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Pelicans have opportunity to equal fantastic start of 2008-09 with win over Pistons

A couple of important players remain out with injury, but New Orleans is playing well in a key stretch of the season

Chicago Bulls v New Orleans Hornets Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans will look to improve to 16-8 on the season with a victory over tonight’s opponent, the Detroit Pistons.

That outcome seems probable, considering the team from Motown has won only seven times through 26 games, is expected to be without their best player in Cade Cunningham and are on the second night of a back-to-back, though, after beating the Miami Heat yesterday.

So it begets the question, when did the New Orleans franchise last enjoy this strong of a start in its short history?

Although the 2010-11 squad began with an 11-1 record, they quickly slipped back down the standings, finding themselves at 14-10 through the first 24 games. Consequently, we have to travel back a few more years to the 2008-09 campaign.

Portland Trail Blazers v New Orleans Hornets Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

That time period might have been the heyday of NBA basketball in the region. The Hornets had just put together their greatest season to date, finishing with a 56-26 record and coming within a game of making the 2008 Western Conference finals. Additionally, they had begun the following season with, you guessed it, a 16-8 record.

There was a three-headed scoring monster in Chris Paul, David West and Peja Stojakovic, a great roll man plus paint protector in Tyson Chandler, and dependable reserves like James Posey, Rasual Butler and Morris Peterson — plus Antonio Daniels, who was in the twilight of his career, was on the roster.

Unfortunately, that group limped a bit across the finish line. They were demolished by the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs. The 121-63 loss in game 4 left a bad taste in a lot of mouths.

Regardless, that 2008-09 edition finished with a 49-33 record.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s NBA Predictions, the Pelicans are on pace for a 50-32 record. The outcomes of the next seven games (DET, PHX x 3, UTA x 2, MIL) could shift the model in one direction or another.

“We’ve got a tougher schedule coming up where we’re playing against playoff quality teams,” CJ McCollum said after last Saturday’s practice. “Some teams that are looking to potentially trying to win a championship. Then we’ve got some other teams in there who are young and developing that are going to be a tougher, grind-it-out game where there is going to be switching and things like that so you get different types of games.

“You’ve got to be able to rise to the occasion, especially at home. You got a chance to play some games at home. You’ve got to take advantage and really see where you’re at. I think this is a great chance for us to see where we’re at. Obviously, we have some injuries and stuff like that, but it’ll be competitive games with a lot of teams who play similarly.”

While Herb Jones and Brandon Ingram are out again tonight, New Orleans is on a four-game winning streak, has the league’s best defensive rating since beginning the season with a 5-5 record, and Zion Williamson is in the midst of his best stretch as a pro.

It’s not the worst time to measure the team’s capabilities.

The last instance of the Pelicans beginning a season with a 16-8 record, Antonio Daniels wasn’t in television — he was in a New Orleans uniform.

So it’s been awhile. Remember to savor the moment.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (15-8) vs Detroit Pistons (7-19)

When: December 7, 2022, 7:00 p.m. CT

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

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.