By any and every stretch of the imagination, the Pelicans 2017-18 season has been a successful one.
The expectation, if not a complete and total demand from franchise higher ups, was that the team, now equipped with two superstars, make the playoffs and “#DoItBig” while doing so.
Consider that goal met, as the Pelicans clinched the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference and came ever so close to earning home court advantage in the daunting West. At 48-34 though, it is not the best record in franchise history, and it remains to be seen if they can meet or exceed the most successful playoff push in team history.
There remains work to be done of course, but regardless of whether New Orleans can get past Portland, it stands to argue that this team has already secured an even better title than “most successful.” These particular Pelicans have a chance to be remembered as the most endearing team to date.
Teams are a lot like stories: it’s only as good as its plot. It is the journey, not the destination, that makes for a good story, and the ebbs and flows this particular Pelican team has had to maneuver past puts them in a special pantheon.
Over the course of a single season, the Pelicans overcame the following: losing five of their first eight in a make or break season, losing their 1-B best player as soon as the team we knew then was rounding into form, and their owner dying in March. But these Pelicans never faltered; instead, they tied the franchise record for most consecutive victories at ten, and then closed out the regular season playing some of the best ball in the entire league.
The best stories have a cast of unforgettable characters and these Pelicans are no different. Anthony Davis, the franchise’s once great hope, is now a fully formed force of nature on both ends of the basketball court. Jrue Holiday, the quiet star who many wondered if he could live up to the sizable contract he signed last summer, silenced the doubters with the best season of his career. DeMarcus Cousins, the tragic hero cut down in his prime. Emeka Okafor and Darius Miller, league outcasts that reemerged to find a new (and old) home in New Orleans and excel with the opportunity given to them. Rajon Rondo, the renegade at the wheel. Nikola Mirotic, the man with two faces. Josh Smi-actually you know what, never mind.
The gold standard for professional basketball in New Orleans is still that 2007- 2008 team that took the Spurs to seven games in the Western Conference Semifinals. Jump ahead a decade later and the 2017-18 team is gunning for the crown as best team ever. Even if this New Orleans team fails to match the accomplishments of the version from 10 years ago, there’s something about this Pels squad that makes them completely captivating.
Perhaps its because this team somehow met, exceeded and underachieved expectations all over the course of seven months, but I can never wait to see what this group does on a night to night basis.
As the Pelicans gear up to take on Trail Blazers to open the postseason, they’re after something bigger than just a series victory — they’re on a quest for immortality. If they’re not already the best team in franchise history, beating Portland and getting to the second round will put them right next to that ‘07-’08 team. Even if they don’t knock off the Blazers, I’d argue they have just as strong a resume as the Paul team. Chris Paul’s team might have been better, but a Davis and Cousins’ pairing is more interesting.
When it comes to sports, a team’s legacy is defined by what they do in the playoffs, so New Orleans still have some work to do if they want to be memorialized. But no matter the result of this matchup against Portland, or any potential series beyond, remember this Pelicans team. Remember this entertaining, quirky, bizarre, fun-as-hell, never-say-die basketball team and all the faces that made this group.
And remember, they’re pretty damn good, too.