The New Orleans Pelicans will be without a top assistant coach in Orlando, as Jeff Bzdelik won't be joining the team when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes at the end of the month due to health concerns. However, the Pelicans will have their head coach, as Alvin Gentry has been cleared to travel with his team to Orlando, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Gentry is 65 years old, and the league previously expressed concern about coaches 65 and older entering the Orlando "bubble" due to an elevated risk in regards to COVID-19. Thus, there was some uncertainty around Gentry's status. Despite the concerns though, Gentry wanted to be with his team when the season picks up again.
"My plan right now is to be in Orlando, and I'm looking forward to it, really," Gentry said on a conference call with media members last week, via the Pelicans. "I think as the season was put on hiatus we were playing really good basketball, and hopefully we can get back to that. That's why I'm not treating it like a training camp, I'm treating it like picking up where we left off when the season went on hiatus."
Though Gentry touched on the possibility that he wouldn't be with the team in Orlando with his staff, they prepared like he would be, which proved to be a wise move.
"Well I think you cover all the areas," Gentry said. "We sat down and talked and we've done things like that, but everything so far, we hit on that (the possibility of Gentry not being allowed to go to Orlando), but everything so far that we've talked about has been me being there and coaching the team and exactly how we're going to play this thing out as a collective staff."
Just as Gentry will be in Orlando, all of his players will be too, as Gentry expects the Pelicans to have a full roster for the restart of the season; a luxury that not all teams will enjoy.
"No one on the team has said that they were not going," Gentry said. "I think it's a situation where guys are ready to get back into playing and ready to compete so no one has mentioned it, nor has it ever come up in any of the conversations that I've had with them, with on Zoom calls, or individual calls, that they would not be going to Orlando."
The Pelicans will enter Orlando 3.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, so they are already facing an uphill battle. Not having their head coach would have made the task of securing a postseason berth even more difficult, so it's safe to say that everyone in the organization is relieved that Gentry was ultimately cleared to go.