The New Orleans Pelicans had an absurdly difficult first week of the regular season. I tried to warn you in August when the schedule was released that the first couple months of the year were exceptionally daunting. That was before the Pelicans suffered a rash of injuries to Tyreke Evans, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Luke Babbitt, and Norris Cole. Before details of the minutes restriction for Jrue Holiday were released.
Realistically the Pelicans were going to start the season 1-2. A loss against the Portland Trail Blazers was not out of the realm of possibility. The Blazers might be rebuilding but the Rose Garden on opening night has proven to be a house of horrors for the NBA. The last team to win on the road in Portland on opening night started Shaquille O'Neal, Horace Grant, Rick Fox, Kobe Bryant, and Ron Harper.
Playing at a disadvantage against the Portland Trail Blazers may at first seem to be insignificant. It is only the second game of the year. However, toss in the energy of the Rose Garden on opening night, a late night in Oakland against the defending champs when they hang their banners, and the complete unknown of what exactly a completely rebuilt Blazers team is and how they will play and it a recipe for potential disaster.
Despite a poor start there are still a couple bright spots to be gleaned early on in the season.
Dante Cunningham is willing to shoot behind the arc
Coming into this season Cunningham had two career 3-pointers in over 8000 NBA minutes. So far this season he is 4-8 from deep with all four makes coming from the corners. More important in my eyes is his willingness to launch and the discipline to keep his toes behind the line rather than scooting in to a more comfortable shot considering his history. Even better, once the Warriors adjusted last night Cunningham demonstrated a solid pump-and-go resulting in an layup during the fourth quarter.
Ryan Anderson looks healthy
Ryno's numbers are closer to his career averages as he's shooting 44.2% from the field and 37.5% behind the arc in this young season. Even more encouraging are the big man's rebounding numbers where he is currently posting a career best defensive rebound rate both as a percentage (20.9%) and on a per minute basis (6.3 per 36 minutes). Beyond the numbers Anderson attempted a monsterous dunk over Marreese Speights during the second quarter Halloween night.
The rest of the NBA isn't Steph Curry
Curry put on a show during the third quarter. It was equal parts amazing and terrifying.
Anthony Davis was the closest defender to Steph Curry on six shot attempts last night. Curry posted a 108.3% eFG% on those shots.— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) November 1, 2015
The cavalry is coming
Omer Asik and Luke Babbitt have returned from injury. Quincy Pondexter and Tyreke Evans were on the court on Friday putting in some work. Norris Cole should be on the way in the coming weeks. There are 79 games remaining on the schedule. Last year the Pelicans last big losing streak, four game in a row, came with just 11 games remaining. They still clawed their way into a playoff bid.
The NBA season is a long, 82 game slog. 79 games still remain for Alvin Gentry and the Pelicans. There is time to get things back on track. At best they have lost one "gimme" game so far. The near-invincible Warriors only appear once more on the schedule. Stay your pitchforks.