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Unheralded summer league Pelicans put on show for Zion, Ingram in 106-88 victory over Wizards

New Orleans basketball shined on and off the court

2022 Las Vegas Summer League - Washington Wizards v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

They were without three young veterans in Trey Murphy III, Naji Marshall and Jose Alvarado. All of their 2022 draft picks, Dyson Daniels, E.J. Liddell and Karlo Matkovic, were also not in uniform. At the end of the day, or more accurately, this evening’s game though, it didn’t matter. The rest of the summer league Pelicans picked up the slack, destroying the Washington Wizards by a 106-88 score.

“They brought the juice,” Jarron Collins said in postgame. “They brought a lot of energy. And we talked about it before the game, they did it together.”

Five Pelicans scored in double figures. Nine of the 10 players registered at least one assist. They were executing the desired styles of .5 and paint-to-great basketball. They were communicating, rotating and making shots. They looked like a team that’s been together for more than several weeks.

The first half, admittedly though, began with a bumpy start. New Orleans gave up 29 points in the first quarter. (Remember that 10-minute quarters are utilized in the summer league.) Then the team fell behind by as many as nine points in the second quarter. However, the Pelicans closed well and soon found another gear out of halftime.

After Jared Harper scored a nifty reverse layup, Elijah Stewart had a spectacular dunk off an offensive rebound — in which he lost his shoe.

Daeqwon Plowden followed that up with an emphatic slam of his own and a nothing-but-net 3-pointer.

The Pelicans never looked back after that, building a 21-point lead just before the final buzzer.

It must be pointed out that throughout this game, but especially during this run, Alvarado and Naji were routinely standing to cheer and clap while sitting courtside opposite the bench. I observed Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and Zion Williamson rooting on the team from their seats as well.

The Pelicans culture was fully on display. The large contingent was sitting together and cheering on players that they’ll likely not share the floor with in regular season action.

It’s honestly hard to recall when player relationships have looked so healthy in New Orleans. From role players to the team’s stars, everyone’s enjoying each other’s company. There’s obvious solidarity. Not only did Ingram and Williamson say hello with a hug, they sat next to each other when soaking up the action too.

“I think it’s awesome,” Collins said. “It speaks to the culture, supporting one another as brothers, as teammates. Guys just genuinely want to be around each other, just wanna hang out. I know CJ and Larry and Jaxson, and all the guys, like Zion, BI, Jose, Naji, go down the list, Trey, I mean all the guys are here to support one another and support their teammates. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Good vibes indeed.

Deividas Sirvydis led all scorers with 25 points, He got hot from behind the arc, knocking down six 3-pointers. He’s definitely not afraid to let it fly. That’s a good trait to have if shooting perimeter jumpers is considered a strength. (Ahem, Nicoli Melli.)

For a second straight contest Harper not only shouldered a big portion of the scoring (18 points), he also made plays for teammates, dishing out six dimes.

The two Pelicans that stood out the most to me though were Dereon Seabron and Plowden.

Seabron agreed to a two-way contract soon after the NBA draft, but he’s been quiet in Las Vegas ... until tonight. We finally witnessed some of that burst and potential. Seabron attacked the lane much more often, finishing with an efficient line of 13 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals in a hair over 19 minutes.

“He was able to get downhill,” Collins said. “Coming into summer league, that was one of the things that we’ve been emphasizing with him. Just touch the paint and make the next best play, whether that’s an opportunity to create a score for yourself or facilitate and make a play for a teammate.”

It’s been only two games, but Plowden feels very deserving of a two-way contract with the Pelicans. After flashing the goods on Monday (16 points, six rebounds), Plowden delivered again with 16 points, five rebounds and three triples against the Wizards. Collins couldn’t help but gush afterwards.

“Awesome. Awesome. Someone who I really didn’t even know was a three-level scorer, he’s shooting the midrange, he’s got the 3 and he’s trying to put it on someone’s head at the rim. He’s a heck of an athlete and he plays with a level of physicality that he stands out.”

Plowden did tweak his right ankle in the second half, but the sprain isn’t considered serious. Collins expects him to be available to play on Friday against the Lakers.

Well, this game marks two notable wins in a row now for these Summer Pelicans. If they keep this level of play up, they could find themselves in the championship game.

Geaux Pels!

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.