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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans look to continue ignoring all the outside noise in San Antonio against Spurs

A newfound spirit has arisen out of the ashes of Anthony Davis’ trade request. Damn the distraction!

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no guide on how to be a leader. Most times you either have it or you don’t. Some lead by voice, others by action, but the best examples get the most out of whatever is around them — and all excuses are left at the door.

With Anthony Davis currently in exile, it’s now Jrue Holiday’s turn to lead the New Orleans Pelicans. The trade rumors, posturing, and off the floor drama can wait, however, as there remain regular season games to be played.

The San Antonio Spurs will welcome the Pelicans into Texas in a rematch from a week ago in NOLA. That matchup saw Jahlil Okafor, Frank Jackson and Holiday all post big individual performances, but poor team three-point shooting and a strong third quarter from the Spurs was ultimately the key factors that led to the defeat, with San Antonio winning 126-114.

Things are a little different this week as San Antonio expects to have a healthier lineup with DeMar DeRozan expected to suit up. You could also make an argument things are a little different for the Pelicans coming off surprising back-to-back inspiring performances including a win in Houston.

Let’s look into a few important tidbits before tip-odd approaches.

Kenny Hustle

Personally “Hoodrich” would have been the nickname I would have chosen for Kenrich Williams. Hoodrich is the state of being neighborhood rich, so even if you’re not on the Forbes list, you’re living comfortably and have no problem showing it.

If you think about it, “Kenny Hustle” has a nice ring to it because the Pelicans don’t need an ultra talented top-end SF at this stage. While they’ll take one any day of the week, having a player who can simply outproduce their woeful history at the position, New Orleans is more than satisfied in unearthing a potential positive at such a sore spot in the lineup.

Regardless of the nickname preferred, Williams has played some really good basketball of late. After posting a career-high in rebounds (16) on Tuesday against the Rockets, Williams obliterated previous career-highs in points (21) and three-pointers (five) during 37 minutes against the Denver Nuggets.

If he can continue to stay solid and offer some consistency for New Orleans, Jahlil Okafor won’t be the only feel good basketball story to come out of nowhere for a city that desperately needs it.

Struggles from deep

The Pels have struggled immensely from deep as of late. Against the Spurs, they shot 26 percent on 7-of-27 shooting. Over the last ten games, they’ve converted just 33.2 percent of their shots. If a successful February is in the works, they must improve from outside.

First full month of Jah

We all want to point to some positives even in the darkest of times. Jahlil Okafor has been exactly what the doctor ordered. He seems to be improving from game to game, and it shouldn’t come as that large of a shock considering his pedigree and recent role. Okafor is still settling into his first consistent action as a starter since early in his second season in the league.

Jah is not perfect as he can struggle at times in keeping up with premier athletes at his position, but that aspect was always expected. However, he has made inroads defensively, and he deserves credit for his improvements in running the floor and showing some passing vision.

The more he continues rolling, the more smiles will follow one of the best bargain investments in all of basketball. We should all look forward to what we hope is a wonderful first full month is Jah ahead.

Where To Watch

What: New Orleans Pelicans (23-29) at San Antonio Spurs (31-22)

Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

When: Saturday, February 2, 2018, 7:30 p.m. Central