In an ordinary loss, tonight's recap would have probably looked a lot like this:
Without Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday in the starting lineup, the Sixers opened up with two slam dunks to start the game. In fact, they scored 8 of their first 11 from inside the lane. Of course, the other points came via a Covington three -- everything we warned the Pelicans should NOT allow in the preview.
Even after a Monty timeout, the Sixers continued to mystify the world as they took a 22-6 lead, making quite a few improbable shots. Finally, the light switch seemed to turn on and the Pels started to play ball. A 7-0 run cut the deficit to 22-13 and forced Brett Brown to call a timeout. However, Philly immediately got back to their scoring ways and finished the quarter with a season high for points in the first quarter (33). Without looking, one probably would have never guessed the Pelicans shot 52.6%. Unfortunately, the Sixers shot 62.5% and led the early turnover battle 6-2.
In the 2nd quarter, the Pelicans started on a 10-5 run, and after an Eric Gordon three, Brett Brown called another timeout. (His timeouts were all well placed.) The Pelicans continued to score, but they still were not playing smart defensively. For instance, our players were defending MCW too closely and when he came off a screen, he had space to get to the rim. For a horrible outside shooter, they needed to go under every screen, and in general, dare every Sixer not named Covington to shoot it from the perimeter.
Just when it looked like the starters would again allow the Sixers to build a nice cushion, they closed out the final two minutes well. They turned a 7 point deficit with 2:13 remaining to just 3 at halftime. It could have been a whole lot better if Asik was just a little more competent. He blew a wide open dunk, was rejected multiple times and bobbled too many catches yet again.
The Pelicans had only 2 turnovers in the 2nd quarter, but that was bested by Philly's none. Seriously, how does the league leader in turnovers (18.8) only turn the ball over twice in 24 minutes? Were our hands tied behind our backs?
Coming out of intermission, Asik missed another shot at the rim and then Evans turned the ball over on the next possession. After the Pelicans cut the deficit to 1, Brett Brown called his third smart timeout of the game. Lo and behold, the Sixers pushed the lead back to 7, after three quick scoring possessions on their end and 2 turnovers on ours. For whatever the reason, it appeared the starting lineup was not a good one on the night.
Before you knew it, the Sixers run turned into a 14-0 whalloping, ballooning the lead from 1 to 15. To make matters worse, the offense vanished. With 3:33 remaining, the Pelicans had only 8 points in the first 9 minutes...
However, tonight was anything but that normal, acceptable loss. The Pelicans fell to a Sixers team that started the season 0-17. A team that sports an active roster containing 6 undrafted players. A team that their front office wants to lose as many games as possible. A team that hadn't enjoyed a double digit victory since the 2013-14 season -- a long 39 games ago.
But none of that is even the worst part. Nope. It's the fact that we know and have witnessed the Pelicans are by no means a bad basketball team. One that should never be capable of such a performance, regardless of who is sidelined. And it's happened time and time again in just this month. First in Charlotte, then a few games later in Boston, and now in Philadelphia.
On the season, New Orleans has beaten the Spurs, Rockets, and Thunder all twice. They have also recorded victories against the Grizzlies, Suns, and Cavaliers. They marched into Detroit and beat the NBA's hottest 9-1 team, the Smith-less Pistons. Right before Christmas and without Anthony Davis, they should have walked away the winner against the Golden State Warriors, a team that was 20-2 entering that contest.
One or two bad losses are fine, but we're well beyond that. For a team hovering around the .500 mark, we've never won more than two games in a row. Considering we're half way through a season, that's kind of surprising. The Thunder, Kings and Nuggets, all below but near us in the standings, have all enjoyed winning streaks of at least five games.
Our schedule is littered with wins alternating with losses. Oftentimes, it's a quality win and then a bad loss. The Pelicans are one of the most inconsistent teams I've ever observed. They have exhibited the talent, wherewithal and fortitude in a number of good wins. Conversely, they have just as many performances on the other end of the spectrum: flat, indifferent and downright disturbingly poor.
Plain and simple -- the Pelicans lack a good mix of personalities. They are without all the necessary components to become a consistent producer. According to Freud, there are three main types of personalities: erotics, obsessives and narcissists. Why am I mentioning the father of psychoanalysis? Because the ever-competitive business world swears by it.
In my opinion, among the players and the coaching staff, we do not possess a single narcissist. A figure who has no qualms about outspokenness. One who isn't afraid to throw others under the bus. One who has no trouble dismissing anyone or anything to achieve a specific goal, say wins.
Monty Williams is the ultimate obsessive. As evidenced by his Faith, there is no doubt to his high standards, and he has developed an obvious order with specific rules for the team. Every player must fall happily in line with his corporate structure. If not, they won't play (Aminu), or worse, be shipped out (Thornton).
Harmony is the name of the game. Monty has stated he prefers the team never exhibits emotion. That no one should be able to guess whether we're winning or losing. He likely fears, and to him they're unnecessary, additional emotions will cloud the ultimate goal of continuous improvement.
The players consist of a few obsessives and plenty of erotics -- caring, loving souls who avoid conflict. Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon are a few that immediately come to mind.
In the midst of a game, the Pelicans don't have a single guy who is willing to say enough is enough. Last season, Anthony Morrow, and to a lesser degree, Jason Smith, appeared to be the only players who displayed a fiery passion in the field of battle. They did not hold back on their emotions.
Now, they're both gone and no one has filled that void. That's really problematic when a team such as ours has a coach that isn't willing to use any measure necessary to motivate. How many times have you seen it mentioned Monty doesn't employ nearly enough psychological strategies to his advantage? Say, through a technical foul to either motivate or defend the team? To promptly get in the ear of a player for a horrible decision? To give a sudden kick to the rear-end of a specific group through a hockey-type of substitution?
As a leader, Monty is limited because he doesn't believe in going to extremes. His disposition won't allow it. And for a team that is also devoid of such qualities, that doesn't fly. Case in point, tonight. The Pelicans lost by 15 points to the tanking Sixers. The Sixers have won by more than 15 points just once since Hinkie set the franchise on it's death spiral. That came against the hapless 2013-14 Pistons who won only 7 of their final 31 games.
This season's Pelicans are nowhere near that level of ineptitude. Nope, the issue lays elsewhere -- in the makeup of our staff and players.
For instance, Monty's post-game comments were everything we've come to expect. In a matter-of-fact tone, he made mention about not playing right. In describing the 148 minutes and the 10 assists vs. 14 turnovers among the starters, he was only frustrated and a bit disappointed?!?
How he remained so stolid was beyond me. Seriously, go listen/read his comments for yourself. Even Del Harris in the post-game show pointed out that Monty's demeanor is the same in wins and losses.
Call for Change
Something has to give. This team isn't far away, but one of two things need to happen. Either Dell Demps needs to bring in some strong Type A personalities seen in Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul or Manu Ginobili or bring in a coach that has no qualms about using every trick in the book.
Someone needs to be rudderless, to immediately address an issue that can only be resolved through conflict. It's deflating to be able to sense in our recent losses that they've almost been inevitable. That a spark wasn't there, but worse, you knew it wasn't even going to come.
Recently, Jamile wrote about the possibility of hiring Coach Cal. In it, he made mention of this very relevant line to this discussion:
It's very possible that just like in a start-up business where the original CEO often isn't the right leader to take his or her company to the next level, Monty Williams may have taken this team as far as he can.
Not that he, nor even I at this very moment, are fully endorsing, but it seems this team has hit a hump it can't get over. The easiest solution appears to be a replacement at the top of the coaching staff, but as I've mentioned, it's not the only available avenue.
Who knows, maybe tomorrow I'll wake up and feel differently, but it won't change the fact that this team is indeed missing something vital. This year's Pelicans have been quite impressive at times on the floor, but no way on this green earth should this team have been embarrassed in Philadelphia on January 16, 2015. If the players lack the necessary pride to prevent that from happening, someone needs to be brought in to ensure that it never happens again.