For Pelicans, Blowing it Up isn’t the Same as Tanking

Published: January 7, 2016

It is no coincidence that I am writing this piece two days before we reach what I stated was The Point of No Return. A month ago, I wrote a piece setting a target days of January 9th for the Pelicans to decide which direction to take, and set a win total of 13 as the bare minimum for what they would need to have to take the path that said ‘Playoffs’ over the one that said ‘Blow it up’. They have one game before that set date and they are at 11 wins, so you know which direction I think should be pursued.

I also don’t think that it is a coincidence that Gentry used the phrase ‘Point of No Return’ two weeks ago when discussing this team. Any good organization would set a timeline that would help guide future decisions, and with 10 day contracts available and almost all trade restrictions being gone on January 15th, they have to be nearing that point. As many of you know, my breaking point was after the Boston game when Tyreke Evans effectively said that he tried to play Gentry’s system and it just wasn’t him. This was a red flag to me. Since then, both parties have come out and said Tyreke is trying and it will take time, but I firmly believe that this is one of those points we will all look back to as a clear indicator that is was never going to work.

There are these inflection points in life all the time. When they happen, we often try to work through them or justify them. We tell ourselves that its a hiccup and a chance to change or grow. But then we look back at the relationship or our business or our chosen major weeks or months later with hindsight and say, “Yeah, I should’ve known right then.”

We’ve all done it, and I do not fault the staff or front office for doing what all humans do, but now the point of no return has come. Last night’s loss was an embarrassment and if a healthy Pelicans squad can’t beat a towel waving Mavericks team at home, then the idea that they can win 65% of their games moving forward and then do something positive in the playoffs is just laughable. It wouldn’t be optimism bias, it would be sheer lunacy, and a fireable offense if somebody even uttered those words.

So, I have advocated blowing the roster up, but some have confused that with tanking – my ex-podcast partner Ryan Schwan included. He argued in a recent tweet that getting the 5th pick instead of the 8th would not be worth the costs that come with tanking and its implications to your fans and players. But let me separate the two, because while they might both occur simultaneously, I am only arguing for the blow up, not the tank.

Blowing it up means that you look at this roster and see who clearly fits into your future. They have the attitude you want, the skill set you want, and the price tag that you can afford. You write those guys names on one side of the sheet of paper and the only way you consider giving them up is if you can get more guys who fit those things, or better versions of guys who fit those characteristics. On the other side of the piece of paper, you list the remaining guys. Those guys need to be moved immediately, unless they cost you assets that can help you put more players on the positive side of the paper.

That is ‘Blowing it Up’ in my opinion. And I label it that because one side of that piece of paper would have 2-4 names, and the other would have the majority of the roster. Tanking, meanwhile, is insuring that you do whatever it takes to finish with the least amount of wins so that you can have the most ping-pong balls. That is not something that I would be in favor of, now or ever. In its true form, that would mean playing bad players. That would emphasize not developing current players, and that would mean not playing or utilizing Anthony Davis in his full capacity Hence, I am not in favor of tanking.

I know many will ask, so I will beat you to the punch and list the players that would be on the positive side of the paper for me. Anthony Davis is there, obviously. Dante Cunningham is there as well, as is Quincy Pondexter. Jrue Holiday was there, and may still be, but I am waning. Somebody in the organization shared an insight with me about Holiday weeks ago that bothers me. I was told he loves winning, but doesn’t necessarily hate losing. Not the way that the greats do. Now, this is one person’s opinion, and others might disagree – I am sure Holiday would. But since then, I have been watching, and from afar I can’t say I disagree. Something about him being so concerned with getting bobbleheads for his wife after a tough home loss rubbed me the wrong way. Could be nothing, could be one of those moments we look back at months or years from now and say, “We should’ve known then….”

But Gentry, Dell, and others have a better feel than I do. I am not advocating for them to listen to me, but instead for them to get out that piece of paper and write down those names. Eliminate the optimism bias, accept sunk cost, try to be as objective as possible. It’s a hard job, but the point of no return is here and it is going to take tough decisions to get this train back on the tracks.

The train. Not the tank.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.