Pelicans basketball starts in earnest against the Brooklyn Nets this evening and the city of New Orleans is itching with anticipation.
The exhibition games were a lot of fun, showing plenty of glimpses of why fans fell in love with this team during last season, but now the play is for keeps. Expect for the focus to be ratcheted up, especially for this group after how they stumbled out of the gates a year ago.
Memories of the 1-12 start are still much too fresh. Nobody wants to relive that experience. Thankfully, it’s not expected.
While season openers have usually not worked out accordingly — the Pelicans are 3-7 over the last decade in kicking off new campaigns, those teams didn't have the same combination of talent, camaraderie and coaching.
Even Kevin Durant has taken notice of what’s brewing in New Orleans.
“I like Zion. I like everything about him,” Kevin Durant said on latest episode of The Boardroom. “I like his demeanor. I like his approach to his game. I like everything about him. He’s a freak of nature.
“But their whole team, B.I. is one of the most impressive players I’ve seen in the league in a long time. A long time. You add that combination, them two with CJ, I mean, you’ve got three dudes that can get 30 for you.
“And Willie Green is a good young coach who has won championships, who has been around championship pedigrees. That’s rubbing off on them too.
“They’re going to be a dangerous team. I’m glad we’ve got them first game because you get those boys in stride, they might be even more difficult. So it’s going to be a great test for us because they’re building confidence over there.”
The Pelicans do carry around a healthy amount of confidence, but Durant is also right about the matchup taking place now might be favorable for the Nets.
The New Orleans regular starting lineup hasn’t spent much time together yet. CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas have only been on the floor as a unit during training camp and then in the last few practices — not a single preseason game sits in the mix.
On the other hand, while the Pelicans may have on-the-court chemistry issues, the Nets will be without several key players in Seth Curry, Joe Harris and TJ Warren.
Green still envisions an incredibly tough opponent despite the Nets being short-handed.
“Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving,” Willie Green said after Monday’s practice. “Two guys that can score anytime, anywhere. We have to do a good job on them and then the other guys are good complements to what they do: Patty Mills, Royce O’Neal, Claxton, screening and diving. This is a team that can put points on you in a hurry. We’ve got to come in sound defensively, and then offensively, we’ve got to make them work.”
One thing is for certain, there’s going to be a lot of star power in Brooklyn to kick off the 2022-23 seasons for the Pelicans and Nets. Which set of studs plays better will likely lead their team to the opening night victory.
When: October 19, 2022, 6:30 p.m. CT
Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, YES Network, NBA League Pass
Where to listen: WRNO 99.5