It is difficult to be a Pelicans fan right now. Even the most die-hard NBA 2k enthusiasts -- clears throat -- would be hard-pressed to identify some of the players that New Orleans has been relegated to trotting onto the court in recent weeks. Luke Babbitt, Tim Frazier, Jordan Hamilton and the newly signed James Ennis were all asked to consume twenty plus minutes of playing time Wednesday night, a fate that only a witch doctor could muster for an NBA team. Perhaps voo doo is in fact the only place to turn.
Expectations for the viewing experience of last night's game landed somewhere between morbid and disenchanted. The Pelicans are not close to sporting an NBA roster, and they were going against a robotic juggernaut with an undefeated home record and a reputation for artfully ripping the soul out their opponent's basketball heart. Why the hell even bother to watch? A blowout was the surest of outcomes, even with the Notorious P.O.P. (Gregg Popovich) mixing and matching his lineups like a degenerate FanDuel player the night before a Friday night NBA slate.
(I have no experience with the above scenario...)
Yet, despite the differentiation in talent level, the Pelicans band of misfits compounded a strong showing against the Spurs. Even when the floodgates appeared to be shattered open at the conclusion of the third quarter, they continued to fight hard and make things at least partially interesting towards the end. Considering the mounting circumstances (or curses) of unfortunate luck, that in itself is a victory.
Sure, San Antonio threw out their B-team for a majority of the night; LaMarcus Aldridge was the only Spur to go over the 30 minute plateau and no starter had under a plus/minus under +12. But even their bench mob is comprised of real NBA talent as evidenced by Manu Ginobili turning back the clock with 20 points and five rainmakers in 24 minutes. Not to mention their Serbian version of the Iron Giant took the court, causing one to wonder if he is capable of eating Norris Cole whole if he put his mind to it.
The verdict: YES.
Point being, Pelicans fans should bask in the reflected glory of last night's showing. Every player that does not possess brick hands (Omer Asik) or boulder-like features (King Kendrick Perkins) scored in double figures. Ennis poured in three rainmakers of his own and was generally "jiggy with it" around the perimeter. Frazier did his routine zipping up and down the floor while Toney Douglas went through his normal chucking process.
Hamilton exhibited some intriguing offensive chops and Alexis Ajinca actually looked like the guy that Dell Demps shrewdly signed to what was perceived to be an under market value contract over the summer. Hell, even Babbitt contributed with an unorthodox array of moves en route to 10 points, a team-leading plus/minus of +10, and this ever-lasting finger roll that would make George Gervin blush:
I AM KIDDING. I KNOW LUKE BABBITT WOULD NEVER MAKE GEORGE GERVIN BLUSH. Even with his luscious locks...
Other than Babbitt's future as the next "Ice Man," there are still interesting narratives taking shape here, even if most fans are unfamiliar with the cast of characters. What these Pelicans lack in talent, offensive spacing, general basketball fit and awareness -- they make up for in gumption and they have provided a compelling on-court product in the eye of a rudderless campaign.
At the end of the day, that means something.