Two weeks into the schedule and the rest of the Pelicans season is ominous.
No team has recovered from an 0-4 start to make NBA playoffs in the heartless West since 67-win Mavs in 2006-07. Injury-ravaged Pels now 0-6— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) November 9, 2015
Mathematically speaking, it's still possible. If the target to get into the playoffs is 45 wins, then if the Pels can get back to playing .600 ball (like they did since acquiring Quincy Pondexter last season, with a 27-18 record since acquiring him), they can still get to 45 wins. But the winning has to start soon.
The problem is, it's not going to be THAT easy.
The Pelicans have applied for a hardship exemption -- one that allows a team to sign another, 16th player provided certain, sinister conditions are met.
Jimmer Fredette is likely on his way back to New Orleans.
If the NBA approves the Pelicans’ hardship appeal, sources tell The Advocate that Fredette will sign as its 16th player. The reserve shooting guard spent last season with the Pelicans but was en route to the NBA’s Developmental League after not making an NBA roster out of training camp.
The Pelicans are still waiting on official clearance from the league to go beyond the 15-man roster limit and can only do so because it has at least four players who are injured or sick for longer than two weeks. An independent physician must decide if the length of the injuries meets the guidelines.
New Orleans has been without Tyreke Evans (knee), Quincy Pondexter (knee) and Norris Cole (ankle) since the beginning of the season and recently lost reserve center Kendrick Perkins to a pectoral injury that he expects will sideline him for three months.
What that means is if Jimmer Fredette is signed, then the Pelicans have been demeaned 4 players off the roster will almost certainly miss the next 2 weeks. Perkins is sure to be one (out for around 3 months with a pectoral injury), and it is likely Evans, Pondexter and Cole will miss around the next 8 games. The important part of the news is not that Fredette (and his loyal following) are back in New Orleans, but that the losing ways could continue without the return of key reinforcements anytime soon.
To add insult to (
a literal) injury, the Pelicans still have that ridiculous schedule to contend with: they will play the Hawks (7-2), Toronto (5-2), OKC (KD + Russ) and the Spurs over that stretch. I can't even bring myself to think we're favorites against the other teams in that stretch (NYK, DEN and DAL). That's how bad it's gotten. Nevertheless, the winning HAS to start at some point. What better way than to do it at home, against a bitter rival who just whooped your ass a few nights ago?
Keys to the Game
1. Communication and Purpose on D - In a piece that will hopefully come out some time this week, the single most important thing making the Pels defense horrible is communication (or lack thereof) and purpose. It's getting ridiculous how much these guys don't understand each other on the court. But if they want to keep these Mavs away from another W, they'll have to communicate better. On screens, on switches, on rotation and on sets. And they have to stick to the plan. Too many times, I've seen our players do some pretty awful decisions on defense (like sticking to Shaun Livingston & Iguodala from 3PT land like they're Stephen Curry OR just letting penetration happen over and over again). Communicate and stick to (what I think) is a good plan. There is hope, mind you.
2. Pound the Offensive Glass - It feels like eternity, but the Pelicans were once a juggernaut on the offensive glass. Last season, they ranked 4th in Offensive Rebounding Rate (4th). Meanwhile, the Mavs -- who lost two of their better defensive rebounders (Tyson Chandler and Al-Farouq Aminu) were practically dead last (72.2, 2nd worst). This is me subtly trying to say that I think Alexis Ajinca deserves more minutes (so long as Asik is injured). He, AD and Ryno can split the 96 big men minutes between them.
3. Anthony Freaking Davis - It's almost idiotic that you have to put your superstar in the "Keys" to the game. But AD has not looked anything close to what he was last season. Offensive struggles aside, his defense has been worrisome. He wasn't a great system defender last year but he made up for it with effort -- which he's lacked most of the time he's been on the court the past 6 games. He has to be that same animal -- full of effort and passion from start to end.
Let's pray for a 1-6 record after this game, folks.