New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion Fri, 18 Apr 2014 18:47:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 NBA Playoffs as Played by their New Orleans Connections Fri, 18 Apr 2014 18:47:07 +0000 Did you know that every team in this year’s NBA playoffs has a player connected to New Orleans basketball? Did you know that the New Orleans basketball franchise is not in this year’s playoffs? Therefore, did you know that the most entertaining way to preview this year’s NBA playoffs is to stage a fantasy one-on-one tournament using the current postseason match-ups and their New Orleans connection?

On this Friday’s Trew 2 the Game I invite local comedian Chris Carrington to the studio to break it all down. If you need more enticing to listen to the episode, our first round matches include barn burners like Chris Paul vs. Hilton Armstrong and Trevor Ariza v. Mike James. What are you still doing not clicking play on this podcast?

Listen to the episode here
(You can also subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher!)

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What if the New Orleans Pelicans Won the NBA Draft Lottery? Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:41:55 +0000 The New Orleans Pelicans hold a 1.1% chance of winning the top pick in the 2014 draft. Talk about long odds. It seems like you’re more likely to get hit by an asteroid than the Pelicans have of winning the lotto. But, that’s not the case. One in one hundred is still a chance…

so you're telling me there's a chance

The situation is this: The Pelicans traded the rights to their 2014 draft pick if it was outside the top-5. Currently they’re sitting in the 10th spot.

pelicans lottery odds 2014

So, in totality they stand an 87% chance to land the 10th selection, with a 4% chance to land in the top-3. It’s unlikely, but we’ve seen stranger things.

Remember when the Bulls had a 1.7% chance to land the top pick in 2008? Or maybe when the Magic had a 1.52% chance of winning the top selection in 1993?

Stranger things have happened.

So, what if? What if in the unlikely event the Pelicans win the lottery? What about if they land in the top-3? Well, let’s break it down.

Andrew Wiggins

Giving the New Orleans Pelicans Andrew Wiggins would be a professional sport maneuver equivalent of day-light robbery. The only difference would be if this robbery was a complete and utter fluke.

Wiggins would fit well on the Pelicans. He’s an excellent athlete with defensive prowess. He can shoot the three and can attack the basket. Pairing him with a slasher like Tyreke Evans with Jrue Holiday spotting up on the wing would be a nightmare for the opposition.

For Monty Williams it would a dream to finally have a wing defender who isn’t a liability on offense. The Pelicans could be so multiple in the way they lineup that there’s little chance of Monty screwing it up.

Jabari Parker

You want a scorers delight? Well if the Pelicans drafted Parker there’s not many other teams that could claim to be the most lethal offensive team. Parker has been labelled the most NBA ready draft prospect (whatever the hell that means).

Evans, Holiday, Gordon, Davis, Anderson and Parker could all score points. This isn’t accounting for Anthony Morrow returning.

The over/under for the Pelicans points per game for 2015 would be set at 213 billion points.

The likely issue would be whether Parker can improve defensively. It’s not his biggest strength so it’d be interesting to see if this would improve playing alongside Anthony Davis.

Joel Embiid

Outside of Wiggins the most preferable player the Pelicans would like to draft is Joel Embiid. Monty Williams’ 90′s love-affair for centers would be satisfied if Embiid was paired with Anthony Davis.

Embiid is 250 pounds. Yes, he has size something that would help in Davis’ development as well. The greatest thing about Embiid playing in New Orleans would be that there would be a shot blocker always around the basket.

An issue that seemed to develop throughout the 2013-14 season was that teams took Davis out towards the perimeter on defense. This meant that the Pels had guys like Greg Stiemsma “defending” the paint. With Joel and Davis this would be of little concern.

His offensive game is still developing but still shows promise. He displays a nice touch around the basket and has decent smarts when positioning himself.

Teams still want to hear on how bad his back is, but how many other skilled, shot-blocking centers are there in the 2014 NBA draft? Not many.


New Orleans has a lot of work to do over the off-season. There’s a myriad of decisions to make and players to scout. They need a small forward who can space the floor better but can be an asset on defense. These kinds of players are not easy to find. Additionally they need to find a center who won’t foul, but also is not a liability on offense.

The Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers or the tank-line of other teams will be very fortunate to have one of these gifted players. After the top-5 in the draft there’s a significant decline in talent to where picking 10th overall won’t be that beneficial.

