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The New Orleans Pelicans 105-100 win on Wednesday, April 16, marks the end of the regular season for the team in their dismal but promising season. Although the Pelicans didn’t have the playoff season they wanted after changing the name and acquiring players like Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, they did show promise for the year to come. The Pelicans finished at a mediocre 34-48 but this was a vast improvement from last year where the finished at 27-55. The team this year showed a step forward in the teams rebuilding process after the departure of Chris Paul. Here is some of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Pelicans 2013-14 season.
Anthony Davis- Anthony Davis is undoubtedly the best second year player in the league and has made leaps and bounds this season for his career and the Pelicans. Davis can definitely be considered one of the best defensive players in the league this year while leading the league in blocks (2.8). Davis finished eighth in Defensive Player of the Year voting this year, which is fantastic for a second year player. Davis also has dramatically developed his offensive game: hitting in at 20.8 points a game. Overall he has proven he can be this team’s franchise player and will become even better in the years to come.
Davis dominated the stat sheets this year coming in the top 20 in scoring, the top 10 in rebounds (10.0), and was the league leader in blocks. Not to forget that Davis was on a record pace to average 20-10-3 during the season, which is unheard of for a second year player. Davis also isn’t just any 2nd year player. Davis is considered a baby in this league, being that he is only 21 years old. Davis has greatly improved his offensive game where he has added an extremely strong post game and a consistent mid-range jump shot that has benefitted him greatly.
Davis truly showed his potential against Boston in the overtime thriller at home on March 16. Davis dropped 40 points and got 21 boards with 3 blocks. This is a monster performance for the 2014 all-star. Davis also went twelve for twelve at the line in the home win. Davis’s outstanding season lead him to a well-deserved and extremely last-minute all-star appearance at the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. He was able to seal a spot on the team after Kobe was deemed unable to play and the new commissioner, Adam Silver, added him to the Western All-Stars’ lineup.
Davis has also boosted his popularity through a number of sponsorships and endorsements such as being the star in a Footlocker commercial with James Harden. He has also sealed in the nickname The Brow, which fans have adopted and made official.
Anthony Davis proved that he is the future for the NBA and a serious threat on the court to other teams. Davis will be a valuable asset to the Pelicans for years to come.
The Pelicans Organization- After being bought by the New Orleans Saints owner, Tom Benson, the Pelicans have truly "taken flight" and have made huge improvements from last year that include a new look, a stronger lineup, better facilities, and an even stronger fan base in New Orleans. Since the New Orleans Hornets announced they were going to change the name to the Pelicans, the have never looked back. First, the new look was a huge refreshment for fans in New Orleans. Not only did the look actually involve colors that people liked wearing, but it really connected with the fans of New Orleans and Louisiana. The pelican, being the state bird of Louisiana, was hugely symbolic to the city and was able get people to relate to the team.
The Pelicans were able to make huge changes in the team’s roster as well, in order to make the team better and more competitive. The Pelicans were able to acquire All-Star, Jrue Holiday from the Sixers and Tyreke Evans from the Kings. The Pelicans also picked up sharpshooter, Anthony Morrow and big man Jeff Whithey who added more depth to the team’s roster. Jrue Holiday had a decent start to his season playing for his new team but the season eventually came to an early close because of a freak injury to his leg. Before his injury, Holiday averaged a strong 14.3 points and 7.9 assists. Evans on the other hand, was able to play the entire season and moved from a 6th man role to a starter. He was able to prove he is a worthy player to have on the team. He averaged 18.4 points a game, 6.4 assists a game, and 6.1 rebounds a game. He has proven to likely remain on the team and assume a starting position next year. Anthony Morrow seemed to finally found a fit with a good NBA team to work with him and was able to provide clutch shots from downtown all year. Morrow shot for 45.5% from behind the arc and also took on a starting role after injuries stacked up in the Pelican’s lineup.
