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NBA Preview: Pelicans-Bulls preseason game to carry unnecessary drama

Lonzo Ball — and particularly one writer — sit front and center

Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Pelicans will close out the remainder of their preseason schedule on the road, battling first Lonzo Ball and the Bulls in Chicago. The game can be seen tonight on Pelicans.com for those living in close proximity to New Orleans.

In their lone exhibition contest to date, the Bulls dismantled the Cavaliers. The 131-95 final score could have finished with a wider margin as Chicago led by as many as 48 points.

Zach LaVine scored 25 points in only 24 minutes of action, while Ball, his new backcourt running mate, stuffed the stat sheet similar to lines previously witnessed in New Orleans. He recorded eight points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks, but shot 37.5% (3-8) from the field and missed both of his two free throw attempts for the game.

Friday night’s game should be of particular interest to Pelicans’ fans for several reasons.

On the court, Billy Donovan wants the Bulls to play quicker this season, and they did so against the Cavaliers in posting a 110.5 pace. The ridiculously fast tempo didn’t compromise their efficiency either as the Bulls had 36 assists versus only nine turnovers.

Willie Green has stated numerous times that he wants to see the Pelicans play at a faster clip, too; however, that message hasn’t entirely taken hold yet in the locker room. In their preseason opener against the Wolves, the action was a blur (110.0 pace) but not on Wednesday against the Magic (96.0 pace).

In addition to the stars being aligned for a sprint of a game, it will be fun to watch Chicago’s offense against New Orleans’ defense.

Asides LaVine, the Bulls also have noted long-time scorers in DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic in the starting lineup.

Green has said the Pelicans are going to need to rely on defense to win games this year. Outside of a porous 40-17 second quarter in Minnesota, they have largely accomplished that to this point.

But the biggest clash everyone in New Orleans is dying to see: Lonzo Ball battling his old team. And Bulls.com writer Sam Smith certainly did his part yesterday by tossing plenty of kindling into the fire pit.

Although the title of Smith’s article, “Lonzo Ball looks to be the floor general the Bulls have needed,” doesn’t mention the Pelicans, the opening line, “What could the New Orleans Pelicans have been thinking?” perfectly encapsulates of what is to come.

It honestly read as a hit piece, and considering Ball’s representation is Rich Paul and Klutch Sports Group, it’s almost impossible not to point fingers. They’ve certainly been responsible for things unnecessarily being turned upside down in the past.

In previous articles, Smith wasn’t nearly as effusive in his praise of Ball — “But basketball is about making plays. Lonzo doesn’t; DeMar does.” — nor did he mention the New Orleans franchise in a bad light.

This time round, there wasn’t a single reference to any weaknesses, the slightest hint of any negativity about Ball’s game. Instead, “Lonzo still just 23 is a dynamic former No. 2 overall draft pick coming off career-highs in scoring and shooting even in a reduced role.”

Yep, no mention of the fact that Lonzo has problems with his on-ball defense, especially at his position against smaller, quicker guards. Nothing about the allergies relating to his drives into the paint or contested shot attempts at the rim. Do we even need to bring up his propensity for late-game miscues or the notion that his inconsistencies from game to game are the real reason he’s no longer in New Orleans?

But I digress. We’re not here to argue the talents and abilities of Lonzo Ball — two years of that turmoil was enough. However, the validity of Smith’s article is pertinent because of the bogus untruths written.

In addition to this apparent fabrication, Smith cites the Bulls as “clever” for their sign-and-trade for Ball.

The Pelicans went out and added Charlotte point guard Devonte Graham in free agency. The Bulls cleverly ended up making the Ball transaction a sign-and-trade, Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple going to the Pelicans.

Last time I checked, the Chicago Bulls are still under investigation for tampering. They could lose a future first-round draft pick once the NBA doles out any punishments. There’s nothing clever about potentially needing to forfeit valuable trade assets.

Despite this game not counting towards the 2021-22 regular season standings, the Pelicans versus the Bulls is going to be fun entertainment tonight. However, there’s no denying the fact that emotions have been ratcheted up across the local viewing area because of one questionably written article.

Boo Sam Smith (and likely, once again, Klutch Sports)!

Geaux Pels!

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (1-1) vs Chicago Bulls (1-0)

When: October 8, 7:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: Pelicans.com, NBA League Pass

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.