It's here! It's here! IT'S FINALLY HERE!!! The road to the championship starts today.
Speaking strictly as a Pelicans fan, this off-season felt like the longest off-season in the history of all off-seasons. To me, this off-season didn't just include the 185 days between meaningful Pelicans games; it includes the seven painfully long years that it took to get to this point. In those seven years, Pelicans fans saw their star player leave; their team almost leave, and experienced the agony of irrelevance.
No Mas. Today, the Pelicans are no longer cellar dwellers. Starting today, the Pelicans are relevant, maybe even a contender. Pelicans' fans have waited a long time to say that.
Of course, the Pelicans wouldn't truly be a New Orleans based franchise if everything went according to schedule. Much like New Orleans' infamous streetcar line, the Pelicans have suffered some minor setbacks.
What You Need To Know
The Pelicans are a New Orleans based franchise owned by Tom Benson. Last season, the Pelicans made the playoffs but were swept by the Golden State Warriors. Despite making the postseason, Pelicans head coach Monty Williams was shown the door, and offensive wizard, Alvin Gentry, was brought in to take his place at the helm.
Coming into the season, ESPN had the Pelicans ranked 8th in the NBA power rankings. Most NBA analysts now have oscillated the Pelicans to finish somewhere between 4th and 7th in the loaded NBA Western Conference. Well, until injuries hit the team hard during the exhibition season.
Unfortunately, the Pelicans will be crawling into the first game tomorrow against the Golden State Warriors. As I'm writing this, the Pelicans have eight healthy players and 15 minutes of Jrue Holiday. You shouldn't make any judgments about the Pelicans based off of tonight, or any night for the next couple of weeks for that matter.
Who You Need to Know
The Pelicans have almost the exact same roster they had last season. So far, the Pelicans have added three new players to their roster, Alonzo Gee, Nate Robinson, and Kendrick (big daddy) Perkins, however, they do have the aforementioned brand new head coach, Alvin (my main man) Gentry.
Gentry is a product of the Mike D'Antoni coaching lineage, which means he likes to play quick, fast, and prefers everything in a hurry. He got his head coaching start in Phoenix where he got the most out of the talent he had but was eventually shown the door. After getting canned midseason, Gentry joined Doc Rivers and was the lead offensive assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers, and then moved onto Golden State, last year's eventual champions. Gentry's an affable guy, who will likely be a hit with both the media and fans alike.
Darren Erman is the other coaching name fans should know. He is a former lawyer, turned basketball coach, turned spy, and then turned back into a basketball coach. Erman has been called "Baby Thibodeau" and is generally known for his defensive prowess. He is credited with setting up Golden States vaunted defensive scheme. After a dismissal from the Golden State Warriors for treachery, Erman quickly latched on in Boston under Brad Stevens. After a highly competitive recruiting process, Dell Demps lured him to New Orleans.
Besides those two, everything else is pretty much exactly the same as last year. In case you are new to following the Pelicans, which I suspect some are, I have prepared one sentence summaries for every player on the team plus Dell Demps.
- Anthony Davis (G/F/C), aka The G.O.A.T., aka Sir SwatsALot, aka M.V.P., is probably the best all around player in the league, need I say more?
- Tyreke Evans (G/F) can't shoot the ball worth a lick, but is an elite driver into the paint. (Out 6-8 weeks)
- Jrue Holiday (G) is a great defender and passer who has been injured for most of the past two seasons. (Limited to 15 minutes)
- Eric Gordon (G) Fan friendenemy who is lights out from behind the arc but has a tough time doing two things at once.
- Ryan Anderson (F) 3-pt expert who should benefit greatly from Gentry's offense-centric system.
- Omer Asik (C) Big guy from Turkey who is a force on the glass and in the paint but has hands made of stone. (Questionable)
- Quincy Pondexter (G/F) Obtained in a trade with Memphis last season, QPon is a fiery player who has helped fill the gaping whole the Pelicans have at SF. (Out 3-4 weeks)
- Dante Cunningham (F) A too big, yet too small energy guy who can help on defense.
- Norris Cole (G) A streaky point guard who is consistently a terror on the defensive end of the court.(Out indefinitely)
- Luke Babbitt (F) A super un-athletic guy who can stroke the 3-ball with the best of them. (Questionable)
- Alexis Ajinca (C) A very talented yet very slow-footed bigman. (Questionable)
- Alonzo Gee (G) New to the roster, Gee is an very average all around NBA player, which is somewhat better than what the Pelicans normally have.
- Kendrick Perkins (C) Brings his hard hat and steel toe boots to every game.
- Nate Robinson (G) He slapped LeBron James in mid air while shooting a floater, so he is cool with me.
- Dell Demps (GM) aka Dealer Dell, is the Petyr Baelish (little finger) of the NBA.
Where You Need to Go
Games - The Pelicans will play 41 games at their home arena, the Smoothie King Center. Before each home game, there is typically a family friendly tailgate outside the arena. Inside, there are plenty of watering holes and a wide variety of creole treats. If the Pelicans score over 100 points at home, everyone in the arena gets a coupon for free fries from McDonald's. With Alvin Gentry as head coach, I expect almost every home game to end with the satisfaction that can only come from free fries, right David Wesley?
TV - If you live in New Orleans or the surrounding area, you can catch most every game (75 out of 82) on Fox Sports New Orleans. If you live out of the market, the Pelicans will have seven national television appearances on either ESPN or TNT, including tonight's game against the Golden State Warriors, which will be broadcast on TNT. Otherwise, your only hope seeing the Pelicans is to pony up the big bucks for NBA League Pass.
Media - The Pelicans have great social media accounts, and following them can get you prizes and a chance to meet a lot of the players (#TakeFlight). Jim Eichenhofer is the team's embedded reporter and is a must follow for all Pelicans related news. The Advocate's Scott Kushner and Brett Dawson are great follows for Pelicans trade rumors. The guys over at Bourbon Street Shots do a bang up job of educating fans. Of course, we at The Bird Writes would love for you to follow the season along with us! Following along with The Bird Writes gets you access to pre and post game analysis, trade rumors, fan posts, live game threads, and so much more!
What You Need to Bring
Great news, being a Pelicans fan is absolutely free! All you need to bring is your fandom! So I say unto you dear reader, in the words of my great french ancestors: Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!!! (French for TURN DOWN FOR WHATT???)
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below. For more of my personal musings about the NBA and Pelicans you can follow me on twitter @jdbillio.