Few teams have had a better All-Star break than New Orleans. The city hosted All-Star Weekend, Anthony Davis represented New Orleans well, winning the big game’s MVP award by scoring a record-breaking 52 points in the process, and Dell Demps rocked the NBA world by acquiring DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings.
For New Orleans, pairing Cousins with Davis, Jrue Holiday and the rest of the Pelicans, gives the franchise something they haven’t had in quite some time: relevancy.
Look all throughout the city — excitement is abounding. The Pelicans have rocketed from possible draft lottery winner to near favorite to snatch the wide open 8-seed in the Western Conference playoff race. Many eyes plan on being glued to television sets to watch big No. 0 debut next to our beloved No. 23.
You can’t put a price on excitement but there are ways to quantify it. As David wrote, the Pelicans’ television ratings are on the up and up and should only continue to grow. Fox Sports New Orleans has seen a 20 percent increase since the Cousins trade and the Pelicans trail only the Rockets and 76ers in television rating increase.
An uptick in TV viewers lends itself to a jump in demand for tickets and the franchise has seen a spike in their prices. Sales prices for Thursday’s Houston game jumped 70 percent (you could have gotten tickets in the upper deck for four dollars before the trade. Four dollars!) since acquiring DeMarcus Cousins; and the asking price for the 12 remaining home games has enjoyed an average increase of 32 percent.
But there’s a cost to relevancy that Alvin Gentry, Davis and Cousins must pay for: expectations. New Orleans doesn’t get a pass now. They aren’t this decade’s Kevin Garnett Minnesota Timberwolves anymore. They aren’t a woebegone franchise with one and only one star player in need of a proper running mate. Dell Demps erased all that over the All-Star break.
The time to talk about how awesome the Boogie-Brow tandem can be is gone. Now it’s time to go out and prove it on the court.
Let’s go back to elementary school science. The scientific method is the step-by-step process of exploring an observation and answering questions. Dell Demps’ theory is “if I trade for DeMarcus Cousins, then the franchise will be successful.” It’s on Alvin Gentry to prove his general manager’s hypothesis correct.
Growing pains is understandable and should be expected. LeBron James’ first Miami team famously went 9-8 before starting their era of dominance. Adding Kevin Durant hasn’t stopped the Warriors from stubbing their toe every now and then. But those teams figured it out and the expectation for New Orleans is that they’ll follow suit.
Losing isn’t acceptable. Not anymore. And for Alvin Gentry, who has coached the Pelicans to a lackluster 53-86 record through a season and a half, he’s running short on excuses and time if the losses continue to stockpile.
Alvin Gentry’s head coaching resume is hardly one worth bragging about. Gentry has only won 40 percent of his games and has only been to the playoffs twice in 13 seasons. Is making the playoffs a must for Gentry to keep his job for next season? I don’t know the answer to that, but I believe if they don’t snatch the 8-seed from the Nuggets they have to be close. Gentry has to navigate his team out of this 23-34 hole and make this team a contender over the final 25 games. After all, you’ve got two of the 10 best players in the league and an upper echelon point guard at your disposal.
Figure it out.
This may be harsh, but that’s the new expectation. If Gentry proves he isn’t up for the task, New Orleans will need to find someone who is.