When Dell made the trade for Jrue Holiday he bet on his team being good enough to have a selection somewhere in the late lottery come 2014. He was correct, but hedged things so that if they did end up with a top-5 selection they wouldn’t miss out on elite talent. It’s a trade that gets criticized far too much around NBA circles for the love of the draft pick.

Pundits are more willing to give the benefit to an unknown commodity than one that is a proven player in the league. The common tone is one that labels the veteran as “stale” and the rookie as “fresh.” This seems kind of odd.

Come late June it’s likely that the Pelicans will be without any draft picks and will simply be left to scour the free-agent market. While many other things are more likely to happen to this team over the next two years it’s always nice to enjoy the speculation of a statistical improbability.

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Weakside Eyes: The Legend of Austin Rivers Thu, 17 Apr 2014 20:00:13 +0000

I dunno know what the answer is. There’s something ’bout his game dat doesn’t make my eyes feel good

–Lenny the Cabbie

Since Jrue Holiday went down with an injury, the point guard debate has caused families to engage in dinner hour food fights. The surprise in all of this is the fact that I was surprised that families still dine together. Who would be the point guard that can play-make the Pelicans to a sort of respectable offensive structure?

Let’s jump into the Austin Rivers eye test and see what we see.

First, shall we look at some basic numbers over the last ten games? Why not!

Last 10 games (averages):

  • 29.1 minutes per game
  • 11.7 points per game
  • 4.9 assists per game, 1.9 turnovers per game
  • 4.0 defensive rebounds per game, 0.9 steals per game
  • 41% shooting
  • 2.2/3.8 = 58% free throws (painful for a point guard)
  • 0.9/1.8 = 50% three point percentage (perhaps misleading because there aren’t enough attempts (18))

Last 5 games (averages):

  • 34.7 minutes per game
  • 14.8 points per game
  • 5.8 assists per game, 1.4 turnovers per game
  • 5.8 defensive rebounds per game, 1.0 steals per game
  • 42% shooting
  • 2.4/4.0 = 60% free throws

I’ve listed some basic numbers without going off the deep end. I took those stats and filtered them through my eye test.

  • Rivers’ game has not yet evolved. He is still stuck in the “when to pass and when to shoot” quandary. The great Oscar Robertson in an interview I did with him a few years ago said, “The toughest thing a player has to learn is when to pass and when to shoot.” Robertson when on to explain how that plays a tremendous part in a player understanding his role.
  • Rivers does have basketball talent, and his what seems to be a stiff style may cause some people to tag him with an unfair label. What is obvious is the lack of a consistent jump shot and a not being very reliable free throw shooter . . . jumper is wood-like rigid.
  • Rivers has shown improvement in getting into the lane (penetration skills have gotten better), yet he is still lacking the “finishing touch” when maneuvering in a defensive maze . . . that can be improved upon in time.
  • Rivers is a point A to point B point guard. He is not yet a creative guard who sees situations develop which hampers his play-making ability. He misses out (or does he fail to see) moments in the game when scoring passes are there.
  • As a defender he is better on the initial defensive assignment (the early stages of the pick and roll is one example). As the action evolves and the ball movement begins, his defensive play begins to slip, and that’s when his concentration waivers. That can be improved upon, as well.

Required Summer Courses

  • Endless repetition shooting the ball
    • Off the dribble & catch
    • No free throws, no breakfeast (shoot plenty before you eat)
  • Watch game tape
  • Work on creative aspects of your game . . . passing . . . angles . . . reading the floor . . . advancing the ball . . . off the ball defense . . .

I am not bailing out on Rivers, as he is too young and maturity and emotional poise is something that usually arrives with experience. Dinner conversations with his Dad will prove to be more significant this summer.

Let’s wait for the Rivers to hit high tide before we abandon ship.

A last note regarding maturity: Rivers allowed himself to be suckered in a mini rumble with Nick Collison in Monday’s game, which was another example of his immaturity. He forgot his team was depleted at the point guard position. Rivers should have ignored the shove that happened in transition and played on. He selected the “bad hombre” approach and cost the team needed depth. I realize the team won and Tyreke Evans was superb, but the lesson was missed by Rivers.

Gerry V is a 21-year NBA analyst, 17-year talk radio host, a 16-year coach . . . also hosts “Gerry V’s “Talk Back Live on 99.5 WRNO New Orleans right after every Saints Sunday Game. Follow Gerry V on twitter (@GVTalk).

