The Spirit of Radio

By:
Published: April 3, 2014
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Invisible airwaves crackle with life
Bright antennae bristle with the energy
Emotional feedback on timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free

— Rush, The Spirit of Radio

The New Orleans Pelicans are an emerging franchise. With the most glaring aspects of their business being overhauled (like the Smoothie King Center in both substance and style) and the ascendance of Anthony Davis, the NBA is going to have to start taking the franchise seriously . . . if not quite seriously . . . in the near future. The NBA itself takes the organization seriously, as evidenced by the ownership transfer and the 2014 NBA All-Star Game award.

In `presponse’ to this, the New Orleans Pelicans organization need to be taking itself seriously. In many respects they do, but in some ways there is work to do.

Today, I will focus on their media. To be clear, I’m not poking at any individual person in the `the machine’. Any quibbles are with decisions by the organization in their application of resources. Any mention of a particular media personality is simply to make this easier to read.

The Pelicans have tremendously upgraded their media presence over since the Benson purchase. They have bolstered their staff with proven media personalities and talent from video and print media, while also making smaller hires from within to free up Jim Eichenhofer to write more and travel with the team. In other words, they are both acquiring and developing talent, and with great results.

They have also signed new TV and radio deals. The TV deal was intertwined with the creation of Fox Sports New Orleans and has led to more, but not all, Pelicans games being broadcast on their television partner. The radio broadcast moved to WWL radio, the biggest sports radio station in town.

While the television situation is not ideal, it is greatly improved. Fox Sports New Orleans is available on most regional carriers and has wider distribution than the prior broadcast partner, Cox Sports Television. The number of games broadcast locally, while not 82, is larger than that under the prior deal. Many teams have the same sort of broadcast deal as the Pelicans, while others have their full slate of games covered by their broadcast partner or a pair of them. In other words, while some teams get all their games broadcast, the Pelicans’ situation reflect the state of affairs in the NBA.

The radio attention, however, has suffered slightly in some respects. In the New Orleans area, WWL is the first name in sports radio, and this is beyond question. Finally, the Pelicans are on WWL, and that is good, as it adds some prestige and aligns their broadcasts with the deeply ingrained habits of locals.

Things, however, is not that simple. WWL has 3 radio stations it uses for broadcasts: the biiig 870 AM (I could hear this in the parking lot of Sun Life Stadium at the Super Bowl . . . it’s biiig), 105.3 FM, and 1350 AM. These stations are not completely independent, as sometimes there are simulcasts between the stations or content is shifted between them in certain situations. In fact, often 870 and 105.3 are simulcasting. 105.3 is the flagship station for the Pelicans, but 870 is not. This causes some confusion and is one cost of being a part of the biggest local radio network.

There are other issues, however. This is season is the first that I can remember where at least one Pelicans game went without radio coverage. Also, on several occasions the broadcast team was reduced to a team of one due to scheduling conflicts within the organization. All broadcasts are going to miss games for personal reasons, and that is fine. Also, there may be very good reasons to have a primary broadcast team that can not cover every game as a team, but when there is foreknowledge (like when one broadcaster has another obligation within the organization), having a replacement would restore the broadcast to the expected format: one play-by-play, one analyst.

This may sound like quibbling, especially since (here’s where I start getting specific) Sean does a fine job solo. I’ve told him this, too, because I know that it is difficult and is praiseworthy. The absence of John DeShazier takes on a different character when he is with the Saints instead of with the Pelicans when there is a conflict AND there is no replacement arrangement made. It gives the unmistakable impression of what actually brought about the situation: The Saints were chosen over the Pelicans.

Going back to those Pelicans games that were not broadcast: Those were not broadcast due to conflicts with Saints games on the manpower front and the broadcast front.

Again, there is a consistent choice that is made . . . Saints over Pelicans.

This was one of the few concerns fans had with the Benson purchase, and rightfully so because, frankly . . . it’s the right choice, at least from a short-term financial perspective. It’s clear, and I get it.

What I am interested in is the longer term resolution of these shortcomings. I am fine with short term pain for long term gain. As this is the first season under this radio arrangement and the first year of 1350 in its current form, an imperfect start evolving to a more perfect solution is reasonable and expected.

