Published: October 6, 2015

I have always been a somewhat optimistic person, in fact the first piece I ever wrote for BourbonStreetShots a year ago was about this team’s 2014-15 playoff hopes. I’m glad that the Pels proved me right on the last day of the regular season, but I can’t say that I have always believed in this new era of basketball in New Orleans. The departure of Chris Paul, the ownership situation, just the overall failure of the old regime placed a ton of doubt in my mind. For a time I didn’t expect to receive anything from our basketball team other than uncertainty, anxiety, and maybe the occasional feel good win. Now, after all I have seen over the last three years, I can truly say I believe in the direction of this organization, and I am confident they will find success.

It has been over three years since Tom Benson announced that he had purchased the New Orleans Hornets Franchise, a franchise that had lost it’s franchise player, lost much of the support from its fan base, and (by the end of the season) lost 45 of 66 games in a shortened, lockout year. Benson bought the team for $338 million from the league and announced he would change the name to something better suited for the region, eventually settling on the Louisiana state bird, the Pelican. On May 30th, 2012 the soon-to-be Pelicans were awarded the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and upon choosing Anthony Davis, and the team started to rise from the ashes of the old…like a Phoenix…except in a Pelican’s body.

October 31st, 2012, the last season New Orleans would have the name Hornets and Anthony Davis’ rookie year, the roster for opening night looked like this:

  1. Greivis Vasquez, Brian Roberts, Austin Rivers
  2. Eric Gordon, Roger Mason Jr.
  3. Al-Farouq Aminu, Darius Miller, Xavier Henry, Hakim Warrick
  4. Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Lance Thomas
  5. Robin Lopez, Jason Smith

Take a look at that roster again. That was the roster on opening night just 3 seasons ago. Not the prettiest girl in the bar. Actually the 26th prettiest girl. Apart from Davis, Anderson, and Gordon (who missed all but 9 games of that lockout-shortened season) there isn’t much in terms of putting the ball in the basket. Everyone had specialized positives and exploitable negatives. But over the next few years improvements would be made to the organization across the board.


The Pelicans’ inaugural season started with a much different lineup:

  1. Jrue Holiday, Brian Roberts, Austin Rivers
  2. Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Morrow
  3. Al-Farouq Aminu, Darius Miller
  4. Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Arinze Onuaku, Lance Thomas
  5. Jason Smith, Greg Stiemsma, Jeff Withey

This team looked better on paper. They couldn’t control the fact that the top 5 players on the team missed a combined 151 games, but 34 wins was not the type of confidence boost the front office had in mind for New Orleans. This city needed to see playoff basketball again, and a young, now All-star Davis, needed to see the big show.

Off the court the organization unveiled a new state-of-the-art 50,000 square-foot practice facility right next to the New Orleans’ Saints complex in Metairie, labeled one of the finest in professional basketball. Over the summer before 2014-15 season $54 million worth of renovations were completed on the team’s arena and neighboring Champions Square. The team now had a new core of players, a new practice facility, and an improved home-court after just one year with a new name. Last season the roster on opening night looked like this:

  1. Jrue Holiday, Austin Rivers, Jimmer Fredette, Russ Smith
  2. Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans
  3. John Salmons, Luke Babbitt, Darius Miller
  4. Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson
  5. Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Jeff Withey

This team would change some mid-season, but in just three years under Tom Benson’s ownership, the team would go from a 32.9 win%, to 41.5 and then to a 54.9 and achieve a playoff berth. Now, in the summer before the 2015-16 season, the team looks a little like this:

  1. Jrue Holiday, Norris Cole
  2. Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans
  3. Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham, Alonzo Gee, Luke Babbit
  4. Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson
  5. Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Kendrick Perkins
  6. (+1 or 2 camp bodies)

Got to catch up with Coach for a few at #PelicansSL #NBASummer #Vegas A photo posted by Eric Gordon (@officialeg10) on

The team ran into some of what its doubters had warned them about. Mortgaging future flexibility for the present, the team found itself unable to do much besides resign its own talent in one of the craziest off-seasons to date. In fact, the Pels had a league leading 11 players return. However, the team’s roster going into the season opener looks better than year prior, a little more seasoned and a little more talented. Did ownership settle for these minor roster improvements? NO, the front office went out and replaced almost the entire coaching staff with clear-cut upgrades. Devoid of roster flexibility the team went out and improved in the best way possible, putting together what many are calling a “home-run” of a coaching staff.

In the three full seasons since Benson has taken over the New Orleans Franchise, major improvements to the team have come every single year, both on and off the court. I say to those doubters now that this team is the best hope that New Orleans Basketball has ever had of contending, even more so than that 2007-08 56-win Hornets team. The ownership is more committed to winning, the front office is more capable of continually improving the roster, the coaching staff is better and more qualified, and the team has more potential overall.

If you aren’t convinced that this team is dedicated to winning then I don’t know what to tell you other than get the flock out of here. Has the front office’s plan gone off without a hitch? Not even close. The only thing about this team that has worked out perfectly has been Anthony Davis, he’s literally the face of the NBA……2K16. But The Pelicans are scheduled to be on the big stage in the eyes of the only people that matter: the league. The Pels open the season at Golden State and turn around and host them for the home opener. They have also booked a Christmas Day game in Miami as one of their 13 nationally televised games (8 on ESPN/ABC and 5 on TNT, 9th most in the league), which ties the most in franchise history.  Then they have 8 more to be on NBATV. For reference, last year they had 2 nationally televised games scheduled.


They are on the big stage, they have the tools and guides to help them through, now this team just needs that undying Confidence from its fans, a confidence that is shared by all New Orleanians that lifts us all up. We are on the rise. We have taken off. Come the start of the season the Pelicans will be soaring high, will you be there to see it? Do you doubt or do you believe? The players certainly do, something that Alvin Gentry could see from Golden State’s side line in the playoffs:

“These guys truly believe that they should have had an opportunity to not only be in the playoffs … but they went into the golden state series thinking they could win the series, that’s the first battle you have to overcome … I think the attitude is already there.”

Now is a better time than ever to flock up.

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