It’s very early in a season that has been a little trying. I’ve never given up hope because I know this slow start has been due to injury, learning curve and a pretty brutal schedule. The learning curve seems to have smoothed into a straight line as our team defense is shaping up and the offense has been unlocked.
Our loss to the Thunder seemed to be the pivot point because that’s when we began to see Darren Erman’s impact. We’ve also seen AD shake off his incredibly rough start and play like a top three player. It’s been great to see.
We know the calvary of broken bodies are on the mend and solid role players will be able to return to their normal roles and provide experienced depth. As Pelicans’ fans, we have a lot to be Thankful for this week — honestly, I’ve just been thankful to be watching live basketball again. Anyway, here’s a few quick hitter observations from the opening stretch.
• Is it a Samson thing? Luke, why’d you go and cut your hair? Last season when you were rocking the Hot Topic you were shooting 51% from downtown and 78% in catch-and-shoot situations. This season in an offense built to utilize your skill set you are a very disappointing 33% from beyond the arc and only shooting 40% overall. Buy some horse shampoo, or look into a weave.
• While I’m making biblical references — see mom, Catholic school taught me something (besides the joys of atheism) — Ryan Anderson throwing it down has become a thing. Drawing from his strong religious beliefs and my skateboarding nerd background I’ve taken to calling him, "Christian Hosoi." Hosoi invented the, "Christ Air," but Anderson has remixed it.
• Also, I’ve been hard on Anderson over the last two seasons, and it’s time for me to eat some crow. He’s playing great. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s in great physical shape, he’s in great mental shape, he’s in a contract year, he’s in a better offense or all of those things, but he’s stepped up and become the second guy we need every night. His defense has improved, he’s not hogging the ball and his jumper is back.
• Ish Smith — or, "Q93 Curse Word" as we call him, is doing his best Tyreke impersonation. He nearly wracked up a triple double in our home win over the Suns, and his penetration is creating the same kind of chaos Evans created for us when he ran the show. Also, it isn’t just his playmaking or his recent scoring — Smith makes a ton of little plays that don’t show up in the box score. He tips passes, cuts off drives, saves loose balls, contest shots against much larger players and he shows passion. This was a very early Dell Demps stroke of genius move that may lead to an even better one down the stretch, as Ish has made someone expendable.
• Jrue Holiday still seems like he’s still on vacation. I’ve been very disappointed in his play and his demeanor. We are being told he is completely healthy and that the minutes restriction is purely precautionary. He looks fine physically, but he is not impacting games. If Gentry doesn’t roll out a 3 guard lineup once Tyreke is healthy, I don’t see how Jrue remains the starting point guard — it has to be Evans. I kind of like that rotation though. You can have Evans and Gordon and then Smith and Holiday — both groupings give you a penetrating playmaker and a solid catch-and-shoot guy.
• Back to Ish stealing jobs — he’s turned Norris Cole into a trade asset. If Ish can sustain his level of play we no longer need Cole, especially with a cheaper and serviceable Toney Douglas as another emergency backup. I know Cole is a very good locker room guy with championship experience, but that also describes Kendrick Perkins who isn’t going anywhere. I could see Dell sending Cole to Portland for Maurice Harkless. Portland does it because they have a couple of decent wings in Aminu and Crabbe, but nothing behind Lillard. We do it for a rangy SF with a great wingspan that plays solid defense and is improving on the offensive end. Another move could be to send Cole to the 76ers for Jerami Grant. The 76ers do it because they do need to field an NBA level backcourt at some point, and they can still lose because Cole doesn’t solve their biggest need — scoring. Grant would bring great athleticism, length and pedigree (his father, Harvey played in the NBA for 11 years and his uncle, Horace was a four-time NBA champ). His scoring numbers aren’t great, but he’s playing on a team where no one needs to be double teamed and there is no set-up man.
• Travis — my partner in season tickets — is killing it on the nickname game this year. He’s labeled the hilariously small Darren Erman, "Pee Wee Erman." It’s fitting because his defensive adjusts in the 2nd half showed the Spurs that the Alamo does have a basement.
• I’m really not a fan of the new Jerry Jones-esque videoboard. Besides it being a huge distraction, it doesn’t give me a complete stat line like our previous pleasantly firm b-cup of a board did. We have the guy who led the league in blocks last year on our team, but our video scoreboard doesn’t list blocks in its abbreviated boxscore. Also, I want to see how many free throws each team has taken. It’s not like they don’t have space for this information. Maybe those less endowed guys that say things like, "It’s not the size of the boat that matters, it’s the motion of the ocean" are on to something.
• At my real job I overhear and get told a lot of insane things, but the lady behind me (whom at one point in the game told someone else at the game to start frequenting the place where I work) killed it with, "That has too much ice in it. I’m allergic to ice." I didn’t know that when you froze water it produced gluten.
• Speaking of people sitting behind us, do you have to have a levee break EVERY GAME? Travis is always swimming in the floodwaters of a spilled drink. If I would have been running for governor against the Republican and the Republican in Democrat’s clothing this past weekend I would have promised everyone a cupholder in their seats.
• Speaking of my real job, I have a much higher celebrity status for pouring sugary rum drinks than I do for writing wordy basketball inside jokes. Ticket scalpers, beer men and peanut men shout me out every game for my bartending chops. Jrue Holiday’s mom and wife haven’t punched me in the face yet for dogging his uninspiring play to start the season, so that’s cool. Look Holidays, I like Jrue, but I need him to turn it up a notch.
• I’m writing this during the brief pause between a home-and-away with Phoenix. The Suns once led the league in siblings, but the still lead the league in failed CBS pilots, "PJ Tucker: Private Eye" and "T.J. Warren: FBI."
• I was working during that pretty epic Warriors and Clippers game, but when I looked up and saw Golden State down by 23, I turned to my girlfriend (who also works with me and has developed a love for Stephen Curry) that the Warriors had that game. I had absolutely no doubt that they would pull it off. I’m not so sure that it had so much to do with my belief that the Warriors are a truly special once-in-a-lifetime kind of team, but rather that the Clippers have absolutely no backbone. I’ve never seen such a collection of talent that is more concerned with flopping and crying and not showing up as a team. Chris Paul is a phenomenal player, but I’m so glad that I don’t have to watch him for 82 games anymore. As I said, I didn’t really get to see that game, but I did see CP3 floppily draw a foul behind half court and then throw the ball wildly in the air as if he was shooting a three in a non-buzzer-beater situation. He then began politicking to the ref for three free throws. If a player who acts this way is the leader of your team, you will never win a championship. Give me those handful of terrible years post CP3 and Anthony Davis over a handful of first round exits with the Vlade Divac of point guards.
• Here’s some non-practicing what I preach. You know that NFL cliche you hear every week from Joe Buck or Bobby Hebert, "I just don’t know what a catch is anymore?" Well, I don’t know what a foul is anymore. That second quarter against the Suns in the Blender and the entire game in OKC was puzzling to say the least.
• Can the Kings sign Latrell Sprewell? Can they trade for Metta World Peace? Can they add Mark Jackson and his, "Everyone’s out to get us. Management. The head coach. The stats guy. The PA announcer. The guy in the lion costume. They are all out to get us." pep talks to the staff? Can we get Danny Ferry in the personnel department so he can forward some racist emails? Can MTV start, "The Real World: Sacramento Kings?"