Timberwolves guard Lance Stephenson’s present met his recent past when his new team played New Orleans on Friday at Target Center.
Stephenson played six games for the Pelicans before they waived him in early November after he sustained a groin injury that required surgery and they needed an open roster spot.
“That’s 100 percent what it was,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said when asked if Stephenson’s release was a matter of circumstances. “I thought he did a good job for us. He’s one of those guys who is a multiple-position player. He can be a facilitator, but he can score the basketball. He’s not afraid. That’s the big thing. He’s a real confident guy, and I think that helps.”
Three months after New Orleans cut him, Stephenson is playing with his fourth NBA team in the past year.
“Nothing but positive,” Gentry said when asked about his time coaching Stephenson. “I think he deserves to be in the league, No. 1. We had no problem whatsoever with him. As a matter of fact, he probably raised our energy level as much as anyone. I think he’ll be fine. He’s playing for a great coach who loves energy and toughness and stuff like that.”
Stephenson has played in Eastern Conference finals and now is with his sixth team in seven seasons and still he’s just 26 years old on a new team built around three 21-year-old stars.
“I do think he leads by example,” Gentry said. “He’s a passionate guy, and he plays hard. I think he wants to be a leader. All of those qualities add up. On a team that’s really, really young, he could be a factor.”
Wolves rookie Kris Dunn returned late in Friday’s first quarter after he had missed four consecutive games because of a “sore” hand while the Pelicans arrived at Target Center depleted. Dunn injured his hand in a fall against Orlando last week.
The Pelicans were without Terrence Jones (thumb sprain), Tyreke Evans (ankle sprain), Quincy Pondexter (knee) and E’Twaun Moore, and Alexis Ajinca did not play because of personal reasons.
‘Sad’ Family Feud
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau helped coach the Knicks from 1996-2004. He knows well both the franchise and former Knicks star Charles Oakley, who, in an ongoing feud with team owner James Dolan, was handcuffed, arrested and muscled out of Madison Square Garden after altercations with security during a game Wednesday.
“Just sad,” Thibodeau said. “He was a warrior for us when we were there. I have great respect for him. Obviously, I have great respect for that organization, too. It’s a great basketball town. You hate to see it.”
• The Pelicans signed free-agent Donatas Motiejunas last month after the Wolves pursued him. “He’s a really smart player,” Gentry said. “He hasn’t shot the ball as well as he’s capable of shooting it, but he’s very good as a facilitator and playmaker.”
• Pelicans star Anthony Davis is headed toward starting next week’s All-Star Game back home in New Orleans and wants to be an ambassador for his adopted hometown. “A lot of people think New Orleans is Bourbon Street and that’s it,” he said. “But there’s really more to the city. The food is amazing, and Mardi Gras is going during that time, so catch a couple parades and see what New Orleans is all about.”