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Does Tyreke Really Need to Improve His Jump Shot? Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:35 +0000 No matter how good a player is, the focus always seems to be on what he needs to improve. And make no mistake, even the all-time greats had weaknesses; nobody is a perfect basketball player. The tendency then, is to talk about what the player needs to improve in order to get better, but what people tend to forget is that sometimes improving in one area might have unintended negative consequences in other areas.

Would it be nice if Tyreke Evans had a more consistent jump shot? Sure, I am not going to sit here and advocate for a guy to miss jump shots rather than make them. But, let’s not ignore the possible dangers either. If you grew up watching basketball in the 90′s, you probably remember Patrick Ewing as a great jump shooting center. He didn’t start off that way, though. Initially, he was extremely raw offensively and was much closer to Tyson Chandler or Andre Drummond than what he became later in his career. As any Knick fan from back then and they will tell you that they hated when he started hitting his jumper, because that meant he would fall in love with it and he would stop posting up. Early on, Ewing regularly shot 55 – 57% from the field, but once he started focusing on his jumper, those numbers plummeted to 46 – 48%.

Ewing became more versatile, but by turning a weakness into a quasi-strength, he also sacrificed what was already clearly a strength for him and his overall game suffered as a result. And it is not like Patrick Ewing is the only example of this; it is quite common. In fact, let’s talk about an even better comparison for Tyreke.

The Case of Rajon Rondo

If you read my articles or listen to the podcast, you probably know that I think that ‘a bigger Rajon Rondo’ is the best player comparison for Tyreke. They are two guys who can get into the paint at will, rebound well for guards, are terrors in the open court, and can get their teammates easy looks. For years, people said that Rondo needed only a better jump shot to make himself an elite guard. But guess what happened? He improved that shot and has now started to fall in love with it and because of that we just witnessed the least efficient season of his career.

Coming into this season, Rondo’s three-point rate was under 6 percent. This season, it is at nearly 26 percent! At his peak, he was taking nearly 56% of his shots within three feet of the basket. This season, just 32.6% of his shots are from within three feet. And it’s no surprise that with more threes and less shots at the rim, his free throw rate has plummeted as well – from as high as 41% his rookie year to just 19% this year.

Fans and even stat geeks like myself love the three, because hitting it at even a decent rate is so much more valuable than hitting twos at good rates, but for special talents like Rondo, that just doesn’t hold up. At his peak, Rondo was shooting 65% at the rim, meaning that he would have to hit 44% of his threes to be more efficient from beyond the arc as he was at the rim. Now I know that we have this unproven, yet somehow prevailing logic that “If a guy is a threat from the outside, it makes it easier for him to get to the rim. It opens up other parts of his game.”

If that is true, then why does Rondo’s highest FG percentage at the rim coincide with the seasons that he took the fewest jump shots and his lowest FG percentages at the rim coincide with the years he took the most threes? The fact is that guys like Rondo and Tyreke can get to the basket at will, and they don’t even need the threat of a jumper to do so. If you play too far off them, it gives them a chance to get their momentum up and they will hit you with a eurostep that you can’t defend. If you crowd them, they get right past you and use strength (Evans) or creativity (Rondo) to finish.

Honestly, the trick to guys like this is not to necessarily improve on their weaknesses, but to get them on the court with the right complimentary pieces. Rondo and Evans can get past the first guy every time. What they have problems with are the second and third guy waiting for them at the rim if you don’t have an offensive weapon on the court that the defense has to worry about. Perhaps adding a better mid-range jumper helps in those situations – something Rondo did even in the years he was going to the rim a lot – but, a three-point shot is not something that needs to be the focus of either guys’ game for them to be an elite offensive player.

What Should Evans Work On?

If Evans improves his mid-range and three-point shot, and let’s say he improves both by 5%, that would only have added 27 points to his season totals this year. If he were to add a field goal percentage increase of 5% on his shots between 0-3 feet, he would have added 56 points to his season total. Extend that to all of the shots in the paint and you are looking at adding a total of 84 additional points to his season total.

It just makes sense for him to take the thing that he does at an elite level (get to the rim) and improve on the secondary part of the equation (finishing at the rim). An increase in explosiveness could help him finish, as could improvement in his technique – Evans takes his eyes off the rim before he finishes quite often. In fact, improving his vision when he drives hard will help in other areas too. Evans has had shooters open on numerous occasions when the defense collapses and there is almost always a lob opportunity when AD is on the court.

Does that mean he should completely ignore his jump shot? Of course not. The summer should never be used to work exclusively on one or two aspects of your game. A player should always be improving, both physically and mentally. The mid-range shot off the dribble should be a focus as well, as he gets that shot quite often when he curls off a screen and his defender goes under. In one summer, Rajon Rondo went from a 32% shooter on his mid-range jumpers to a 46% shooter on that same shot. That same year, Rondo’s three-point rate actually went down and his true shooting percentage took the biggest jump of his career.

Another thing that Tyreke can stand to improve on is his post game. He has posted up just 56 times this year. The good news? He got fouled on 11 of those attempts. The bad news?  He turned the ball over on 15 of those possessions. The in between news is that he went just 10 of 28 on post ups. Next season, he will likely exclusively play at one of the guard positions, meaning that he should have either a strength or a foot quickness advantage over his defender (sometimes both). Evans would be smart to improve his post game, both learning how to score out of it and pass out of it when teams double. Imagine Tyreke on a smaller guard in the post with Anderson, Holiday, and Morrow around the three-point line and Davis spotting up at 17 feet, willing to rim run if his defenders leaves to double.


Tyreke Evans can stand to improve his outside shot, but it should not be the top priority this summer. Evans has never had even an average jump shot and he has been able to dominate games in spite of that. His ability to get to the rim and his brute strength combined with his quickness and phenomenal ball handling is what makes him unique in this league. There are hundreds of guys who can shoot the ball from the perimeter, and several of them on this roster in fact. The move should not be to make Evans more like them, instead it should be to take his strengths and take what he does well to the next level. A Tyreke Evans who can finish at the rim at a higher level and dominate smaller guards in the post will be a one-of-a-kind weapon.

That is the foundation of his game. Make the foundation as strong as possible. Work on the landscaping later.

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FIN (Pelicans beat Rockets) Thu, 17 Apr 2014 05:22:40 +0000 It was a fun game for a season wrap.  While the Rockets organization weren’t taking the game that serious (Dwight Howard chucked a three?) their scrubs were taking it as seriously as the Pelicans scrubs were taking it.  Most of those guys were playing to try to leave some sort of impression out there.

In the end, it was a game of contrasting styles – which I found entertaining.  The Rockets were jacking up every long range bomb they could.  The Pelicans were driving relentlessly to the basket – usually after faking a three.  The result were a lot of made threes for the Rockets (14-30 shooting.  sheesh) and lots of baskets at the rim for the Pelicans – or kickout/dumpoff assists.  Evans could get wherever he wanted at any time in the game – doing frequent 1 on 3 fast breaks where the 3 didn’t have a chance to stop him – or driving into packed space and simply bullying his way to the rim.  Dude is solid.

Everybody the Pelicans ran out there seemed to contribute a little.  Observations!

  • Roberts got 4 minutes and 4 free throws – enabling him to lock up the statistical free throw crown this season.  He’s in the record books now.  Good job, Roberts.  You deserve it.
  • For about 12 minutes tonight the Pelicans center was Al Farouq Aminu.  Since the Rockets center was Josh Powell or Montiejunas, it didn’t matter that much.  Montiejunas did get a bunch of offensive rebounds, something he normally doesn’t, but the Pelicans still stretched the lead during that time.
  • I loved that Dwight Howard shot a three and McHale immediately pulled him.
  • Austin took three mid-range jumpers tonight, shocking everyone.  Really.  Jumpers, not floaters.  He stuck two of them.
  • Keeping with Austin, his catch and shoot remains deadly.  He ended up losing the catch and shoot 3-point crown to Eric Gordon in the end, but not by much.  Eric Gordon hit catch and shoot threes at 45.7% this year.  Rivers hit them at 45.5%.  That ranks 11th in the entire league amonst players who attempted at least 1 catch and shoot three per game.
  • Withey’s help defense in the paint remains excellent.  He had a real impact out there tonight when the Rockets forgot to shoot when they reached the three point line.
  • Look – I wasn’t Stiemsma’s biggest fan . . . but why did the team release him and bring in Ely?  Couldn’t they have just left him on the bench or something?  Did he poop in Monty’s desk drawer? I’m just a little confused why they booted him before season end – and then replaced him with a veteran retread and not even a youngster.   Perhaps they are trying to scratch Melvin Ely’s agent’s back?  It’s Dan Fegan.  Anyone like anyone on this list as a Pelican next year?  I’m not that excited by the names.  Those that could be had, that is.
  • Apparently, per Jen Hale the Pelicans want Morrow back.  That’s good.  I was assuming she was going to Hale bomb me and tell me they thought Morrow was too caught up in this whole new-fangled “shooting thing” and were no longer interested.
  • Darius Miller had moments again – but then you look at the statline and you can’t help cringe.  He had 9 points on 7 shots, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals.  In 34 minutes.  16-20 minutes?  good deal.  34?  Yikes.
  • Anyone who thinks Evans isn’t worth his contract has their head up their butt.

Thanks to all of you who have been reading over this long, long season.  Knowing you are out there and interested validates the effort we make here, and it makes me smile.

Thanks everyone.

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Game On: Rockets @ Pelicans – and Keys to the Off-season Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:38:24 +0000 The season ends tonight against the Rockets in a meaningless game for both teams, since the Rockets are locked into the four seed even if the lose due to owning the tie-breaker over the Trail Blazers.

Expect a lot of end of bench players to be on the court – the Rockets because they want to – the Pelicans because they have to. I’m not going to waste your time in this preview trying to give you keys to tonight’s game, because I have no idea who will play on the Rockets side at all – so it’s not possible to understand their strengths.

Instead I’m going to give you a mini Keys to the Off-season. We’ll be talking about this in more depth near free agency, but I’m going to put the three biggest weaknesses this team has in front of you now – the three places where, in my opinion the Pelicans need to focus their efforts in order to improve. These are categories – not players – the team needs to find specialists to help shore up.

Keys to the Off-season

  • Perimeter defense – The weak perimeter defense (pick and roll primarily) of this team is the lynchpin of all of its failures defensively.  Even when the team was at full strength, they were terrible at stopping players from getting into the lane.  That, in turn, forced everyone to have to rotate frantically – and too often resulted in a foul by someone scrambling to get into the play.  37.9% of opponents shots were at the rim against the Pelicans.  That is the third highest mark in the league.  You combine giving that many shots at the rim with the 2nd highest number of free throw attempts, and your defense is already a disaster. I know there is a feeling that having Jrue back will help this – and it will – but even when he was playing this team was in the bottom ten in both stats.  They need better stoppers on the wing.
  • Embrace the new NBA and its focus on the three-ball.  The Pelicans already have a stable of good shooters.  If the team is looking for a major rotation piece, it needs to make sure that the piece is not going to clog the Pelicans primary offensive weapon – Davis Pick and rolls with one of the many ball-handling guards.  Don’t get a big that has to sit by the basket.  Don’t get a wing with no outside shot who will cut to the basket and limit space.  Follow the Demps plans of multiple guards who can penetrate – but don’t get more Tyreke Evans.  The team can only have one of those on the court at a time.  Also, don’t acquire players who run pick and pops for 20-foot mid range shots. (Sorry, Jason Smith)  There is no reason this team should take the 2nd fewest number of threes in the league.  None.(Even with Anderson around, they were still bottom 10.)
  • Find a single rebounding big man for the bench.  When Davis is on the floor, this team is an average rebounding team.  When he sits, this team is a garbage rebounding team and gets destroyed.  The squad doesn’t need another Robin Lopez or Stiemsma or Ajinca or Withey.  None of those guys approach a league-average rebound rate for a big man. (Ajinca is closest)  The team needs a rebounding specialist who can come in to spell Davis for 12 minutes and not let the rebounding go to crap.

Enjoy the game tonight!

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Celebrate the Pelicans Season Finale with a Pelican Donut Tue, 15 Apr 2014 20:40:30 +0000 This Wednesday, April 16th, from 4:00-6:00p, join me and other writers from Bourbon Street Shots as well as comedians from The New Movement at District Donuts as we celebrate the inaugural season of Pelicans basketball. We all wish this season would have gone differently, but you know what? We had a season. That’s something that we almost weren’t able to say. So I say let’s celebrate.

On a recent episode of my New Orleans sports podcast, Trew 2 the Game, I chatted with the owner and head pastry chef of District Donuts about what ingredients would be in a “pelicans donut.” Listen to the podcast here and swing by District before heading to the Smoothie King Center to try a donut, make some friends and maybe try a second donut. Then we’ll watch the last playoffs-less season of Crescent City Basketball for a long, long time.


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Evans Dominates, Pelicans Beat the Thunder Tue, 15 Apr 2014 03:41:05 +0000 Tyreke Evans the Pelicans brought it right at the heart of the Thunder defense all night long, and it paid off. Evans dropped a career high 41 points and got just enough help from his friends for the Pelicans to pull off a 101-89 upset.