Here’s what I’d like to see:

  • All games broadcast on the radio
  • All games broadcast on the same radio station
    • This may not be realistic in the short term, but in the long term, WWL and the Benson organization can use this problem to help launch a second FM presence or something . . . a pair of AM-FM stations, perhaps, or just 1350 . . . but habits are key in these matters, and broadcast stability is the bedrock of forming those habits
    • The Pelicans were central in the development of Fox Sports New Orleans, and I do not see why they can not be used to help develop a radio station, as well
  • All games broadcast with a two-man team (in terms of speakers . . . it takes a village, of course)
    • The team need not be the same two-people each time, but one should be constant, while the other can be spot-filled with special guests
  • Full pre-game and post-game shows for each game

I did not mention the pre-game and post-game show issues above, since that is more of a radio station issue perhaps, it is something that can have a New Orleans Pelicans solution. Currently, the pregame is often overrun by the regular sports talk, while the post-game show is far too short and offers very little discussion for fans.

I trust the leadership of this organization, and I trust that ideas better than mine will be implemented in time, but they do need to be addressed in some fashion sooner than later. The particulars of who is involved in which capacities matter, of course but that is not the focus here. The issue is that the organization can not expect the populace to embrace the Pelicans (in the long term) the way they embrace the Saints if the organization is quite publicly and systematically subordinating the Pelicans to the Saints.

To over-dramatize: How can I love you when do you not love yourself?

Ending on a high note, let’s talk about the Black and Blue Report. This daily podcast (most weekdays) covers the Saints and Pelicans each day, with a different mix on each day depending on the pulse of the day. Sean, John, Daniel, and the regular and special guests give me exactly what I want as a fan. They add in some fun, some personality, and a dusting of other sports talk, like LSU, Tulane, SLU (geaux Lions), MLB, and more. I’ve gotten some nice recipe tips, too.

This is one of the huge benefits of having both franchises under the same ownership and on the same campus. It is remarkably difficult to put these things together daily, especially focusing on only two specific entities that are on independent time tables.

I highly recommend people subscribe to this if you have not already. I never miss an episode. Sometimes I save a couple of up, then burn through them on a commute or something. I’ve found that the podcast is good fresh, or when it’s been in the ice box for a couple of days. Great, great stuff. It is exactly what I want it to be.

Again, I just want what is best for New Orleans and for the teams here. No one is perfect, and I do not expect perfection.

I do expect genuine attempts to improve, and in return I offer patience.

New Orleans Pelicans News

The New Orleans Pelicans played 3 games in the week following the All-Star Game, and they lost all 3 by a combined 11 points (7, 3, 1). This dropped their record to 23-32, a record whose only merit is that it is a palindrome.

In the biggest loss of the week, 98-91 to the Knicks, the game came down to a pretty bad stretch for the Pelicans at the end of the game and not so much the overall impressive game by Carmelo Anthony. There were various runs in the game, and the Pelicans were down by 13 early in the fourth. Still, with 3:58 left in the game, the Pelicans took an 89-88 lead. After a Knicks timeout in which Morrow (who had 2 rebounds and an assist in the first 8 minutes of the final quarter. The game played out with 10 points for the Knicks (8 by Carmelo . . . 2’s from various distances . . . a 2 free throws by Felton once the game of foulsies broke out. The Pelicans, however, made just one shot (16 ft’er by Evans), while missing 6 times and turning the ball over once. Efficiency accounted for, they were in position to win, but could not execute in the end.

The second loss of the week, to the Bobcats, was bigger than the 90-87 score indicates. Despite trailing by as many as 13 in the fourth, the game was tied at 84 with 90 seconds to play. From that point on, the Pelicans scored 3 points, all from the line, while missing 4 shots and 1 from the line and grabbing no offensive rebounds. The Bobcats scored 6, all from the line, while missing their lone field goal attempt and 4 free throws. This is almost the story of the game . . . The Pelicans were 8 of 11 from the line, while the Bobcats were 25 of 36. The Pelicans shot more and slightly better, but they could not rebound their misses (15.4 ORB%). They put Charlotte on the line and gave up rebounds, giving them the game.

