The 2016 season may have ended over three weeks ago for the New Orleans Pelicans, but the franchise is in no hurry to move forward as Dell Demps future remains undecided. That's less than ideal with the draft and free agency period fast approaching, especially for a team that finished with a suboptimal record of 30-52 and fifteen fewer wins than from the previous year.
Seven teams have moved on from previous head coaches, four have announced replacements and three franchises have new general managers installed in place. Meanwhile, the Pelicans gave notice on April 22nd that Dell Demps would hold a press conference on the 25th, cancelled it a few days later and have been quiet as a church mouse ever since.
14 days of silence -- and we're still counting -- but none of this is without precedent.
One year ago, hope was alive and well in New Orleans. Although the Pelicans were unceremoniously swept out of their first postseason in four years by the eventual champions, the vibes were good... until the bombshell was dropped.
- On April 15, 2015, Adrian Wojnarowski revealed a postseason mandate existed for Dell Demps and Monty Williams (which they passed).
- On April 28, 2015, Tom Benson made public a congratulatory letter, thanking the entire staff on a fine season.
- On the same day, Monty Williams gave a relaxed press conference (Here and Here), stating how he was planning to sit down in the coming weeks with Demps to discuss the roster and Mickey Loomis about the assistant coaches.
- On May 12th, Monty Williams was fired.
Monty Williams' purported archaic offensive strategies were replaced by Alvin Gentry, one of the key architects of several Western Conference high-scoring machines. However, the reasons for the radical shift in coaching philosophy do not deserve our attention today, rather I want to focus on the seemingly unpredictable nature of the ownership group as well as their quite predictable timing.
Everything, and I mean everything from the Pelicans, pointed towards Williams returning for another season. In the aftermath, we learned Benson had started in Williams' corner, speaking highly of him throughout the playoff series against the Golden State Warriors. One would assume he still felt similarly when the congratulatory letter was released due to the high praise. Yet, none of that eventually mattered.
Nine days after the conclusion of the most recent regular season, John Reid reported on good authority, "Dell Demps is definitely coming back for his seventh season." He wasn't alone in this belief as many with some insider knowledge have held the same opinion for some time. Earlier this week, Scott Kushner reported that the Demps-led front office has been busy working on draft and free agency preparations "as if they're returning."
Rinse and repeat?
Possibly, but the timing of events, particular the ownership's modus operandi during late April/early May, have been more telling. Monty Williams was fired one year ago after the Saints had concluded the majority of their draft work. Prior to a recent New Orleans Saints press conference, Mickey Loomis stated he would not talk about Demps/Pelicans during NFL draft proceedings.
Mickey Loomis asked about Pelicans GM Dell Demps: "That's not for today. This is about the #Saints."— Evan Woodbery (@TheSaintsBeat) April 27, 2016
If there are no changes coming, why not nip it in the bud? Two years ago, Demps held his season-ending press conference on April 16, 2014. Three years ago? It occurred on April 22, 2013. Dell Demps was supposed to speak on April 25, 2016. Need I remind anyone how far we're removed from both of those April dates in years the Pelicans also missed the postseason?
In conjunction with this coincidence, a rumor appeared yesterday in the forums on Pelicans Report.
Before anyone jumps to conclusions, this information should undoubtedly be taken with a grain of salt; however, I don't believe it should be dismissed entirely. First, the person who posted the intriguing bulletin has made consequential remarks in the past. For instance, he was the first one to give an inkling on the severity of Ryan Anderson's spinal injury.
Second, the Pelicans releasing pertinent information following the Kentucky Derby makes sense. Benson, Loomis and other dignitaries are busy in Lexington, supporting the owner's first attempt to win the famous horse race.
This week it's all about the horses.
Saints and Pelicans owners Tom and Gayle Benson have entered two colts into Saturday's Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs: Mo Tom and Tom's Ready.
"This is like being at the Super Bowl with all these cameras around and everything," Benson joked on Wednesday after the post position draw. "But I can tell you it's very exciting."
With Loomis indisposed, he most certainly isn't available to fire Demps and usher in a new regime down in New Orleans this week. But come tomorrow or Monday, all bets could be off as football will momentarily be in the rear view mirror and the horses finished running laps -- what a perfect time to reenergize "our fans as we look at every option to get the Pelicans on the road to an NBA championship."
Before the end of the season, Gery Woelfel, a Milwaukee Bucks beat writer, speculated John Hammond could wind up making a lateral position change by replacing Demps as the Pelicans general manager. Remember, he was the first source to claim the last offseason would result in major changes with the Pelicans, regardless of a playoff appearance or not.
His opinion alone carries some weight, but the fact that Hammond has a longstanding history with Joe Dumars and Alvin Gentry should really grab everyone's attention. To reiterate, have a look this pertinent clip from David's piece last month.
Is it conceivable Hammond was not going to leave Milwaukee, but then something changed around the time Dell Demps scheduled his season presser?
It's the start of another far-fetched theory, yet don't rule it out. I was ridiculed pretty hard for assuming Dumars was the instrumental voice behind the scenes after Williams' was fired. Over the last year, Dumars has been linked a ridiculous amount of instances to the Pelicans, why should it shock anyone that he's trying to assemble the gang back together again? Gentry is already in place and Hammond may be on his way because Dumars is inevitable.
Once the Kentucky Derby has concluded Saturday, Dell Demps shall finally be considered officially on the clock. By all appearances, it probably won't be for very much longer.