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Transcript: Trajan Langdon on the New Orleans Pelicans Podcast presented by SeatGeek – April 20, 2020

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General Manager Trajan Langdon on the Pelicans Podcast presented by SeatGeek
April 20, 2020

On how he and his family are doing right now:
Trajan Langdon: We are holding up well, Daniel. I appreciate you having me on. Nice weekend…a little bit of rain, but other than that the weather here in New Orleans has been fantastic through this quarantine, so (I’m) just enjoying another beautiful day here today.

On how he and his family are staying busy at home:
Trajan Langdon: We came together and kind of created a routine and a schedule. My boys, who are in third and sixth grade respectively, are still having their online classes and assignments and they kind of haven’t missed a beat. During the day they do their work and we try to hold them on-task, and then in the afternoon we go out and get a little running in or biking in or some kind of activity. We have a little basketball hoop up in our driveway, so they get their shots up. I rebound for them and put them through some ball-handling drills, and then we just kind of chill in the evenings. We kind of try to stick to that routine and stay on-task and stay productive as much as we can.

On how basketball operations is staying busy during the uncertainty surrounding the NBA hiatus:
Trajan Langdon: That’s a good question. A lot of time I’ve spent on the phone, honestly. I have talks with Bryson Graham, Todd Quinter – the two guys that oversee our college and pro scouting staffs, respectively. Those two guys and Griff, I’m on pretty regularly with…just trying to get an understanding of what we want to do going forward. A lot of time I spend right now reading scouting reports, watching a lot of film on the draft prospects, and just trying to understand how we’re going to put together our top 45 right now and getting into our top 60 we’re going to have. We’re kind of ahead of schedule right now. Bryson, our assistant GM, has done a fantastic job of kind of putting together a schedule for us leading through the next month and a half. Part of that is interviewing senior prospects; we’ve done some of that on some calls. As soon as the underclassman list comes out, we’ll start attacking some of those interviews as soon as we’re allowed to. That’s kind of what’s coming up soon. (The Draft is) a long ways away, but not much is going to change in terms of evaluating these prospects between now and the draft just because there’s no more games to watch, there’s going to be no more Chicago (NBA Draft Combine). I don’t know what it’s going to look like in terms of getting draft prospects in our gym for pre-draft workouts, so I think we can get a lot of hay in the barn now, do a lot of work, and then whatever additional info, just kind of tweak our top 60 at that point. We are pretty busy, but it’s been good so far. We’ve been able to get a lot of work done.

On the having virtual meetings with draft prospects:
Trajan Langdon: This past weekend would’ve been the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament where you have the top seniors, so that’s how we’re trying to track our schedule is just trying to keep it the same. We kind of went down the list of the guys that would’ve been there. Some of them have already signed with agents. The agents are withholding them from these interview processes for now, so we probably got in eight to ten interviews with guys so far. I don’t think anything has changed, aside from being across the table from somebody. We’re looking at each other in a camera, which is definitely different, but it gives you a better perspective for the prospect than talking to him over a phone on a conference call. It’s good to see their faces, good for them to see ours. We’ve met some of them before because some of them tested the waters last year. I still think it’s great to have 25-30 minutes to talk to these guys, go back and forth, and get a better feel of who they are as people.

On how much scouting is done before the conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament and how important those are for evaluating talent:
Trajan Langdon: I think a lot of the work is done. For me especially, I use the conference tournaments as a chance to see a lot of the guys for the second time and maybe some other prospects for the first time not as high on our list. Usually by the conference tournaments I’ve already seen guys that we feel very strongly about, and it’s a chance for me to see them in that kind of pressure-filled environment because it’s the most important month of the season when you go from conference tournament to NCAA play. But you really like seeing the conference tournament because sometimes you get to see a team play three times in three days, and you can see how strong-minded these guys are. A lot of people on that third day will physically fold, but (you see) how mentally tough they are to make the right decisions and will their team to win. It’s not the whole picture, but it is part of it in terms of mental and physical toughness in a pressure-packed atmosphere as well. Those are always very fun environments to not only be a part of, but also assess talent. A lot of times it’s the last look that you get at a player. Some of these prospects don’t make the NCAA tournament, so that conference tournament is the last look you’re going to get in live play before you’re going to see them in an environment like a Chicago pre-draft or in your own gym for a pre-draft workout. Rarely do you get to see them five-on-five, maybe one or two games in Chicago, but the best you’re going to get in your own gym is going to be three-on-three and sometimes you’re not going to be able to see them if they’re (rated) too high or if their agents only want them to do (individual) workouts. It’s definitely an important time, and we’re just going to have to deal with this year without that opportunity.

