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Despite Hawks loss, recent stretch of games prove Pelicans still deserve your support

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Published: January 18, 2018

On January 1, The Advocate published an op-ed by New Orleans Pelicans beat writer Scott Kushner that explained why fans of the franchise deserved better than what has currently been offered.
Considering that the Pelicans have only won one playoff series in the last 15 years, and have displayed nothing but inconsistency since adopting their “win now” philosophy, there is a lot to agree with in Kushner’s piece. The mainstay fans have waited for greatness in the Anthony Davis, noting the potential in his rare talent, but rather than unifying the city and Gulf Coast region the franchise has only done well enough to occasionally check in on their smartphones.

In the mind of a local fan that has never completely bought in, keeping the Pelicans at a distance prevents heartache.

I don’t have to address the Davis to Boston rumors that are a sole creation of a collaboration by the Celtics’ front office and East Coast media. You already know about it. If you’re a diehard, I feel your pain. It’s only a matter of time before the local casual fan starts repeating what they’ve heard from the big talking heads if they aren’t already.

Kushner’s piece is important because it vocalized our emotion in a rational way. We are hurting and we would like to let you know. More specifically, the column was a response to what was probably the most frustrating two-game stretch this season in which the Pels lost to Western Conference bottom feeder Dallas Mavericks and the New York Knicks, who has given a similar frustration to fans following that race in the East. For the Pelicans, the fight to stay above .500 has equated to treading water.

Pelicans fans have been operating on extreme emotions since 2002. We get a franchise for the first time since the departure of the Jazz, our franchise face Baron Davis asks out, the Dan Dickau era, two seasons of temporary relocation to OKC, purchased and sold by the NBA, the departure of Chris Paul and the arrival of Anthony Davis. It’s safe to safe to say we have been through a lot, and it is hard to keep the perspective of the present as the weight of history is on our shoulders.
However, if we can keep the perspective of the present in focus we should realize that the Pelicans are still a team in flux despite acquiring talent.

Acquiring talent does not automatically make you a winner, but it is necessary when you are a small market franchise. Get it, then assess. For reference, look at the Oklahoma City Thunder right now, a team I perceive to be taking on far less scrutiny than the Pels. The re-tooled trio of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George spent the season’s first two months below .500 and are now in the middle of the pack in the West thanks to a five-game win streak in December. They did what they needed to do to get superstars, and are figuring it out as they move along.

Taking on Demarcus Cousins meant there was one less superstar the Pelicans had to face in the West. Get the talent and assess. The Pelicans, now big in a small ball NBA, are in the midst of an experiment unfolding in real time. Offensively, we have seen components of the experiment work thanks to the unique skill set of these two.

Still, there are holes. Converting Jrue Holiday to an off-ball guard has worked, but it left point guard depth shallow after Rajon Rondo. This led to an in-season signing of 36-year-old Jameer Nelson, but a serch for depth there still persists. Losing small forward Solomon Hill before the season began for a still on-going period left a void in that position. E’Twuan Moore and Darius Miller were question marks going into this season in terms of being major contributors, but now they are the best options from the field.

Taking a 94-93 loss to the league’s worst team in Atlanta to end an East Coast road trip is not a good look, but the Pelicans did earn their projected 2-1 trip record thanks to a surprise overtime victory over Boston in which Davis put up 45 points and 16 rebounds. In a span of four days the Pels defeated Portland, New York in overtime and Boston in overtime before the ugly loss to the Hawks. Davis also totaled a combined 129 points and 42 rebounds during the win streak.

It’s hard for me to disregard the Atlanta loss as only a familiar trend when to me it had all the makings of a trap game, a common concept for a league that features so many second games of a back-to-back.

If you were expecting the Pels to contend for a title after beating Boston you were wrong, and if you expect that there is no more room to grow because they lost to Atlanta you are also wrong. Like fellow BSS writer Kumar pointed out on Twitter, the Pels were expected to drop a game during the road trip. We all just thought it would be Boston, and instead it was Atlanta, which messes with all of our emotions.

This is still a team worth being invested in, featuring a player that is making a MVP case. Anyone averaging 27.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg and PER of 29.35 (fifth in the NBA just behind Steph Curry) is worth your time.

Regardless of what happens with Cousins, Davis is under contract until 2020. How the franchise manages this team during that period may determine your fandom. Above all I’m a fan of the City of New Orleans and I like sports. Whoever is here I’ll show up for. I’ve been through much worse days with this basketball franchise. I’ve been through mind blowingly worse seasons with that football team that has the “soul” of the city.

Jump ship if you need to, but come Saturday I’ll be glued to Pelicans’ basketball when they take on Memphis.

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