The Pelicans organization has also made some on-court changes this year that don’t involve the players at all. The former New Orleans Arena had major renovations last summer to accommodate their new home team. Some of these renovations include new seats, bar and lounge areas, concessions, and more. Tom Benson was also able to secure a huge sponsorship deal with Smoothie King that involved changing the arena’s name to the Smoothie King Center, or less commonly referred to as "The Blender". This 10 year deal will be able to bring in more money to make even more renovations in the Smoothie King Center. Some of these included a new court with the Smoothie King logo on it, new lettering on the top of the scoreboard, new lettering on the outside of the center, and to top it off, a huge Smoothie King logo on the roof that can be seen from space (not really).
Another of the more important improvements of the Pelicans organization is the brand new $16 million practice facility. This state-of-the-art facility looks like the accommodation of a champion team, with its brand new practice court, film room, locker rooms, offices, and even a full cafeteria that players will be sharing with New Orleans Saints players. Talk about playing with champions! This new facility will definitely improve team morale because it is a great facility that players will want to come practice in, plus the fact that they will be right next door to the Saints.
The City of New Orleans- After the name change to the Pelicans, the city of New Orleans definitely was able to say that this was their real home town team and accept it. This year, the Pelicans total attendance was 672,029. This a huge jump from the 565,930 people who attended home games last year. When I went to the season opener against the Indiana Pacers, I was extremely surprised to see all the people in red, blue, and gold. I was also surprised to see how many people were able to quickly shed their Hornets merchandise and replace it with brand new Pelicans gear. Not only did everyone dress the part, but they all showed up as well. The game had a lot of people there to support their new home town team. But this wasn’t just the case for the season opener, it was also the case for the other game I went to against Portland on December 30. The game was packed and it was loud. The entire crowd was on its feet for the last 4 minutes of the game. When Tyreke Evans hit the game winning jump shot, the crowd erupted into a deafening roar. While walking to the car, I could hear the fans shouting and cheering and starting chants because they were proud to see their home town team succeed. The scene was almost similar to after a Saints game, with the cheering and the support. This goes to show that the fans of New Orleans are truly some of the best.
The 2014 NBA All-Star Game was probably one of the biggest events to happen in New Orleans since the Super Bowl last year. The event obviously increased tourism this year for the city and brought in a large amount of revenue to the city and to the Pelicans organization. All-Star weekend was the perfect way to put New Orleans on the map for the NBA and show that they are ready to take on a bigger market team, and soon be one of the prominent teams in the NBA. The weekend was in perfect timing for the unveiling of the Pelicans new partner, Smoothie King, and the new changes to the Smoothie King Center. Events also gave nod to the Pelicans where Anthony Davis was one of the stars of the whole weekend. Davis was a star in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge and also put on a show as the last minute entry into his first All-Star game. He showed the world what kind of talent was in New Orleans, and hopefully showed future free agents who they could have the privilege of working with. The game also really ended the weekend with a bang, being that it now is the record holder for the highest scoring all-star game in the history of the NBA.
After all of these great things that are happening to the Pelicans Organization, it is important to see the bad parts of the organization so we can see what needs to be improved on for next year.
Team Health- The absolute worst part of the Pelican’s season this year was the one thing that the organization has the least control of—injuries. Even before the end of the season, three of the top five scorers were out because of season-ending injuries. These were Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday, and Eric Gordon. At the beginning of the season all of these players were greatly helping the Pelicans on the court but were eventually shut down for the rest of the season at one point or another. Jrue Holiday was having a pretty decent season until he was shut down in early January with a stress fracture that eventually needed season-ending surgery. This injury can be considered a freak injury because stress fractures can at time be worse than actual bone break. Ryan Anderson also had a freak injury that ended his season. Anderson fell on a play in the Pelican’s away game at Boston and had to be carted away. He was later diagnosed with spinal stinger but was never cleared for return for the rest of the season. The team’s star, Anthony Davis, was also troubled with injury during the season. Although thankfully he never had a serious enough injury to end his season, he was sidelined for some time when he broke his hand in December. He also sat a few games at the end of the season because of a sore back.
