Jason Smith, who was expected to be an anchor for the New Orleans Pelicans’ second unit, confirmed after Saturday’s scrimmage he will be the starting center when the team tips off the season Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers.
Coach Monty Williams wasn’t available for comment after the scrimmage. However, Smith was the starter in the Pelicans’ preseason finale at Orlando and in the scrimmage played with the Blue team comprised of starters against the White team, which had members of the second unit.
Smith said it will be the first time in his seven-year NBA career that he has opened the season as the starting center.
“It will be,” said Smith, who is entering his fourth season with New Orleans. “I had some starts during the lockout year, but that was sort of an interesting season in itself.”
Center Greg Stiemsma was signed to a two-year free-agent contract in the offseason as a physical presence in the middle who protected the rim with his shot-blocking. However, he was largely ineffective this preseason, averaging 1.0 points on 33.3 percent shooting and 2.6 rebounds in 15 minutes per game. He was part of the team’s problems with turnovers in preseason, and against the Miami Heat had three, including on back-to-back possessions, although he played just 12 minutes, 35 seconds.
Stiemsma averaged 2.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 55 games with the Boston Celtics in 2011-12 and 4.0 points on 54.5 percent shooting, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 76 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season.