He added that the season “would’ve led you to believe we’d be playing deep into the summer.”

At the end of a two-minute answer, Griffin said the Western Conference will only continue to improve, and his team needs to do the same.

“Whereas in the past we’ve always erred on the side of continuity, and our takeaway has been, ‘Let’s see this group healthy,’ I think we’ve seen it enough,” he said.  “I want to be really, really clear: This is not going to be a summer of complacency. It’s time to get better.”

That health fueled New Orleans to its second-most regular-season wins in franchise history and yet did them in at the worst time. In the team’s first Play-In Tournament game, star Zion Williamson was injured with three minutes left to play against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Williamson, who scored a game-high 40 points, never returned from what was later deemed a right hamstring injury. Although the Pelicans won their ensuing game against the Sacramento Kings to make the playoffs, Williamson’s hamstring kept him out against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who swept the Pelicans.

“Unfortunately we continue to have injury issues and certainly had a big one at the wrong time,” Griffin said, later calling Williamson’s injury “super demoralizing.”

He also praised Williamson’s season where the young star played a career-high 70 games.

“I think you saw so much evolution in his game that came from the evolution (of) his body and the work he put in,” Griffin said. “We’re really excited about where Zion is and where he intends to go.”

Despite the frustrating end, Griffin pointed to stretches of the season when the Pelicans looked like one of the best teams in the league, specifically mentioning that they had the best road record in the NBA and the sixth-best net rating.

If Griffin does intend to improve New Orleans’ roster through trades, such an avenue could involve a deal sending out Brandon Ingram, who is entering the final year of his contract in 2024-25. The All-Star forward averaged 20.8 points per game in the regular season but failed to score 20 points in any of the team’s postseason games.

The Pelicans also have three first-round draft picks this offseason, plus two in 2025.

Forward Larry Lance Jr., who Griffin acquired in a 2018 trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, said he’s never been on a team when a general manager or executive promised such change outright but added that he isn’t surprised to hear Griffin’s comments.

“I read it. We all are going to. We’re all pawns at the end of the day, this is a business,” Lance said. “The people at the top are going to shuffle their pieces and go again. Everybody in the locker room understands that situations are temporary. This is all a business.”

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(Photo: Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

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