The 94-93 loss to the Wizards was the last of the week, and it truly was a close game. Neither team build a double digit lead, neither team led for long extremely long stretches, and neither team had extended scoring droughts. The teams got it done in different ways, with the Wizards’ big men leading the way compared to the Pelicans’ distributed team effort. In the end, it was just execution at the end. With 7 second left, Davis’ 2 free throws took the Pelicans from down 1 to up 1. The Wizards inbounded to Wall who got by Roberts, passed to Nene, and he dunked the ball to seal the win. Their high AST% (63.9) and big man dominance (46 points for Nene and Gortat) won out.

The only personnel change that came about around the trade deadline was the Pierre Jackson signed a deal with a Turkish team. So, Jackson is no longer in the D-League and is bask in Europe, just as the original plan had laid out. His original stint was in France with ASVEL, but now he’s in Turkey with Fenerbahce Ulker. The plan was, and is, to bring Jackson in this Summer. With Dell Demps at the helm, he can be traded, of course.

Around Bourbon Street Shots

On this week’s In the NO, Ryan discusses Michael’s foray into “Fire Monty” territory.

As the All-Star Weekend represents a transition into a pseudo-second-season, writers took a look ahead at issues facing the team through the end of the season, particularly taking a stab at some team goals for the balance of the season and consider some possible improvements in rotations.

As the trade deadline approached, the Trade Market series continued with a look at opportunity cost and an examination of Dell Demps as Pelicans trade puppet master. This week’s Trew 2 the Game embraced the trade deadline, as well.

`Voices’ of the People

It’s absurd to blame this 1 point last second road loss (on a back-to-back) to a playoff team on one coaching decision with 7 seconds to go in a 48 minute game. The truth is that without Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday, this roster stinks. Imagine yourself as head coach and looking down this Pelicans bench at substitution time: which player who would be out of the NBA if he weren’t wearing a Pelicans jersey do I put on the court now? Do players who aren’t named Brian have any accountability on this team? With 2 & a half minutes left, did you see John Wall blow by two Pelicans defenders all the way to the hoop as if they were standing still? He’s an elite PG who may be the fastest player in the NBA. Like Austin Rivers was going to stop Wall from penetrating and dishing to Nene for the dunk at the end of the game? Give me a break. How about Eric Gordon’s 21 foot clunker jump shot with 2 minutes left and plenty of time on the shot clock that gave up a two point lead? How about Ajinca’s lane violation with less than a minute left that gave the Wizards an extra point (how many points did we lose by)? Bottom line: this team is bad without Ryno and Jrue and with no center, and it has no depth. Our shock shouldn’t be at one end-of-the-game coaching decision; it should be at the fact they were even in the game.

Come On Pelican

I’m not on bored with firing Monty, I would rather let his contract run out, but if we were to replace our assistant coaches with hungry up and coming ones keeping the training coach that the players get along with so well. you could keep a few others but they don’t seem to mesh well with Monty other than Randy Ayers. Preferably someone who could be an Analytics guy to show the stats about Evans drives and etc.

AndrewDenenea1

Good read and a very nice, informative series. Thanks to all the contributors

My issue with Dell is that his moves seem to be more of the “Look how smart I am” variety. He’s quite good at finding marginal guys off the scrap heap and getting some value from them. But to what end?

What skills or traits unify all his buys other than lightly regarded player? How have they coalesced into the larger picture? What even is the larger picture? As far as I can tell there is no over arching theme in the front office or on the bench.

Injuries and a tear down/rebuild play a role, but three years is a long time in the NBA. To still be wondering about these things is worrying to me.

Don’t think he or Williams should be fired. They both deserve a shot with the roster they put together, but the clock is ticking.

thouse

5 comments
Nicks65
Nicks65

I would love to hear Gerry V calling games on the radio. I'd stream that stuff online like crazy. Just my two cents. 

dbeard06
dbeard06

Gerry V is the optimal choice for a color analyst if John D is out or on another assignment.  I don't know why Gerry V is not used in a bigger capacity.  He was great!!!!

RBee
RBee

I really miss the post game radio show from back in the Joe Block? (and then Gerry V) days.  It was fun to listen to the moderator's analysis and the fans' comments on the ride home from the arena.  Now all we get is a brief recap and if we're lucky a word or two from Monty. 

Pelican Poster
Pelican Poster

@RBee I totally agree...can't believe they can't do it this way again...I like Daniel but it was way better the old way with the call ins