The one silver lining in this hell hole of an NBA season for the New Orleans Pelicans has been Bryce Dejean-Jones. Everything about him fits right in with New Orleans, from his surly French name, to his troubled past, and his underdog status in the NBA. All of that those qualites combined to make Bryce Dejean-Jones the Real New Orleans King Cake Baby.
For those of you who may be unaware, during Mardi Gras season, (aka basically right after New Years Day is over) it is traditional for people to start bringing King Cakes into their offices, schools, and social gatherings.
Typically, a small plastic baby is inserted into the King Cake. The person who gets the small plastic baby (aka choking hazard) in their slice of King Cake is known as the "King" of the party. As "King" they are bound by customary law to provide the King Cake at the next party. This ensures peak King Cake-age.
In a lot of ways, a King Cake Baby is a surprise. That small surprise helps ensure many more parties are on the way. Bryce Dejean-Jones story about how he has arrived in the NBA is perhaps the most surprising thing of all. Hopefully, it will usher in a new era of small plastic baby King Cake parties for the Pelicans.
Hiding in the Cake
Bryce Dejean-Jones played for three college teams. He started his promising Freshmen career at USC. His time at USC, however, was very brief. Bryce stated it was his decision to leave the school. In contrast, a report from the LA Times stated that USC then head coach Kevin O'Neill gave Bryce the decision to either leave or be dismissed. This ultimatum was the result of two different physical altercations Bryce had with fellow students.
Bryce Dejean-Jones sat out what had to be a difficult year, he would then transfer to UNLV. At UNLV Bryce would enjoy moderate success with his new team. Unfortunately, his troubles were not over. Two years later, Bryce would would leave for similar reasons that begot his USC dismissal.
Bryce Dejean would transfer yet again, and play his Senior year at Iowa State, where he would be coached by future NBA Coach Fred Hoiberg. Under the direction of Coach Hoiberg, Bryce's troubles wouldn't disappear, he got arrested for possession of marijuana, but Bryce continued to develop his game. Bryce was an integral player on a scrappy team that made the NCAA tournament.
Finding the Baby
In the karmic way that life has, Bryce Dejean-Jones would then find himself back in the old UNLV gym he had left behind. This time however, Bryce was not trying to prove himself to a college coach, he was trying to make an NBA team at the annual NBA Las Vegas Summer League. Dell Demps and the New Orleans Pelicans had given this apparent misfit a shot to make an NBA roster.
Bryce Dejean-Jones had an impressive Summer League with the Pelicans. He averaged 12 points, on 50% shooting from three point range. He didn't make the team, and according to a post game interview of Ryan Anderson, most of the Pelicans players were surprised because they thought he could play. Anderson would go on to suggest that the real reason Bryce didn't make the team was because the Pelicans needed every roster spot to help stop the flood of injuries at the point guard position.
Not to be discouraged, Bryce Dejean-Jones would continue his mission to make an NBA team in the Developmental League with the Idaho Stampede. He continued to excel in the D' League, averaging 19 points and 5 rebounds for the Stampede.
Where injuries to key Pelicans once kept Bryce out of the NBA, karma came back around on Bryce by providing him with an injury that helped put him on an NBA roster. The Pelicans SG, Eric Gordon would go down with a broken ring finger, thus giving Bryce Dejean-Jones, finally, his much coveted shot on an NBA roster.
Bryce Dejean-Jones certainly hasn't wasted his shot to make a difference on an NBA team and to prove he belongs on an NBA roster. Through 9 NBA games, 6 of which he has earned the right to start, Bryce is averaging 7 points and 4 rebounds, while shooting over 40% from the three point range. His overall Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is almost as high at 12.36 than the "star" player he replaced, Eric Gordon's PER of 13.19.
What is most impressive about Bryce Dejean-Jones is how hungry he plays. The way he crashes the glass night in and night out is something that most NBA players, and especially the ones on the Pelicans roster, should take note of. If he continues to play with this much enthusiasm and effort, he will have a place with the Pelicans for a long time to come.
Starting the Next Party
If Bryce Dejean-Jones is the Pelicans real King Cake Baby, then Dell would have to be considered the "King" who has found him. That being the case, then Dell Demps is bound by New Orleans customary law to go out and bring the next King Cake, and thus, King Cake baby to New Orleans.
Buddy Buckets perhaps? Let us all hope!
*** Have a fun and SAFE Mardi Gras everyone! If you have an opinion about something I wrote, be sure to leave it in the comments below. For more brilliance you can follow me on twitter @jdbillio.