NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy admits that sometimes it’s easy to take Zion Williamson for granted. Even on a night where he finished with 38 points against the Cavaliers, Van Gundy says he found himself wanting more from their leading scorer.
The same can be said about Brandon Ingram, who scored 27 in Sunday’s win.
But it’s not that Van Gundy wants more offensively. He says he needs his stars to be as engaged on defense as they are on the other end of the floor. Van Gundy points to the league’s best teams and best duos as examples of where the Pelicans could be if Zion and Ingram were to elevate their games defensively.
“The Lakers, they win a championship, and their two best players offensively are LeBron James and Anthony Davis,” says Van Gundy. “And they’re their two best players defensively. You know, we can go team-by-team. Philly’s two best players, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, are both all-defense type of guys.”
In his eyes, there’s no such thing as asking for “too much” if you’re asking for Zion and Ingram to continue to excel offensively and become quality defenders.
“There can’t be an excuse of, ‘Oh you put so much on them offensively,’” says Van Gundy. “The best teams, their best players play both ends of the floor, period. That’s the way it is. And look, those two guys understand that. It’s not like I’m fighting them. I’m not. I love those two guys. And I love what they’re all about. But they’ve got to get there defensively, or they’re going to be guys who put up numbers and don’t get the number of wins they want.”
We’ll see how well that message is received down the stretch of the regular season. The Pelicans are currently 11th in the Western Conference, one game back from the Warriors for the 10th spot that represents a chance to reach the playoffs by way of play-in games.
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