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New head coach Willie Green played in New Orleans five years after Hurricane Katrina and 11-year NBA veteran Garrett Temple lived it as a Baton Rouge native just starting his LSU career. Through the lens of those life experiences, Green and Temple knew despite all of the frettings over Zion Williamson’s broken foot the New Orleans Pelicans avoided the worst of the storms this offseason. A bus ride to nearby Thibodaux, Louisiana for an open practice at Nicholls State University helped put that in perspective for the rest team.

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Temple saw the emotion, the effect this scene was having on his new teammates, saying, “I saw B.I. (Brandon Ingram) look at it a couple of times. He just looked at me and was shaking his head like, ‘Damn, this is tough. This is tough.’ In New Orleans or Baton Rouge, you don’t really notice. But the smaller towns really get devastated. It’s harder for them to come back. It takes longer for them to come back. If your eyes were out the window a little bit, you were able to see enough.”

Temple, hardened to the storms but still touched at seeing the toll, continued, “Me being from here, understanding how these things devastate areas, seeing still a month past, a month more past the hurricane, still seeing the devastation it has caused, it makes you grateful. That’s part of the reason we’re donating what we’re donating to Nicholls State. Hopefully, we’re able to get past this. This season is dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Ida.”

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The Pelicans partnered with Nicholls State University to hold the training camp ending open practice for the public. The bus ride to the gym beforehand was more intense than the practice highlighted by an intrasquad scrimmage and the rookie costume challenge. The Pelicans capped the practice by announcing a donation of $100,000 to Nicholls State through Gayle Benson’s Gulf Coast Renewal Fund, further increasing the aid provided by the team and players.

Trey Murphy III had partnered with Team Rubicon and Raising Cane’s to give out free meals in Houma just weeks after Hurricane Ida. Riding to Nicholls State University six weeks after the storm, he said, “It was crazy because it’s [been] a month and they are still suffering from it. It makes you sympathize for the people and really understand and put yourself in your shoes. You don’t really have much to say. Almost a loss for words. I’m glad we were able to do something for these people.”

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Green said of the practice, “We’re just trying to be here in the community and help rebuild. I think it’s great. That’s what it’s about. Basketball, spots in general, it’s a platform to give people joy. People that don’t necessarily get to see the Pelicans often. They could see these guys up close and personal and then we get to engage in the community here. It’s the best of both sides.”

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Still, Green admitted, “It was tough. You see it on TV, but when you see it in real life, it’s touching what people are going through. We are two months out. I can only imagine what it looked like a couple months ago. These people here are resilient. They find a way to rebuild and continue to have joy and they do it together…The smaller towns really get devastated. It’s harder for them to come back. It takes longer for them to come back. If your eyes were out the window a little bit, you were able to see enough.”

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