The first glimpse of the 2020-21 New Orleans Pelicans (1-0) inside the Smoothie King Center will feature a lot of familiar faces, but one of them will uncustomarily be sitting on the opponent’s bench.
The Milwaukee Bucks (0-2) are in town so that means we’ll get a chance to see Jrue Holiday up close with his new team for the first time. While you can be sure he’s focused on making a championship run with Giannis Antetokounmpo this season, he took the time yesterday to talk a little bit about his former teammates, specifically praising their immense potential.
Asked Jrue Holiday what lesson's or impact he hopes he left with the young players in New Orleans: pic.twitter.com/TyZJvqg3pM— Caroline Gonzalez (@carolinegonzo34) December 17, 2020
Good stuff from a class act. As for the matchup, it should present a good test for New Orleans before the regular season begins next week. The Bucks are expected to be one of the best teams in the league and their length and caliber of talent gave the Pelicans fits last year, winning both matchups by double digits.
After missing Monday’s contest against the Heat, Eric Bledsoe and JJ Redick are scheduled to play Friday; thus, Stan Van Gundy should be able to field his preferred starting lineup against Milwaukee’s imposing group of Holiday-DiVincenzo-Middleton-Antetokounmpo-Lopez. How will New Orleans’ best fare against excellent quality? It should make for an interesting clash as SVG has expressed a desire to mimic the Bucks’ game plan of limiting opponent shot attempts near the rim.
We know New Orleans wants to punish teams with their unique combination of size and speed to get inside the paint and to the free throw line, but not allow those same looks defensively. Well, Milwaukee gave up the fewest shot attempts inside the restricted area last season and were nearly as stingy in sending their opponents to the charity stripe (7th). Meanwhile, Giannis loves to live inside the paint nearly as much as Zion Williamson.
It sounds awfully simple, but whichever team best exerts one’s influence in and around the restricted area should find itself in good position of leaving the matchup happier.
While I’m very much looking forward to a number of individual battles (Lonzo Ball vs Jrue, Brandon Ingram vs Khris Middleton, and Zion vs Giannis), I’m incredible eager to personally see what a contingent of 750 fans looks like in a 16.867 seat arena as well as all the enacted safety coronavirus-related measures. Per Pelicans PR:
Starting with its preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow night, which has been sold out, the Pelicans and Smoothie King Center will begin with a capacity of approximately four-percent, or 750 fans, with no seats within 30 feet of the court.
“As we continue to navigate these unusual times and circumstances, we have partnered with health and safety officials, both on the local and state level, the NBA, ASM Global and Ochsner Health to create a world-class game day experience for our fans entering the Smoothie King Center,” said Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha. “Similar to what we have been able to accomplish at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, we have developed a plan to make the Smoothie King Center one of the safest venues in the country to attend a basketball game.”
Fan attendance protocols will involve extensive health and safety measures, including socially distanced seating. Per NBA rules, face coverings will be mandatory for all fans and staff in attendance, and must be worn at all times (other than while actively eating and drinking). Neck gaiters, bandanas, or masks with valves or vents will not be permitted in the Smoothie King Center.
Upon entering the building, all patrons will be required to take a temperature check along with a fan symptom and exposure survey. Additionally, guests will be issued staggered entrance times to enter the Smoothie King Center pregame in an effort to promote social distancing when arriving to the arena.
The Pelicans and Smoothie King Center have adopted a 100-percent paperless and contactless experience for guests. All tickets and parking passes will be mobile, and all merchandise and concession stands will exclusively be card sales only.
Will there be enough boos or cheers to drown out the sounds of shoes squeaking and players talking on the court or will the crowd noise be irrelevant? How much will I hate wearing a mask and sitting at least six feet apart from other media members for the entire duration of a game?
Lots of questions surround the team both on and off the court, but we’re already down to the final tuneup before the real thing. Let’s geaux Pels!
Who: New Orleans Pelicans vs Milwaukee Bucks
When: December 18, 7:00 p.m. Central
Where to watch: FSNO
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM
For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.