One of the matchups that every New Orleans fan circled when the 2022-23 schedule was revealed will take place in Los Angeles tonight.
The Pelicans will face the Lakers for the first time this season, and while some luster has been lost for the casual basketball viewer with L.A. getting off to a putrid 1-5 start, the diehards within both fanbases will be watching intently.
If New Orleans notches a victory, the 5-2 mark would represent the best start out of the gates since the 2010-11 season, when the Hornets began that campaign with a perfect 8-0 record.
Moreover, a New Orleans win means another loss for Los Angeles.
With the Pelicans possessing the right to swap 2023 first-round picks with the Lakers — the Anthony Davis trade is the gift that keeps on giving, the further L.A. gets pushed down the standings, the better it is for New Orleans from several standpoints.
The Pelicans would not only increase their odds of finishing with a stronger record and thus higher in the Western Conference but also of snagging a better prospect in the next draft. If the Lakers’ season really goes off the rails, dreams of landing either Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson might not be so far-fetched.
The Lakers, of course, are desperate to jumpstart their season. Beating the Pelicans would make it two straight wins after losing the first five games on the schedule.
LeBron James, who will turn 38 years of age in December, is most eager to not miss another trip to the playoffs. He certainly doesn’t want one of the greatest NBA careers ever witnessed to end on a sour note.
Then there’s the petty reasons: Davis and New Orleans fans are each wishing to see the other walk away with the L.
Davis and Klutch Sports infamously placed a trade request on Dell Demps’ desk in the midst of a season nearly four years ago. New Orleans will never forget the unamiable split, especially with Davis not leaving some sort of goodbye message.
The Lakers went on to win a championship, but it’s been downhill ever since that lone achievement. Case in point, the Pelicans are favored by 3.0 points on L.A.’s floor at the time of this writing.
There’s also more good news.
Herb Jones (right knee hyperextension) and Dyson Daniels (left ankle sprain) have been upgraded on the latest injury report to probable. Davis, on the other hand, is questionable to play with tightness in his lower back.
On paper, the Pelicans should get past these Lakers. Their level of talent is higher — even without Brandon Ingram — and there’s absolutely no comparison between the states of both locker rooms.
There’s an obvious joy and high degree of camaraderie evident in watching New Orleans play. Nothing of the sort exists with Los Angeles.
While they did beat the Nuggets on Sunday, I witnessed poor body language and behavior among the Lakers. For instance, after Austin Reaves was fouled on a drive. LeBron, who was near him, didn’t even look Austin’s way or extend a hand for a high-five. He just kept on walking past him with his head down. Davis wasn’t congratulatory either, instead delving into some discussion with the rookie right before he stepped up to the line.
Analysts have taken note of the ugly spectacles on and off the court, with some also poking a little fun at the Lakers’ expense, like Charles Barkley.
There’s no doubt that the Lakers will be up for tonight’s contest. Who can forget LeBron resting up for several matchups against New Orleans down the stretch of last season, only for the Pelicans to win both contests?
In fact, the Pelicans swept the season series, 3-0.
There’d be nothing sweeter than to do it again, this time with a chance to deposit four L’s into the Lakers’ loss column thanks to four meetings sitting on the schedule.
As any good coach would say, though, take it one step at a time and focus on the game at hand.
The Lakers are floundering.
The Pelicans could be close to full strength.
When: November 2, 2022, 9:30 p.m. CT
Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass
Where to listen: WRNO 99.5