Dejounte Murray treated Tuesday's introductory news conference as if the game was on the line and the clock was ticking down to zero.

And he nailed it, just like he did this past season when he buried four game-winning buzzer beaters for the Atlanta Hawks.

Murray, moments before holding up his brand-new No. 5 New Orleans Pelicans jersey, said all the right things and looks to be just what the franchise needs to reach its full potential.

It’s not just what he can bring to the Pelicans on the court with his 22.5 points, 6.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds averages from last season. It’s also what he brings to the table at point guard, a mindset and level of confidence the franchise hasn’t really had at the position since Rajon Rondo was in town for the 2017-18 season.

That team reached the second round of the playoffs, a place the Pelicans haven't returned to since and a plateau the franchise has reached only one other time. Murray doesn’t have the playoff pedigree Rondo had, but he plays with some of that same edge that a team such as the Pelicans have been missing.

Murray isn’t the cure-all, especially since the Pelicans still have a gaping hole at the center position that they desperately need to fill. But he fills a need and checks a lot of boxes.

The aforementioned stats and the accolades that have come with it (all-defensive second team in 2018 with the San Antonio Spurs and All-Star in 2022 with the Hawks) tell you what he brings on the court.

And let’s not forget the uncanny ability to get the job done during clutch time, an area the Pelicans could use some help after fumbling away games down the stretch time and time again last season.

“A player who is a bona fide closer” is how Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin described Murray on Tuesday.

But more than that, Murray plays with a bit of a swagger that the team can use.

“Built for it,” Murray said about his play in big moments. “That’s all I can say. When I say ‘built for it’, that doesn’t mean I have to take the shot. I can create for my teammates. Whoever shoots it, I feel like it’s going in."

While his clutch play should be appreciated, it’s what he can bring to the locker room that may be just as beneficial.

“I’m a natural born leader,” Murray said. “I don’t know how to fake it or be anything else.”

He’ll be in Vegas to watch the Pelicans’ summer league games, which begin Friday. The 27-year-old Murray, entering his ninth NBA season, knows the importance of supporting the younger guys, much the same way his former teammate Kawhi Leonard supported him in San Antonio.

“That’s what I want to do,” Murray said: “I want to make all these guys great. I want them to be better than me. I want to make their lives easier.”

It's pretty clear his new teammates believe in him. Murray has been contacted by players such as Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Trey Murphy. Williamson even took time out of his day to attend Murray’s news conference, the lone player to do so.

Murray knows this is Williamson's team, and he knows he's here as a complementary piece.

“That’s our superstar,” Murray said about Williamson. “… “I’m excited to push him to the next level. Because he has a bunch of levels he can reach.”

And Murray's excited about Williamson pushing him back and making him better, too. The end goal is for the Pelicans collectively to be better than they’ve ever been.

“They were already a great team,” Murray said. “They won 49 games. Going to the playoffs speaks for itself. I’m excited to come and help these guys and they help me and build something.”

The clock is ticking and time is running out for the Griffin-led franchise that hasn’t advanced past the first round since he’s been here.

Fortunately for the Pels, that's when Murray is often at his best.

Email Rod Walker at rwalker@theadvocate.com.

Tags