The New Orleans Pelicans quite possibly hit a new franchise low on Thursday evening when the final buzzer sounded inside the sparsely populated Smoothie King Center, as the Philadelphia 76ers snapped their 23-game losing streak at the home team’s expense.
Following the incomprehensible outcome, we learned minutes later that head coach Alvin Gentry doesn’t care about his job status, Solomon Hill feels the Pelicans were lucky to not lose by a larger margin, and Anthony Davis has never felt worse after a loss.
Long live the New Orleans Pelicans process... Wait, what?
This lowest of lows was never thought possible, never contemplated a conceivable consequence — not with Anthony Davis healthy and playing at an MVP level.
The current group isn’t in the midst of some rebuilding scenario that requires persevering through several player development years. Been there, done that, right? About half of the roster is knocking on the door of their prime age-27 seasons and that’s not even counting the superstar. The offseason acquisitions were supposed to sharpen the defense, and the coaching staff was presumably going to figure out how to make the offense purr like Golden State’s.
Yet, here we are: living in the aftermath of recent losses to both the Mavericks and Sixers. These two teams sit in the cellar of their respected conferences, combining for a record of 9-35. It’s possible to imagine a situation that involves an off night by a mediocre unit and thus a loss to one of these teams, but two? The Pelicans couldn’t stop a Nowitzki-less Dallas squad for 13 straight possessions in the fourth quarter, and they managed to score just 88 points against a Philadelphia team that had been allowing 113 points on the road.
These performances taken together, on top of all the other eye sores, shouldn’t have become the present reality, unless of course we were all dead wrong to believe management could remotely surround Davis with the correct pieces and Gentry was the right man to lead them
to the promised land to a winning season.
Since the last playoff appearance, albeit a quick one, the organization guaranteed to deliver an exciting brand of basketball. Despite a successful season, Monty Williams was sent packing and Alvin Gentry assured Anthony Davis that he would soon enjoy sipping on champagne inside a festive locker room in front of the whole world on national television. But that plan went awry during the 2015-16 campaign so Dell Demps scrapped the continuity proposal in favor of significant upheaval, hand-picking an army of supposed two-way players over the summer.
All of the rotations’ missed games to start the year have robbed a lot of hope and expectations, but it doesn’t even begin to dismiss the 7-16 start. Entering yesterday’s game, the Pelicans had 52 games missed due to injury, or 64 if you want to tack on Jrue Holiday’s personal absence. Conversely, the Grizzlies entered with 62 missed games due to injury, but they’re sitting pretty with a 16-8 record and a brand new coach standing on the sidelines. David Fizdale has needed little time to become familiar with personnel and viable strategies, and he has not been ruffled by the unexpected absences of his players.
Meanwhile, Gentry is in his second season throwing brown bags onto walls and hoping the shit inside of them sticks. Can anyone help me understand why Alexis Ajinca, who received more DNP’s than games played in November, was inserted into the starting lineup against the 76ers? With an ability to stretch the floor out to the three-point line and possessing a youthful package of speed and strength for a 7-footer, Joel Embiid is a tough cover for anyone in the league. Ajinca is the slowest defender for the Pelicans and a foul magnet to boot. Sure enough, he was back on the bench with 2 personals not 3 minutes into the game, setting one hell of a lousy tone.
What kind of process is that?
Truth be told, Pelicans basketball isn’t what it has been in the past for me so naturally I’ve begun to lose a ton of interest this season, and by gauging the reactions on Twitter last night, I know I’m not the only one. There is a growing sense of apathy and despair among the fanbase, and we’re just past the quarter mark of the season.
As David wrote last night, Dell Demps is the conductor responsible for this epic flop seen so many a night inside NBA arenas. That’s some inexcusable incompetence on display considering the presence of Anthony Davis, and why the current predicament can be considered the franchise’s new low. You see, Demps witnessed first hand how a small market team shouldn’t build around a star when he had no choice but to trade Chris Paul away. Lo and behold, Davis looks likely to complete five seasons in the league with just a single playoff appearance. At least in his 6 seasons in New Orleans, CP3 advanced to the postseason 3 times.
Where should the team go from here?
I don’t know, but after 104 games with the current head coach and a general manger who oversaw the entire charade, I’m certain new actors are required. Winning is great and losing sucks, but apathy is the worst thing for a franchise. Fans are an organization’s lifeblood. If I’m beginning to lose significant interest, I can imagine how much less enthusiastic the common fan has become. If I’m seriously contemplating on not renewing my partial season tickets for a third straight season this early on the schedule, I hope revenue isn’t a primary concern to Tom Benson anymore.
If an organization is not moving forwards, they’re likely going backwards, but fans will stay even for the gloomiest of rides so long as there exists some kind of hope. For the longest time, 76er fans had nothing to hold onto but lottery balls, yet they stayed because they believed in the process. Sam Hinkie never wavered and eventually was able to deliver on his promise, racking up enough darts that Philly was bound to hit a couple of bullseyes. Don’t hate too hard, but a Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons duo is looking a heck of a lot more inviting than Anthony Davis and any of his current teammates standing next to him.
Why have I mentioned Memphis and Philadelphia in the same article? Because one can trust the processes of both teams. As long as Marc Gasol is manning the middle, the Grizzlies are going to be playing winning basketball because they’ve established an identity and know how to fill a roster around him. The Sixers were committed to accumulating assets and now have two gems on their sidelines.
New Orleans can’t point at either because their process has been, I’m sorry to say, a sham. Dell Demps has amassed a roster that doesn’t fit the desired strategies, normally fails to live up to expectations, and above all else, stays healthy. Alvin Gentry is a purported offensive genius but his team is 22nd in points scored, has consistently failed in clutch situations, and is adept at losing a game in so many ways.
Seriously, what kind of offense were the Pelicans running last night for the latter half of the 4th quarter: Throw it to AD and hope he can get a basket? Did anyone else catch what Hill said in his post-game interview?
"Even when we won, I thought it was fool's gold. We won games, but our ball movement is nonexistent. We come down, pick-and-roll and throw it to AD, and you just have AD scoring over three people. We want to get him in position where it's two at [most], or one.”
One of the most basic concepts of the offense — passing the ball to one another — remains a problem. How many more games do all those involved need before ball and player movement become a thing?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown tired of waiting. #draintheswamp