With the New Orleans Pelicans limping out of the gates and sporting an 0-4 record, local basketball fans must be experiencing deja vu all throughout the city again.
Excluding the 4-0 aberration witnessed last season, saying this franchise typically gets off to slow starts is quite an understatement. The DeMarcus Cousins-Anthony Davis twin tower look of the 2017-18 campaign saw the team get underway with a disappointing 3-5 record, but the starts of the first two seasons of the Alvin Gentry era are ones that were permanently etched into the back of too many minds.
The Pelicans began the 2016-17 season with eight straight losses and were owners of a 7-17 record through the first 24 games, but they got off to an even more dismal beginning the year before by losing six straight and sat 1-11 after the first 12 games on the 2015-16 schedule.
The Anthony Davis and Dell Demps years were certainly memorable, huh?
Of course, the answer can only be an affirmative one for those who enjoy painful fandom experiences. While there were some enjoyable high times, like two unexpected playoff trips, the status quo all too often contained feelings of disappointment. Thus, that’s why the Pelicans upcoming matchup on Thursday against potential MVP-candidate Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets is incredibly huge, especially for this new-look franchise.
While most kept expectations in check before the start of training camp, many began to dream bigger after the Pelicans went couldn’t lose in preseason action. Suddenly, it felt safe to hope for more than a competitive team; however, before the exhibition schedule wrapped up entirely, harsh reality came knocking with usual news — a key injury.
Zion Williamson, who produced one of the greatest rookie preseasons ever witnessed, suffered a meniscus tear during the final week of exhibition play and was given a six-to-eight week timetable. While that recovery window has not changed, he’s now been joined by Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors in the medical room.
Missing three of five starters against the Golden State Warriors on Monday night revealed this Pelicans team could get off to another unimaginably slow season start, rivaling the 2015-16 and 2016-17 editions. Whether you’re a network producer for ESPN or a die-hard fan, this is utterly the last thing anyone wants to see. Sadly, I detailed this as a potential worst case scenario in our SB Nation season preview.
IT ALL GOES WRONG IF…
Several key injuries strike the core during the first quarter of the season. Coming off such a disappointing campaign which revolved around the Anthony Davis trade request to then riding the highest of highs since the David Griffin hire in April would suck the air right out of the Smoothie King Center. The New Orleans Pelicans do not have pressure to make the playoffs, but fans are yearning to see the team play competitive basketball on most nights, offering legitimate hope of better things to come down the road.
In each of the first three games on the schedule, we witnessed the Pelicans display that competitive brand of basketball; however, that energy came to a screeching halt against the Warriors. While the players didn’t quit per se (as evidenced by reducing a 29-point deficit to 11 in the final score), similarly negative showings could completely ruin the momentum that had begun back in April when David Griffin was hired — especially a second consecutive dud this early in the season.
Staying with the Denver Nuggets, let alone beating them, is a big ask of a young team who are still in the process of learning each other’s personalities. Furthermore, these Pelicans could once again be without three essential core players. Yet that is an obstacle Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and the rest of the healthy collective must figure out how to overcome. At least we can be certain that the players should be ready to give it their all from the opening tip.
“I think that was definitely an embarrassment, said Kenrich Williams after practice today. “To lose like that, at home...I think we’ll respond well come Thursday.”
All of the players and coaches have seemingly echoed the same sentiment over these last 24 hours. That’s why the next game inside the Smoothie King Center is so vitally important for the organization. New Orleans needs to prove the contest versus Golden State was a rare exception and that fans are not wrong for being overly excited about the future.
Outside of perhaps the Sacramento Kings, no one needs a win more than these Pelicans. Want to see if they can do it in person? Pick yourself up some tickets from our sponsor StubHub right here!
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