Pelicans' pursuit of ex-Suns center Greg Monroe gathers momentum

The New Orleans Pelicans have gathered significant momentum in pursuit of impending free-agent center Greg Monroe, league sources told ESPN.

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry spoke to Monroe in the aftermath of his contract buyout with the Phoenix Suns late Wednesday night, and New Orleans will continue to make an aggressive push to sign Monroe, league sources said.

The Pelicans' ability to offer Monroe the chance at a starting job -- in his childhood hometown -- is making for a compelling case with Monroe, league sources said.

New Orleans lost All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Monroe could make a decision as soon as Friday or Saturday, league sources said.

The Pelicans created a roster spot Thursday after trading center Omer Asik and guards Tony Allen and Jameer Nelson to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for forward Nikola Mirotic, sources told ESPN.

The Boston Celtics are interested in Monroe and can offer him more money for the balance of the season than New Orleans can, but his potential role would be far more limited with the Celtics. Boston can pay Monroe out of its $8.4 million disabled player exception for Gordon Hayward, but playing time appears to be a major factor in Monroe's decision, league sources said.

Monroe, 27, agreed to a contract buyout on the remainder of his $17.8 million salary this season and will become an unrestricted free agent once he clears waivers at 5 p.m. ET on Friday.

Monroe has averaged 11.2 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes a game with the Suns. Before the November trade to Phoenix, Monroe averaged a career-low 6.8 points and five rebounds in limited minutes for the Bucks this season.