In order to change this for next year, the best thing the organization can do for its players is make sure they are in top physical form to prevent injuries like pulled muscles and other strains. Players will need to be hitting the weights to make sure they are in the best shape possible to prevent injury. Another thing players can do is remove themselves from situations that can cause unnecessary injuries. While this isn’t totally preventable, players can be smarter on the court when it comes to things like diving for balls off the court.
In the upcoming free-agency period, the Pelicans can be sure to get players that don’t have a long history of season-damaging injuries. The Pelicans also need to be wary of players on the roster that do have a history of injuries. The main problem is Eric Gordon who has been constantly injured for his entire career. In his 6 season career, Gordon has never played a full season and has averaged only 51.3 games played per season. While Gordon’s offensive output has been decent over his career (17.5 PPG), his absence on the court outweighs his output on the court. Therefore, the Pelicans need to trade him away for someone who has a history of being a lot healthier. This is backed up with the trade rumors of Gordon leaving but the trade never went through because of the approaching dead-line.
Lack of Experience- Another aspect that caused the Pelican’s season to not be as good as it should have was a general lack of experience in the Roster. In the current roster, as of today, there are only 3 people of the 21 man roster who are 30 years old or higher. The average age of the team is 25.6 and the average experience of the roster is 3.2 years. This can be compared to the San Antonio Spurs. They have an average of about 5 years. The lack of experience could be helpful because younger players are easier to develop and make better but there are things where more experienced players have an advantage to older players.
Inexperienced players don’t have enough in game experience when it comes to things like split second decisions or dealing with the crowds of other teams. They can make irrational decisions that can be harmful to their career like not making the right choices off the court or things like getting in a fight in a game or making idiotic fouls. The only way to fix things like this is playing more. As the players on the Pelicans mature it will give the team more player chemistry and make the team better as a whole. Because this group doesn’t have any real young hot-heads that think they are the best in the league, the Pelicans won’t have any serious problems with anyone on this roster. This team’s lack of experience is decreasing and they will begin to get better and click together more and make less silly mistakes. This will then increase the Pelican’s chances of making the playoffs and succeeding down the road.
Finishing Games- The last thing that the Pelicans have really struggled with this season is finishing games and playing in the fourth quarter. Part of this is because of the lack of experience. But even that is not always a good enough excuse because some of these games the Pelicans were leading by ten or fifteen after three quarters, and would then lose the game. The most important thing to be a successful in winning games is finishing games and holding your leads. Not being able to finish a game is a sign of a young team and can only be fixed with experience.
There is only one thing from the Pelicans season that can be considered ugly in my opinion. That one thing was the hideous mascot that was introduced at the beginning of the year.
Pierre the Pelican- The introduction of Pierre was anticipated by all fans at the beginning of the year. He was introduced to fans in the home opener. The reaction of the introduction was congruent with every fan—creepy. Pierre looked like a night mare for children turned reality. He was a terrifying mix between a bird-like creature and a 90’s wanna-be rock star. He had a very plastic and unfriendly look to him with his Mohawk. He looked like a creature from a rock star themed horror film.
Thankfully, because of the great service of social media, the mascot’s look was dramatically altered. This happened when Pierre was playing a pickup game with some fellow mascots and broke his beak. The Pelicans marketing department did an excellent job of playing off their mistake of creating a hideous mascot. The Pelicans released a video about the road to healing Pierre’s beak where they then showed the much more child friendly version of the new mascot. Rest in peace Pierre I, you will be missed by few.
All in all, the Pelicans have had a very promising season this year and have shown for great improvement. The team has made leaps and bounds from last year and will continue to improve. All the Pelicans need to do is play their cards right with the team and the free-agency and they will soon be a force to be reckoned with. Once the Pelicans truly "take flight" they will be a very influential team in the league.