On players skipping college to go overseas or to the NBA G League before entering the draft:
Trajan Langdon: Yeah it’s really interesting. This thing came about late last week with the league office and (G League President) Shareef Abdur-Rahim overseeing it with the G League path. It will be interesting. Obviously it’s a test case, something that they’ve talked about now for a year, year and a half, and they’re able to implement it with this next season. I think it’s actually going to work out really well for those players, being that who knows what’s going to happen with collegiate athletics going into next season if a lot of these schools are not talking about re-opening until second semester. If that actually comes to fruition, what is that season going to even look like? I think a professional season will allow these players to kind of get better and really progress in terms of their skills and their development, more than guys who might just be sitting at home if they’re not allowed to go to school. It will be an interesting development on who decides to go that G League path, which players just say, ‘OK. I’m not going to go to school. I’m going to take the NBL (Australia) route or the European route.’ But it is something that’s going to start changing the landscape of athletics going from high school to the NBA level.

On what he has learned from the Pelicans by re-watching some of the games from this season:
Trajan Langdon: Yeah. I mean some of the games I’ve been fortunate to be a part of as the (guest on the) playback. Obviously, in preparing for the show, you get to watch several clips over and over and watch different quarters over and over, and it’s been kind of fascinating the way different guys stepped up in different parts of the season with the different injuries that we’ve had. You kind of see the team at different points of the season as well. The games that I was able to watch that are closer to the end, you kind of see a lot more confidence coming about within our team. Guys have understood who they are. Guys have gotten healthier, and there’s a lot more of a rhythm and an understanding of, ‘Okay, this is how we are going to approach this game. This is what the coaches want from us. This is my role on the team.’ Which I think happens with almost any team but, with the team that we have with so many new players coming from different places, it takes time to gel and come together and understand. Chemistry doesn’t happen overnight, but I think by game 40-50, we started playing some really good basketball, understanding who each other was. I think the common thing for us through the whole season was guys like each other, they’ve played together. They’ve always wanted to win, it just didn’t happen for some time. It didn’t click for a while, but guys are competitive and they really wanted to win, and they really believed towards the end of the season that they could. The playoffs were definitely a goal for our guys. It wasn’t just, ‘Well let’s see if we can squeak in.’ No. It was like ‘Let’s go get this thing. Let’s show that we are a playoff team.’ So I think even now guys have that on their mind and want to prove that when we open back up and start back up again.

On how much he looks at draft prospects off the court when scouting them:
Trajan Langdon: It will be a huge part. It will be a huge part that we think about and put in the mix every draft, and we did it last year with every person that we drafted. Obviously, Zion (Williamson) at one but then Jaxson (Hayes), Nickeil (Alexander-Walker), Didi (Louzada) in the second round, they’re all high character guys that love playing the game. Competitive, work their butts off, that’s exactly what we’re going to be looking for in this next draft and the drafts to come. We have a group of guys that are very competitive. The guys that are going to come in here mentally are going to have to be ready. They’re going to have to be tough. They’re going to have to be strong-minded, because I think we have a group, if you fast forward a year, that’s going to be ready to take a big step, and whoever’s not on board to do that – to sacrifice, to step their game up – it’s going to be difficult for those guys to survive in this environment, because I just think it’s going to get more competitive and higher expectations every year. We need to have guys with the mental fortitude and that will to be part of this group and push this group – not only in games, but in practice every day. That takes a special kind of person, and those kind of people are the ones we are looking for.

On his opinions of the first two episodes of “The Last Dance”:
Trajan Langdon: Well I knew there was some difficulty in that last year, but I didn’t know the whole back story to it. I knew there were some things with Phil (Jackson) and management and I knew with Scottie (Pippen) and management. But, the whole back story with things behind the scenes, I don’t know how many people knew into the depths that it actually went, and it was a day-to-day kind of battle between the front office and the coaching and the players, and that’s always difficult. That’s why we talk about in our front office; it’s extremely important to have similar thinking from ownership to the front office to coaching staff to players, and if everybody is along the same lines of thinking, it makes it a lot easier to be successful. But the fact that they were able to be successful and win a championship amid all that distraction and stress, I think shows even more what a great team they actually were and why they were so dominant and one of the better teams if not the best team in the history of the NBA. So that’s what was interesting to me. But for me, look, I grew up in Anchorage Alaska, and people don’t realize…TBS and WGN were two of the channels we had growing up, so I used to watch Mike (Michael Jordan) from a young age. Especially that 63-point game and some of those games he had limited minutes, I was watching some of that as a youngster so it’s really cool kind of to flashback and see the behind the scenes thoughts going into it, because obviously as someone who is 10, 11 years old, you have no idea why this guy’s not playing that much. To see him come back after missing 60 games and actually score and do what he did in that first round against Boston is pretty fascinating

On if his two sons were able to watch “The Last Dance” with him:
Trajan Langdon: Yeah. It’s really cool because they know the name, they’ve seen some highlights, but this generation Kobe (Bryant) – not even Kobe, but LeBron (James) is the guy. My 12-year-old, his favorite player is LeBron. He respects Michael, but I think watching this, he can really understand who he was as a player, how he affected the game, how he affected his team. So, he was locked in. My eight-year-old is kind of all over the place, but my 12-year-old was definitely locked in. So it will be fun to share these “Last Dance” documentaries with him over the next month.

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