Think back to a time when you opened a book — you were dying to read — to the first page, sat down inside a movie theatre with your favorite candy in hand to watch a much anticipated sequel, or took your seat on a plane headed towards your favorite getaway destination. Irrespective of all the hardships that had been suffered through prior to that moment in time, absolutely none of that negativity mattered because a state of bliss had been achieved and all the bad thoughts were so far removed from your consciousness that it may as well have never even happened.
That’s precisely the emotion a lot of New Orleans fans will probably feel on Thursday at approximately 7:10 pm CST, when the Pelicans tip-off against the Houston Rockets inside the Smoothie King Center.
A disappointing 23-34 first half record? The flaming disaster since the Pelicans last enjoyed a postseason berth? All the naysayers who live in other NBA cities pointing to calendars when gazing at Anthony Davis?
Sorry, could you repeat that again because I’m in the midst of a dream where Dell Demps was able to swing a trade for DeMarcus Cousins without needing to sell the farm...
Wait, this is real life?! Moreover, the rival Houston Rockets could be the new-look Pelicans first victim!! Someone pinch me — ahhhh!!!
Individually, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have failed to earn a victory against James Harden and his eager servants of three-point shooters this season, but perhaps joining forces alters the outcome.
Am I overly optimistic before their first game together? You bet your ass, but I truly believe it’s a better route to take than trying to make a case for what two of the best players in the game today will not be able to do on day one.
For all the struggles the Pelicans may have with on-the-court chemistry, they’ll still take the floor with an all-world Davis, all-world Cousins, a damn good Jrue Holiday and an inspired blue-collar desperate roster ready to go to war behind them.
Meanwhile, Mike D’Antoni is likely going to start Ryan Anderson and Clint Capela in his front court. Not only will this duo give up a ton in size, skill and athleticism, they also have absolutely no clue on what to expect. So, even though the Pelicans have just one practice under their belts with a game-changing Cousins, the Rockets coaching staff has zero footage and no scouting reports for a Cousins-Davis tandem.
Unfamiliar vs undermanned and unprepared? Eh, I’m siding with the unknowns.
3 Things to Watch
- Free throw attempts. The Rockets average the third highest amount of FTA per game (25.3). Cousins and Davis have combined for 18.6 charity stripe trips per game. No doubt James Harden will get his share, but I’m curious how D’Antoni is going to react to his guys slowing the game down by fouling at astronomical rates at times. Oh, and when Houston has shot less free throws than opponents, they’ve posted a very mortal 13-9 record.
- Rebounding edge. If the Pelicans can take the Rockets out of their comfort zone, Houston may find more difficulty than usual from sinking three-point bombs. Either way, the Rockets are bound to miss more than they make so there are going to be a lot of opportunities for defensive rebounds. With the Pelicans fielding two of the best in the game, Houston should be held to a lot of 1-and-dones. When the Rockets have finished with less rebounds than their opponent, they’ve only won 15 of 26 games.
- Pelicans Big 3. What? You didn’t think I would forgot to list the Holiday-Davis-Cousins trio as a must watch item, did you?
What: Pelicans vs Rockets
Where: Smoothie King Center — New Orleans, LA
When: February 23, 2017 at 7:00 PM Central
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, Root Sports Southwest, 99.5 FM WRNO