The Pelicans are falling deeper and deeper into a lost season. The once beacon of hope -- remaining just 3.5 games out of the eighth seed has ballooned to 6.5 games out. Quincy Pondexter is out for the season with lingering knee issues, and Anthony Davis has been out the last two games after launching himself to save a loose ball, injuring his back in the process.
Last night, the Pelicans, rather unsurprisingly at this point, lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, an awful team, but a team filled with young talent like D'Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle.
Things have changed as the Pelicans are going from playoff aspirations to organizing and setting up ping-pong balls. The front office may go through a change in the future, and if the people in charge are smart, they'd consider trading some of guys on the roster in effort to get more assets. As they continue to dig a deeper and bigger hole, we'll see if the Pelicans make moves in efforts to get worse.
For now, let's talk about those Sacramento Kings.
Are the Kings any good? Decent? I say the answer lies somewhere in between. DeMarcus Cousins is an all-world center and when he's played, the Kings have been good and in contention for that final spot in the Western Conference. Rajon Rondo has reverted back to the days of Boston Rondo, only, not as effective offensively. Rondo is out there creating shots, filling up the stat sheet, and getting along well with Boogie.
Rudy Gay has gone from overrated, to wildly overrated, to underrated now. Darren Collison is a good backup point guard and Omri Casspi is shooting 51 percent from the floor. Marco Belinelli gives them decent shooting guard minutes behind youngster Ben McLemore, while Kosta Koufos has remained one of the more unheralded big men in the league. With George Karl at the helm, the Kings are just two games out of the eighth seed, and I think they at least make one move at the deadline to make a push.
The funky thing about Sacramento is their draft pick. If Sacramento finishes outside of the 10 worst teams in the league, the Chicago Bulls get their draft pick. If they fall upon hard times, the Philadelphia 76ers can initiate a pick swap (highly unlikely considering Sixers will finish with a worse record). Now if the Kings get to keep said pick, they'll be forced to go through the same merry-go-round in 2017.
Three keys to victory
Stop DeMarcus Cousins -- Stop Boogie from being Boogie. I briefly mentioned that Cousins is a monster, but here are the numbers: 25.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks. He's one of the tougher players to stop in the interior, and to make matters worse, Cousins has expanded his game to the outside, taking 3.8 threes per game and knocking down 32 percent of them. Even with Davis, the Pelicans had trouble stopping Cousins. Outside, I would have Ryan Anderson front him with Omer Asik right behind him. Inside, I guess you have to trust Asik to deter or pester Cousins around the rim.
Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday - In the event that Davis doesn't play, the Pelicans will need big games from both Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday. Both played well against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, before having rather pedestrian games against the Lakers. For Anderson, it's hitting a few threes early and spacing the floor. Then, he can be a mismatch as he can take Sacramento's defense off the dribble for some drives. Same for Jrue, who needs to probe on offense and bother Rondo on defense, thus, getting Sacramento's offense out of sync.
Full Effort - The Pelicans won't have a full squad out there, but they will need all they can get. Dante Cunningham will have to provide some solid defense, Eric Gordon will have to be first half Eric Gordon and space the floor, and Alexis Ajinca will have to do what Alexis Ajinca always does, i.e. score a flurry in not so many minutes. Sacramento right now is the better team, but if New Orleans wants to pull off a victory (they can), they will need someone to step up.
Who - Pelicans at Kings
When - January, 13th, 2016, 9:00 pm
Where - Sleep Train Arena
Where to watch - Fox Sports New Orleans / NBA League Pass