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Pelicans vs. Heat preview and game thread: My what a difference a year makes

Last year these teams played on Christmas Day in what was supposed to be a marquee match-up. Things have changed.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat retired Shaquille O'Neal's uniform last night and used a stirring halftime ceremony as a springboard to a ferocious comeback against the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet, just a day previous President of Basketball Operations Pat Riley was discussing how the Heat are on a path to rebuilding, one they hope to accomplish quickly. Riley noted that it wasn't going to be a three or four year plan, throwing obvious shade at former Philadelphia 76ers GM Sam Hinkie, but came back and reiterated, "You can use that word rebuild. But we're going to do it fast." Riley knows, as Chad Ford said yesterday in his latest big board, that the 2017 NBA Draft is stocked.

The Heat are looking to possibly trade Goran Dragic between now and the trade deadline. Likely securing more losses in the short term to improve the value of their pick this June. Tanking. Rebuilding is just a nicer way of saying losing on purpose when what you've built isn't working. Both sidelines tonight know it well.

These teams were featured on Christmas Day last year. It was supposed to be an Anthony Davis showcase. Instead the New Orleans Pelicans came in 9-19 and fell in a competitive yet ugly game to the then 16-11 Miami Heat. Tyreke Evans had one of the worst games in recent memory, complete with forgetting what the play was called and forcing Alvin Gentry to use multiple timeouts just to set up critical plays in the final seconds. This year these teams, a combined 21 games under .500, will find no national television audience. That's what going 30-52 (the Pelicans) or losing Dwyane Wade (the Heat) will do to you.

Since Miami is on the back half of a back-to-back and both of these teams rank in the bottom 20% of the league in offense you'd expect an ugly game. So of course the Pelicans (or Heat, or both!) will probably be red hot from the jump and put on a stirring performance. Anything better than last Christmas please.

Read more here:
2016-17 NBA Regular Season

10-21 (6-10 Home)
10-20 (5-9 Away)
December 23, 2016, 7:00 PM Central
Smoothie King Center - New Orleans, LA
WRNO 99.5 FM
Projected Starters
Jrue Holiday PG Goran Dragic
Buddy Hield SG Josh Richardson
Solomon Hill SF Justice Winslow
Anthony Davis PF Josh McRoberts
Alexis Ajinca C Hassan Whiteside
Advanced Stats (2016-17 season) via NBA Stats
100.16 (11th) Pace 96.82 (25th)
100.9 (26th) ORtg 101.3 (24th)
104.9 (18th) DRtg 103.8 (13th)
-4.0 (24th) Net Rating -2.5 (19th)

Gameday Links

-Game Preview: Can the Pelicans get by Hassan Whiteside and the Miami Heat?

-Starting Lineup Suggestions: It's time for Terrence Jones to move into the starting lineup.