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Isaiah Thomas officially joins Pelicans, who seek return to win column in matchup against Rockets

Will at least one of Zion, Lonzo or B.I. return from injury today in Houston?

Washington Wizards v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

There should have been about six more weeks left of regular season basketball, but when the calendar flipped to April, it felt like New Orleans had decided to skip right to summer league action — the Pelicans were suddenly relying completely on inexperienced youth and journeymen to win games.

Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball have yet to appear in a game this month, and Josh Hart and Steven Adams sat out Friday’s loss to the Hawks, too. Needing surgery on his UCL ligament in his thumb, Hart’s season is potentially finished and it’s anybody’s guess as to when we’ll see most of the other regulars again.

Steven Adams should be good to go, but did you catch Kira Lewis Jr. is doubtful for today’s game? Sigh.

Look, there’s no doubt the Pelicans have been fortunate on the injury front for the vast majority of this season; however, the recent team-debilitating developments still sting all the same.

New Orleans had won 6 of 9 games and were primed to feast on an easier portion of the schedule. Now they’ve missed out on two consecutive golden opportunities to move up in the Western Conference standings, losing to the rebuilding Magic and undermanned Hawks. So, what’s in store against the Houston Rockets tonight?

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers, Game 3 Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

A lot really depends on when a few ailing starters return. Perhaps an inkling when the team expects much of their firepower to return though, the Pelicans officially signed Isaiah Thomas yesterday to a 10-day contract.

Thomas, 5-9, 185, holds career averages of 18.1 points, 5.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game in 525 career regular season games (361 starts) over nine NBA seasons with Sacramento, Phoenix, Boston, Cleveland, L.A. Lakers, Denver and Washington.

Thomas, a two-time NBA All-Star, was selected with the 60th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. He was named to the All-NBA Second Team following the 2016-17 season after averaging a career-best 28.9 points per game while shooting .463 from the field and leading the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Most recently, Thomas played for the February 2021 USA Basketball Men’s AmeriCup Qualifying Team. He started both games in the AmeriCup Qualifying February 2021 window, leading the USA to wins over Bahamas and Mexico. In the two games, the University of Washington product averaged 21.0 minutes, a team-high 14.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game, while shooting .435 from the field.

While New Orleans had to add someone to the roster to satisfy the league’s requirement of possessing 14 players under contract on Saturday, it’s interesting that they opted for a scoring guard. Normally, that’s a position of strength on this roster. Not to mention, Thomas hasn’t displayed his normal burst since his last season in Boston — that’s four years ago.

There’s no doubt everyone wants to see I.T. return to his glory days, yet I can’t help but wonder what his addition means in the near future regarding those currently sitting on the injury list.

As for the Rockets, they’ll be without Eric Gordon and Dante Exum, and John Wall was questionable to play in their last matchup before being ruled out close to tip-off. However, it’s probably more important to mention that the Rockets have won just two games in almost the last two months.

Since February 4, Houston has posted a 2-25 record, which includes a 20-game losing streak. For frame of reference, the worst stretch New Orleans has ever experienced in franchise history was last season’s 13-game slide.

The Pelicans played well enough to win against Orlando and held their own through the first two quarters versus Atlanta, but picking New Orleans to upend clearly the worst team in the league if Zion, Ingram, Lonzo and Kira can’t go isn’t a sure bet. Christian Wood is back after a long layoff and Kevin Porter has posted some big games for the Rockets. And if John Wall gets announced in the starting lineup, well ... fingers crossed.

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.