As the season begins to come to a close, the Pelicans find themselves in a somewhat familiar position: on the outside looking in.
A classic example of a “bubble team,” New Orleans finds themselves within reach (albeit a long reach) of a spot in the play-in tournament. Currently, the Pelicans are sitting 3.5 games behind the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. With a crucial contest against the Spurs on April 24th, the Pelicans have a chance to improve their chances of getting into a postseason, but should everything still be about accumulating victories?
Riddled by injury problems and some nonchalance, the Pelicans have dropped very winnable games in the past few weeks. Two of the losses were in overtime against the Knicks and Wizards, with other games gone awry against the Knicks again and the Nets.
Only 13 games remain in this shortened NBA season, and the Pelicans need to go 10-3 over that stretch just to hit the .500 mark. The remainder of the season will not be easy for New Orleans as the schedule includes games against the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors (three times) and Denver Nuggets, just to name a few.
The Pelicans finally did what they were expected to do when they blew out the Magic in Orlando on April 22nd. This win left a glimmer of hope in the otherwise abysmal experience of Pelicans fans cheering for their team.
Just as close as the Pelicans are to a playoff spot; however, they are equally as close to decent lottery odds. Currently, New Orleans holds the 10th best odds, with the chance to bring that higher if they continue losing. Although this method is not preferred by players and coaches and could be much to the chagrin of many fans, teams must put themselves in position to do what is best for the future.
In my opinion, what is best for the Pelicans as of now is to attempt to get into a play-in spot. If you made your entire branding slogan “Won’t Bow Down,” then prove it. Prove to your players, potential free agents, and the fans that no matter the situation you will not give up. The players want to win (well, probably most of them), and the fans likely do not want to watch a floundering team.
Now is the chance for the Pelicans to prove that they will not roll over in the face of defeat. They need to prove that they are capable of doing what Mannie Fresh and Dee-1 say in the hype video for this season: don’t bow down and stand up tall.