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NBA Preview: Cal Ripken, baseball’s legendary Iron Man, might have hard time following Pelicans-Suns matchup

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New Orleans is in a tailspin. Phoenix will be without any key starter on an 18-61 team. Gulp.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

When I first began following major league baseball in the mid 1980s, Cal Ripken quickly became one of my favorites — even though he didn’t have a cannon for an arm like Shawon Dunston.

The Orioles’ long-time shortstop was a great all-around player, we happened to play the same position, and I had a few of his first produced baseball cards in my once superb collection. However, it wasn’t until many years later that I grew a whole new appreciation for him as a ballplayer: he never took a day off.

Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games stretching over 16 years. He surpassed Lou Gehrig’s MLB-record of 2,130 straight in 1995, but he didn’t skip a game for another three years after that, ending the consecutive games streak on September 20, 1998.

No one on the New Orleans Pelicans is going to finish this season with appearances in every single game. If Julius Randle plays in the remaining three contests on the schedule, he’ll finish with a team-high 75 games played. As Charles Barkley would probably say, “Cal Ripken’s rolling over in his grave watching these professional basketball players miss as many games as they do!”

Why am I writing about baseball’s Iron Man you ask?

Because Friday’s matchup between the Pelicans and Phoenix Suns is going to feature two mind-numbing starting lineups. There exists no pride or incentive (unless there’s a bonus written in a contract) to finish out a season strongly anymore regardless of one’s team placement in the standings. Those days are long gone.

New Orleans will be without Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Darius Miller, Frank Jackson, and in all likelihood, Anthony Davis. The Suns, meanwhile, will not enjoy the services of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, T.J. Warren, Kelly Oubre Jr., Tyler Johnson and Jamal Crawford.

Far cry from a year ago when the Pelicans rode their starting lineup of choice to end the 2017-18 campaign on a five-game winning streak, grabbed the 6th seed in the West and proceeded to stomp the Trail Blazers into oblivion, huh?

This current Pelicans group has practically achieved the opposite, losing 11 of their last 13 games, but diehards of the team don’t mind the epic fall towards the finish line any longer. In fact, they welcome it.

In what’s become a heated race between four teams to improve their odds on drafting Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and other prospects, a mere 12 a game separates the Pelicans, Wizards, Mavericks and Grizzlies in the standings. Just one additional win this season could be the difference between sitting sixth — and in solid position to move up in the 2019 NBA Draft — versus ninth in May’s Lottery.

While we all hope for competitive games and to watch Christian Wood do more fun stuff here on out, the odds of a brighter future demand a loss against the Suns. However, lets be real for a minute, it’s hard to fathom Dragan Bender, Elie Okobo and Jimmer Fredette stepping up and snaring a win against any Alvin Gentry lineup concoction, right?

Geaux Pels?!

Where To Watch/Listen

What: New Orleans Pelicans (32-47) at Phoenix Suns (35-42)

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, Arizona

When: Friday, April 5, 2019. 9:00 PM CST

How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO