Can the Pelicans break the Groundhog Day cycle?

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Published: December 19, 2018

The New Orleans Pelicans are once again floating around .500 and I feel numb.
I am descending into nihilism because chances are that if you have been watching the New Orleans Pelicans this season you may also be wondering if the season has truly started or if we’re all witnessing an incredible troll job.

We are all Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

Like Murray, we are all living the same day over and over again. With the potential of “this season could be their best yet” again, we kicked things off with a 4-0 run only to be followed by the familiar sting of unlucky injuries that eventually bury the team in the standings.
With each loss, the chatter of Anthony Davis’s departure for Los Angeles or Boston (and nowhere else, apparently) grows louder.

“Ned? Ned Ryerson?! Bing!”

Granted, you may or may not understand this reference (Kids, watch the movie.) but at this point, I’m as comfortably numb as Pink Floyd.

Frustration brings along the alarmists and the eternal optimists. The two go to war with each other and characters are assassinated (over Twitter) for the world to see. However, I remain Bill Murray waiting for the alarm clock to play something other than Sonny & Cher.

Somedays I travel to the town square, meet Chris Elliot for breakfast, and try not to fall in love with Andi McDowell because this path will only be erased once I lay my head on the pillow.

When I do actually try, I try to understand the Pelicans’ problems. They have a good bit right now. Earlier in the season, I stated that my biggest concern is that this team is dealing with a perpetually incomplete roster in terms of need and depth. Elfrid Payton’s absence is significant. It proves that Jrue Holiday cannot be relied on as part of the solution for point guard “depth”. In these desperate times, the Pels have turned to a struggling Tim Frazier, who actually has given his team a chance by maximizing his ball handling and distribution skills. However, Frazier’s effort, even as a backup, should only be seen as a band-aid for a team looking to fill that void.

As a shooting guard, Jrue Holiday is elite. He may be the best perimeter defender in the NBA and a mid to low range boss offensively. However, he doesn’t elevate this team in terms of outside shooting. Nikola Mirotic and E’Twaun Moore are supposed to be those guys but both have been affected by the Pelican injury curse. Even before injuries, Mirotic was struggling from the field. When these guys aren’t available to keep opposing defenses honest, low post scoring goes from the emphasis to the only weapon in the arsenal. When defenses clog the lanes, we often see the Pelicans settle for terrible shots.

Julius Randle has thrived as a bench option and a starter, but does he cause Davis to defer? It was a narrative I didn’t agree with before but I’m pondering it more now. But then I wonder… Why is Davis ever deferring?

While the salary cap situation is a mess, there isn’t much reliable talent coming from the reserve units. This leads to weird rotations and the defense suffers from a lack of definition in lineups. It’s easier to produce as a unit when you’ve shared minutes together.

Since these aren’t overnight fixes, the cries for Davis to leave are hard to ignore. They’re tough on fans. It’s an odd situation because I feel there are fair points to be made about other teams acquiring Davis. However, with national media openly promoting unsourced claims and dismissing NBA basketball in the city of New Orleans, fans are feeling a lot of pain that they are entitled to feel.

Fans have a right to be frustrated.

National media has a right to speculate.

Fans shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

National media shouldn’t openly fan flames.

As far as Davis goes, it’s just another day for me. I’m not commenting on his situation until real information about the situation is released. At this time, we know as much as we did in September, minus the fact that the Pelicans are underwhelming. As long as you are a fan of a small market team, there will always be speculation about your star and every day, in a sense, will be February 2.

What we do know about Davis’s future is that if things don’t change soon he will be gone. That can only be done by improving the roster. That means waiting for a slew of smaller deals or a splash. This likely means everyone not named Davis or Holiday should be eligible for trade. Nothing is off the table. They have to change like how Murray changed to be a nicer guy, bringing on Feb. 3 and the loving embrace of McDowell.

Until then, I’ll just be waiting to do the weather and reporting on whether or not Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow.

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