« New Orleans Pelicans Claim Five NBA All-Star Ballot Slots
Water Cooler Talk: M & N
Bourbon Street Shots welcomes Nick Lewellen (who has written pieces for the site before) into a conversation with Michael Pellissier to discuss some things that are going on right now and some things that concern the Pelicans future.
Michael: So.. Ryno’s back. What did you think about his first game?
Nick: Ryno was a perfect example of my Obi-Wan Kenobi theory. When a team doesn’t meet expectations, fans look to an injured player or new acquisition to make the difference. If you’re a Saints fan, you might remember a time when we all thought Jason David was going to be the difference on defense and lead us to a SuperBowl. In other words, that player becomes the fans’ only hope. The crazy thing is Ryno seemed to prove those fans right last Saturday. He played a phenomenal game. He stretched the floor and scored in multiple ways. What are your thoughts on Ryno going forward? Does he solve enough of our lineup problems to dream of making the playoffs?
Michael: I feel more comfortable saying that this team doesn’t appear to be anywhere near a playoff team without him. With him?.. we’ll see. Davis clearly has to stay healthy for us to have a shot, but if we can keep 2 of the 3 guards (Gordon, Jrue, Tyreke) healthy and put Ryno/AD on the floor, I do still think we have a chance at the playoffs. Long-term, do you see Ryno as someone that we would be foolish to trade?
Nick: That is such a tough question. Personally, I believe that your top one or two guys are the only untouchables on your roster. You can’t fall in love with players and prevent yourself from making the necessary moves to contend for championships. Having said all of that, I love Ryno. He seems like a super nice guy and I love his game. It would be truly difficult for me to see him go. I will say that I probably value him more than a lot of NBA front offices, but there are probably still deals out there I would take. If I could trade him for a young SF who could play defense and shoot the three moderately well, I’d have to take it. I really doubt that deal is out there, though.
Tyreke Evans was the one guy I thought would benefit the most from playing with Ryno. I’m still excited to see them together more this season. Really, Tyreke’s success against Philadelphia had little to do with Ryno. Are you back on the Tyreke band wagon? Is it smooth sailing from here?
Michael: Whenever a player Tyreke’s age is playing THAT much worse than he has been his whole career, I look for problems that would explain the drop. Tyreke was hurt all of preseason and out of shape, and you could see he didn’t have his touch around the rim back. Adding Ryno helps out, certainly, but I was never under the impression that Tyreke would continue playing that badly.
Is it smooth sailing from here on out? I’m sure he’ll have slumps like any other player, but I believe he’ll be a force off the bench on most nights. The biggest thing with Tyreke, in my opinion, is that the reins need to be let loose. Tyreke is one of those players that has a flair for both spectacular and “oopsie” plays. If you try to structure him too much, you lose any chance of the spectacular.
You just mentioned how you thought Tyreke would be the biggest beneficiary of Ryno’s return. There were clearly holes in all of the lineups that we put out there before he came back.. is there a lineup on this team that doesn’t have any holes? .
Nick: I think teams always face trade offs when it comes to managing rotations and lineups. Ideally, you want to minimize those trade offs based on who your opponent is. I think our closing line up and best line up at the end of the year will be Jrue, Gordon, Evans, Ryno, and Davis. You don’t have any offensive concerns about that line up, but you do have to worry about rebounding and defense.
But who do you put in to solve those two issues? I think Jason Smith is the only guy we could put on the floor who isn’t a major blackhole on one end of the floor. But does he really improve our rebounding or defense enough to sacrifice what AD or Ryno gives you? Probably not. So to directly answer your question, I think we can now construct a line up without a HUGE black hole somewhere. That is a big deal, but I still think this team is a player or two away from being able to say that we have a lineup totally free of holes. When the Pelicans struggled early this season, some accused the Pelicans younger players of being “low IQ” players. First of all, do you agree that is a fair assessment of certain players, and is it something that is a concern over the next few seasons for this team?
Michael: When you have players throwing passes below the belt, leaving their feet with the ball over and over again, running fast breaks for seemingly the first time ever, getting pump-faked for fouls by guys 6-7 inches shorter, etc.. yeah, there are certainly basketball intelligence issues.
I’m a firm believer that basketball IQ can always be improved: as a player sees the same things over and over, he can begin to recognize what’s happening more quickly than before and can then react more quickly. I don’t know whether it’s a long-term concern because I don’t know how many of these guys are on the roster down the line. When the team is ready to compete for a high playoff seed and (hopefully) a title, we’ll probably see some more experienced (and wiser) players taking the court.
Well, back to the present: Utah is Wednesday. Do we see another titanic disappointment, or are the results better at home and with all of our key players healthy?
Nick: Frankly, I’m not sure we will have a more disappointing game the rest of the season. Conditions were perfect for us to feel as horrible as possible after that type of loss: it was just a perfect storm for disappointment. So it is hard for me to believe will come close to reaching that level of disappointment again. It would take something pretty catastrophic to come close to matching it.
I really expect a win on Wednesday. We have a three day break and the game is at home. Long rests don’t come often in the NBA. I’m hoping we can take advantage of that break to practice, rest, and work on improving some of the mental errors we have seen this season. Ultimately, it probably won’t matter much, but it should at least give our guys a chance to read the scouting report.
If it isn’t obvious, I’m really struggling to find a solid factor that I can point to and guarantee the win. With Ryan Anderson back and Tyreke playing well, maybe I don’t need a solid reason. In any case, I think we win this one and make up, in small part, for that humiliating loss in Utah.