The New Orleans Pelicans take on their long-lost cousins from Charlotte Friday night at the Smoothie King Center.
It wouldn’t be a Pelicans preview unless we had to discuss a couple of injuries during an important time of the season. Brandon Ingram has sat out the last two games with hamstring soreness and is scheduled to be reevaluated in around a week’s time. CJ McCollum will miss at least a few games after being placed into health and safety protocols. Pray for no symptoms and two negative tests so that he isn’t sidelined for longer.
Meanwhile, back in New Orleans after rehab work in Portland, Zion Williamson’s appearance on the floor for the rest of this season seems possible. The team recently noted improved healing in those delicate foot bones and he is “cleared to progress in basketball activities.” Notice that does not say that he is actively doing those basketball activities. But things sound ... better.
Williamson obviously took note of media/fan/teammate attention about his commitment to the city and organization, feebly Instagramming stories of recent Pels success and not reaching out to new acquisition and president of the Players’ Association until at least five games had gone by, according to Will Guillory at The Athletic.
And since Z’s back in town, he was photographed at a local church. Then at this morning’s shootaround. He’s slated to be in attendance for tonight’s game. Great! It sure would be nice, however, if he could suit up against the Charlotte Hornets. The thought of the Pelicans being forced to play without their three best players is nauseating, especially with the Play-In tournament and a chance to overtake the Lakers seemingly within grasp.
As for the Pelicans, who will step up in the absences of Ingram and McCollum? On the wing, fans should shift their attention to both second-year man Naji Marshall and rookie Trey Murphy III. Both received minutes against the Magic — and each have shown plenty of flashes of late — but can they pull together enough good possessions both on offense AND defense?
In the backcourt, Devonte’ Graham can hopefully summon something wonderful against his former team. Without a doubt Jose Alvarado is going to receive more playing time and it’s highly likely Garrett Temple makes his first meaningful appearance since the All-Star break.
Good, Not Great: The Improved Hornets
The Hornets are in a battle for the 8-9-10 slots in the Eastern Conference. They are one of the more under-the-radar success stories of the NBA but overshadowed by bigger East successes (Chicago, Cleveland, Boston) and soap operas (Philly/Brooklyn). Former Pelicans off-season guard acquisition target Terry Rozier shoots it, Miles Bridges dunks it, and Lamelo Ball passes and pushes it.
Their depth was also aided by recent moves to get guys like Montrezl Harrell, Kelly Oubre, and Mason Plumlee.
Gordon Hayward is suffering through another injury-shortened season and 2021 lottery draft pick James Bouknight has given them approximately zilch despite coming in a loaded draft. Google him and all you’ll find is he was ejected from his seat during a trip back to see his college team UCONN about a month ago. Yet another reason to put your hands together, look to the sky, and say “Thank you for Herb.”
Who: New Orleans Pelicans (27-39) vs Charlotte Hornets (32-35)
When: March 11, 2022, 7:00 p.m.
Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM