Breaking the Cycle

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Published: November 24, 2013
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Gotta find a way, to find a way, when I’m there
Gotta find a way, a better way, I had better wait

— Nirvana, Territorial Pissings

New Orleans Pelicans News

The New Orleans Pelicans staged a comeback against the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night, winning the game 104-100. The victory not only brought the team back to 0.500 . . . 6-6 on the season . . . but was also Monty Williams’ 100th victory as a head coach. Congratulations to Coach Williams.

No players were injured this week, and Darius Miller is closer to returning.

Pierre Jackson is a scoring machine down in the D-League. He’s not doing too much more at this point, but it’s something.

The Pelicans have an interview with the newly-signed Josh Childress.

Eric Gordon not only said he wants to be more involved with charity work, but he also paid a visit to Children’s Hospital late in the week. Gordon was also joined by Miller and Evans at the close of Season 5 of Midnight Basketball.

Of the four games in the coming week, only the Warriors game is at home. The Spurs, Sixers, and Knicks are all road games. All the games are televised on FSNO and broadcast on the radio network.

Around Bourbon Street Shots

Michael issued a second installment of Small Sample Size Theater focusing on the lineup of Anderson, Davis, Evans, Gordon, and Holiday.

`Voices’ of the People

What we Pelicans fans really need to start doing (instead of complaining about defensive concepts, new players not gelling after a few games and Aminu’s lack of offensive prowess – what a surprise) is to focus on the ultimate prize: Signing AD23 to a 2nd contract. Nothing else matters. How we fans can help is to get AD on his home court in the All Star game and get butts in the seats during home games. It’s tough while LSU and the Saints are still playing, but Davis and other players look around and see all those empty seats. Since they moved to New Orleans in 2002, there’s never been a better opportunity for this franchise to become something special than right here, right now. If you’d said after being NBA bottom-feeders the last two years that the Pelicans would currently be 6-6 with AD23 in the top 20 in the league in scoring, top 5 in rebounds, 2nd in blocks, 8th in steals (tied with Eric Gordon!), and with Jrue 9th in the league in assists (ahead of Eric Bledsoe, Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker and Damian Lillard), who would say that’s disappointing? Let’s be realistic about what we can expect, get on the bandwagon and show this team some love.

Come On Pelican

To mirror a statement frequently heard after ugly Saints wins, this team has won in different ways. This game was ugly and looked hopeless but the team gritted it out; they held the scoring of both the Lakers and Grizzlies to the mid-80’s and they put up 135 on Philly. While we’re getting more consistent every day, it’s good to see that the team is finding a way to win.

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What I saw was last night was a Pelican’s organization that pulled ahead of the Cavalier’s organization on the path to the playoffs by bringing in quality established talent who were all on display: Holiday, Evans, and even Davis (given the Cav’s 2013 #1 pick didn’t even play). Those three Pelican’s players were all versatile enough to post double doubles and have scoring efficiencies well above 1.0. And they pair well with Gordon, Anderson, and even Smith.

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42 Sense

The season to this point has been an emotional rollercoaster for some fans, seemingly because of the nature of some losses: losing to a winless team, significant offensive and defensive droughts, an early lack of three point attempts.

These calculations reflect the time when the post was written; the data may be changed by the time of publication due to ongoing games, database updates, etc. The overall message will remain relatively constant.

Now that the team’s record is in line with most expectations entering the season, let’s take stock of just where the team is.

12 games in, the Pelicans are at 6-6, dead even in terms of wins and losses, going 3-6 in their first 9 games while lacking Ryan Anderson. They share the 0.500 record with 4 other teams, while 13 teams have better records, 12 have worse records. So, though they are effectively 11th in the West, they are are really in the middle of the NBA in terms of their record as a measure of quality of play. Using ORtg-DRtg, their 2.6 is 12th in the NBA, but 8th in the West.

Digging deeper into the records, the numbers lack some robustness. The team went 3-3 over two six-game stretches, so breaking things down in terms these stretches is natural. Based on current record, the first 3-3 game stretch was harder than the second, more recent one. (We can ignore the effect of Pelicans games here since they contributed equally to wins and losses). So while the second stretch may be more relevant due to recency, the first may be a better measure in terms of quality of measurement.

Further refining the analysis to look at the records of the teams in wins and losses during each stretch, the overall strength of the opponent (in terms of record today) was about the same in wins and losses (here, removing the effect of Pelicans games on the records). In the latter stretch, the wins and losses were against much weaker teams. This is true even if you remove the effect of the disaster that is Utah’s record. Despite the worse records, the Pelicans’ actual margin increased by only a point relative to the first stretch.

This path can be taken even deeper into the woods, but the overall message is not to get too infatuated with the current win streak, the longest of the season and coincidental with Anderson’s return. The Spurs will be one of the two toughest opponents thus far, and the Warriors will be tough, even with a possibly weakened roster.

The Pelicans are without a doubt showing that they are playing the game differently in the last 3 games. That is without debate. The improved performance may not solely be due to the return of Anderson and how he changes the game, however. Some of that may have been due to weaker teams (worse records) or teams facing adversity (Michael Carter-Williams was hurt, Anthony Bennett just was not the right pick. Bynum is still limited). Beyond that, the Pelicans deployed the offense and defense necessary to come back and win against the Cavaliers, and that is a step forward, especially on the defensive front.

Quality wins or losses against the Spurs and Warriors should be possible, and the quality is what we need to see at this point in the season.

Do not get too distracted by the wins and losses, but do not forget who the team is playing when they demonstrate their skills. It’s early yet, after all. It’s early in the season and for the growth of this team. If the first 12 games taught us anything, it’s be patient. Things can and will change. The questions are how, why, and when.

These, actually, are the most important questions. Winning is not enough. It’s how and why you win. Do you win because Davis has a great game? Do you win because of individual brilliance and lack the ability to survive if a team limits that individual? Do you simply outscore the opponents with great shooting number in close games or can you get stops when the ball does not fall? Do you rely on the break? Can you run a zone defense?

Winning now while failing to develop all the aspects of a champion leads this team back into the same cycle as before, which is fearing the loss of a superstar because your team and franchise simply are not attractive enough.

There are many games being played here. One is FAR more important than the others.

2 comments
DavidLeBoeuf
DavidLeBoeuf

The Cavs have spent the #4, #4, and #1 picks in respective drafts on Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Anthony Bennett.....Yuck. 

Caffeinedisaster
Caffeinedisaster

@DavidLeBoeuf I asked the Cavs fan sitting next to me why Deladadova (spelling?) was starting instead of Waiters.  He said that Waiters is in the doghouse.  I jabbed back, "He's in there with Bennett?"  LOL!