My “day job” is that of a very patient assassin — I slowly poison people to death with 32oz rum drinks, 1/2lb cheeseburgers and potatoes that are filled with all kinds of roadblocks for your arteries to play Frogger around at one of the most popular spots in the city. It’s historic and high quality enough to lure in the upper class fine diners and cheap enough to be a date night or weekly splurge for the struggling. It’s packed with people from all walks of life and from every part of the city from Lafitte to Meraux to the Treme to St. Rose — everyone comes through those doors and stumbles out of them at some point. In fact, being a native Westbanker, I’m well aware of a subspecies of Westbankers that will only cross that bridge for a Saints game, to go to the airport or to get one of those rum drinks and a burger. It’s this kind of fandamonium that has my fellow employees and I getting recognized all over the country and even in places as far away as Japan while on vacation. It’s a cult. However, in many instances with many of our regulars, it becomes almost a family — they stop in just to visit and sometimes a hug. This constant flow through gives us a pretty good pulse of what the general attitudes are in the city.
As preseason was wrapping up, there was a narrative developing across the national platforms that the Pelicans could not survive the loss of Rajon Rondo. Despite numerous articles on our site, on Bourbon Street Shots, on Locked on Pelicans, on Crescent City Sports and echoed by the Athletic, the Advocate, Nola.com and local news and talk radio hosts debunking this flawed coronation of the former Pels floor general. The casual local fan, and even some diehards, were being polluted by another attempt from the outside mainstream to poach from New Orleans while also not being able to understand our singularity — as well as our weird way of being ahead of the times by also being kind of behind the times. A nostalgic progression: big but also fast.
Travis (my partner in season tickets and coworker) and I were absolutely blown away by how many people at the bar would lament the upcoming Pelicans’ season because Rondo was in LA. So many had given up on a season that hadn’t even started yet because they couldn’t see through outside agendas. It’s disheartening because as a blogger, who covers this team — and before that, a fan who sought out better coverage of the Pelicans within the blogging community — I’ve seen how the coverage has improved so much locally across all of the blogs, podcasts and the major media outlets. This fully blossomed local media is the revealer of truths — like the pair of sunglasses John Nada discovers in John Carpenter’s, “They Live” cutting through the subliminal naysaying coming from the outside.
However, if ignored or taken for granted, the delusion of the altered state of the Pelicans projected by the white man yells at black man, black man yells at white man format of sports shouting shows will continue to flourish through the community like a virus, and make people with real VIP backstage access to a revolution and history late to the party in their own backyard.
As a city, we have a very strange psyche. On one hand we celebrate local traditions, but we often reduce art and some aspects of our culture with a “local” label that has some stank on it — having some strange complex that doesn’t allow us to truly love ourselves. I’ve seen this so often in my involvement in the music scene.
Bands that are on large labels that tour constantly playing major festivals and to huge crowds draw nothing in their hometown because they aren’t thought of as a band, they are slapped with a demeaning, “local band” label. For instance, right now there is a band in New Orleans called Pears that are on Fat Wreck Chords, which is one of the biggest labels in punk rock owned by NOFX’s Fat Mike — in terms of DIY or indie labels this is basically being signed to Warner Brothers. They recently wrapped up a tour with pop-punk pioneers the Descendents whose drummer, Bill Stevens, has often touted them as his favorite band, and whose singer, Milo Aukerman, included them on his tour playlist in this article in the Guardian.
Now, I don’t expect a lot of you to be familiar with any of these names I mention here, but for those of you in the growing punk rock basketball fandom community, you should clearly understand how huge of an endorsement a nod from the Descendents is. And for the rest of you, trust me when I tell you that you’ve heard a band that was inspired by them — I’m sure you’ll recognize a few of these faces in following trailer.
Despite this nod from the Mount Rushmore of punk rock, they still suffer from localdom. Pears have toured Europe, playing to 10,000 people with Rise Against — yet I’ve been to Pears’ shows in New Orleans with 30 people in attendance...despite their extremely energetic live show...because they are taken for granted...as just another local act.
This is why we lose talent in New Orleans. Artists, musicians and activists eventually breakdown from carrying the burden of not being cared about where they live and create. This is what the television networks, the major market media and the syndicated radio shows are banking on and are trying to instigate with the Pelicans.
The disconnect from or unwillingness to actually grasp what Dell Demps was creating here since Chris Paul left is evident when getting the national pulse of the team. Dell has been a visionary — one that has had some bad breaks and a few failed concessions, but he was and still is ahead of the curve. Demps was trying to field a lineup built around playing 3 guards (all of which are still major pieces of playoff teams), a stretch four and a wunderkind unworldly being at the rim. Saddled with a coach he didn’t hire, who wasn’t ready to break from tried and true norms, and a plague of injuries — what could have been, wasn’t.
Dell was vilified for it.
