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New Orleans Pelicans entering media day with good vibes in tow

The start of the 2022-23 season is just around the corner!

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

The New Orleans Pelicans are perennial slow starters, but there’s reason to believe the team could deviate from that norm this season, even with a daunting slate of games out of the gates.

The Pelicans, of course, have rarely fielded above average teams over the last decade, as evidenced by only two winning seasons since Chris Paul left, and yet early season struggles are worse than the common fan might imagine. The first few weeks or so has often proven to be a stomach-churning event for New Orleanians, who haven’t enjoyed a hot start by the team since 2010-11.

Although the Pelicans began with a 1-9 record — which morphed into 3-16 — last season, they managed to squeeze into the 2022 NBA playoffs after playing above .500 ball for the remainder of the schedule and a successful romp through the play-in tournament.

This time round, most feel there’s a high probability that the Pelicans won’t be asked to lift themselves up from the Western Conference cellar again, or from anywhere near the bottom. (For those who may have forgotten, New Orleans had the worst record in the league a little more than three weeks into last season!)

Season Record after 10 games (Winning %) Overall record (Winning %)
2021-22 1-9 (.100) 36-46 (.439)
2020-21 4-6 (.400) 31-41 (.431)
2019-20 2-8 (.200) 30-42 (.417)
2018-19 4-6 (.400) 33-49 (.402)
2017-18 5-5 (.500) 48-34 (.585)
2016-17 1-9 (.100) 34-48 (.415)
2015-16 1-9 (.100) 30-52 (.366)
2014-15 6-4 (.600) 45-37 (.549)
2013-14 4-6 (.400) 34-48 (.415)
2012-13 3-7 (.300) 27-55 (.329)
2011-12 3-7 (.300) 21-45 (.318)

When the 2022-23 NBA schedule was revealed last month, my immediate thought was that the Pelicans were destined to start the new campaign slowly, maintaining that annoying tradition of looking up at a sea of teams above them in the standings. Kevin Durant announcing his intentions of staying with the Brooklyn Nets soon thereafter seemed an affirmation of that belief.

On paper, matchups against the Nets, Mavericks, Suns, Clippers, Warriors and Hawks in the first nine games provide ammunition that the Pelicans could very well sit under .500 throughout the first three weeks of the season.

After pondering this further though, I feel a different perspective is required for analyzing the early part of the schedule. There’s a noticeably different aura surrounding the New Orleans basketball team.

Both the capabilities of the Pelicans down the stretch of last season and the good vibes that formed along with it are returning in full force — the only change in the 15-man roster is Dyson Daniels has replaced Tony Snell, and now there’s an offseason of great dedication also sitting in the holster.

Honestly, there are signs of it everywhere.

From a number of Pels working diligently on their games in the practice facility throughout the summer months to a large contingent getting together in California for offseason workouts.

From Jose Alvarado putting the Pelicans first by taking some time away from the Puerto Rican national team to Zion Williamson making a real commitment to enter this season in the best shape of his career.

Even a mere photograph of the core sitting together at a summer league game was a sign of solidarity rarely witnessed in the past from rosters of yesteryear.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll highlight the reasons for optimism while also negotiating potential pitfalls, looking specifically at the trio of stars in Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum, the great stabilizer in Willie Green and the three rookies from last season who added a great deal of personality, determination and skill to the group.

Along with these breakdowns, there will also be media day coverage (September 26), an open practice (October 1), and five preseason games (beginning with the Bulls on October 4) before the start of the regular season (October 19 @ Brooklyn Nets).

The Pelicans are back and it appears there are a lot more reasons to smile than in years past.

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.