Even yesterday, former commissioner David Stern tried to salt some long healed wounds and golden rain on our parade of a 3-0 offensive juggernaut of a start to the season as Oleh described here.
This David Stern feature by @SI_ChrisBallard is amazing. He pulls no punches when talking about the vetoed Chris Paul trade to the Lakers. “Dell Demps is a lousy general manager and none of those players are currently with the team anymore.” https://t.co/01l5vJg4MW pic.twitter.com/tVOZd8soZs— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) October 24, 2018
Who cares if your ex is still talking shit about you? Let them be miserable and enjoy your current happiness. The world has been corrupted by real housewives and he said/she said unnecessary drama that means absolutely nothing and serves no one. However, if you can’t look past these distractions, it corrupts your enjoyment what you currently have — and what you have is revolutionary: It’s pace and space at a whole new speed that runs through a trio of big men.
In the small ball era, Demps and Alvin Gentry have created a mismatch that no team is able to contend with. Teams can run with the Pels, teams can match the Pelicans size, but no team has the pieces to run with that size. The Pelicans will always be bigger and most often than not still be faster (4th in pace) — feasting on the glass (4th in rebound percentage), attacking the paint, wearing down lumbering bigs and drawing fouls from undersized matchups — leading to a 122.2 offensive rating, 1st in the league.
One of the keys to this — one directly linked to their size and Elfrid Payton’s skill set — is that the Pelicans having traded sniping from afar for close-range executions — leading the league with 72 points in the paint per game. The below tweet from our latest victims and family SB Nation family members, Clips Nation, could be a madlib: “insert team name” and “insert most athletic big man on aforementioned team” and run the results. They will always ring true.
The Clippers just have no big men who can play with the Pelicans bigs. Trez is closest, but he doesn't offer rim protection, and the Pelicans are going right to the hoop now.— Clips Nation (@ClipsNationSBN) October 24, 2018
An out of touch David Stern and a shortsighted producer set on selling star movement to drive ratings aren’t able to see where this offense was heading and the kind of success it would find. It didn’t fit the directive of getting a clearly top 5 player into some brighter lights — lights that they honestly could just shine on his current location.
More on that in a bit, but let’s fall back into the dark and dusty cave mock galley in which I work. On the night of the home opener against Sacramento, the bar was filled with locals in Saints gear, which is always disappointing on a Pels’ game day. Travis (the Pelicans’ unofficial hype man) was pushing the Pelicans’ greatness hard to an indifferent audience that was already bruised from the initial hip-checks of Anthony Davis leaving for Los Angeles and were now beaten into submission by Rondo’s inflated impact. Despite having blown out the Houston Rockets two days earlier and ruining the storm surge of AD to Boston, AD to LA segments ESPN was itching to launch as the final buzzer sounded, customers were still shrugging off the year with, “AD is leaving anyway, so why bother?” delusions from an aggressively targeted campaign.
While Anthony Davis has never once given any hint that he wants to leave New Orleans, we truly don’t know if he will or not. I don’t believe that he will, but if he is planning his escape, he’s here now. Davis will go down as one of the greatest players in NBA history — he is redefining what a big man can and should be. You live in a market where you can watch him on TV for every game, or you can pay as little as $5 per ticket to see him change the league live in person. Fears of his departure or his actually departure don’t change his greatness or the accessibility you have to it — don’t let them allow yourself to miss out on it. Okay, side rant over.
Dell, Gentry, Darren Erman and Chris Finch have given the Pelicans a clear vision and direction that gives Anthony Davis a distinct advantage every time he steps on the floor. It won’t always go according to plan, but the reality of a victory is always in reach.
Understand the puppet masters have done this without adding another superstar, which is another delusion polluting the pond. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been told this past week that Davis needs another star — even after 3 games with a league leading +15.3 point differential. The star pairing has been so heaped on us that there is an unwillingness to accept a team’s greatness or ability to contend without at least two of them in fold. However, a unique blend of upper-level but not necessarily star players, who play unselfishly and function together to create cracks that other teams can’t fill, can contend and achieve greatness because no one is prepared to play them.
This also works because no one is trying to steal anyone elses shine. I’ve written at least 5 articles about this, and I’m far from unique in my stance. Pelicans twitter, the blogosphere, the papers and the pods have all stated some version of this same idea. While the national media has agendas, the local media goes to practice and watches every dribble. We are in a golden era of Pelicans coverage in the city — obviously, if you are reading this you already know this — but help others find the news and opinions they need to counter the outside pollution. Help your local media escape the stank application of that term. No one knows this team like the Bird Writes, Bourbon Street Shots, Locked on Pelicans, Crescent City Sports, the Advocate and Nola.com. There’s a ton of great writers with diverse backgrounds, styles and basketball philosophies at your fingertips. Let them color your Pelicans’ experience and please avoid calculated talking points. Demand real breakdowns and observations because you deserve an untainted, non-agendized understanding of your team.
Help spread the word about #DoItBig.