New Orleans came out with some fire in the first quarter, avoiding mistakes and playing fine enough offense that they were able to hang with a Thunder team that on paper they had very little business competing with. Tyreke was driving and kicking all over the place and the Pelicans were content to let it fly from downtown. They attempted 9 bombs in the first quarter, making three of them. Heading into the game their season average was only 15.8 three point attempts per game, so seeing nine early was a nice surprise.

Midway through the second quarter with the Pelicans leading by one, we got some drama! Austin Rivers retaliated to what he felt was a cheap shot by Nick Collison by repeatedly slamming into him. The result was a double ejection for fighting, despite no actual fighting taking place. With Rivers out, the banged up Tyreke Evans was the only point guard type player left on the floor for the Pelicans, placing Monty Williams in yet another difficult situation. Some days he has to wonder if he’s ever going to catch a break out there (spoiler– he caught one!)

It wasn’t long after the dust up that the Pelicans offensive game became a bit frantic to say the least, but despite a few minutes of rather ugly basketball they hung with Thunder. Ajinca in particular was playing well on both ends, and it was his presence in the middle, especially early, that at times solidified an otherwise shaky defense.

At the end of two the Pelicans trailed by just one, fueled largely by Ajinca and Evans. Despite Rivers limited contribution, his impact was felt and he finished with 8 points and 2 assists on just 4 shots. It would have been nice to see him keep playing as he’s been solid as of late, although considering Tyreke’s output follwing Austin’s ejection, perhaps it was for the best.

Westbrook was sitting out for the Thunder, and Durant had a very quiet first half, scoring just 9 points to go with 4 assists. Ibaka added 11, and Caron Butler was on fire, putting up 14 points on a mere 5 shots.

Quarter three began with a few Ajinca free throws, but then Tyreke time started. Without hesitation he decided that a one on three break was a good move. He was right. A three point play ensued and just like that the Pelicans were tied with the Thunder at 50. Evans kept pushing the issue, and following a couple free throws he put a nifty move on Durant with 6:03 left in the quarter to give the Pelicans a 58-56 lead, bringing the crowd to their feet.

Evans kept being aggressive when play resumed, and he finished the quarter with 15 of the Pelicans 25 points. Nearly every play was run through him, and the results were hard to argue with. This is the Evans that Dell thought he was signing last offseason to run his second unit. It’s a shame we never really got to see that vision come to fruition. There literally was not a Pelicans turnover in the third quarter, and as a result they led 70-69 to start the fourth quarter.

The Thunder came out with a small and young lineup to start the fourth, with Durant still playing a very passive game. He was still disengaged early in the fourth quarter. Tyreke had no such issues, and came out with the same fire he displayed in the third quarter. Good thing, because the rest of the Pelicans didn’t do too much to help him offensively early on.

A flurry of action closed out the first six minutes of the second half– a disputable block on Babbit and the resulting fast break turned what would have been a five point game into a single point difference. Miller hit a three, Andre Robinson (Thunder) followed with a layup, and then Morrow, an ice cold 0-4 at the time from long range, nailed a deep ball to give the Pelicans a five point lead.

Kevin Durant seemed more intent on making his presence felt after a short commercial break, but Tyreke Evans would have none of it. He reached his career high with about four minutes to go in the game, and scored 11 straight points for the Pelicans before Kevin Durant nailed a three pointer to cut the lead to seven.

No biggie. Luke Babbitt wasn’t worried. He nailed a three pointer to get the lead back to 10 with 1:46 left and that would be more than enough to coast to victory. When it was all said and done the Pelicans beat the Thunder 101 to 89, breaking a losing streak that spanned all the way back into 2011.

In the end Evans scored 41 points on 26 shots to go with 9 boards, 8 assists, 3 steals, and just a single turnover. The 41 points are the most scored by a New Orleans player since David West donned the creole blue. Evans did this against the second best team in the Western Conference despite being surrounded by recent second round picks and replacement level players (at best in some cases).

The way he did it? By driving over and over and over. The Thunder were simply unable to keep him out of the paint, and he pressed the issue all night long instead of settling for jumpers as he’s sometimes inclined to do. The three point shooters that surrounded him didn’t crush it, but they were adequate enough and made a few when they needed to. The spacing they created allowed for Evans to get the advantage inside when he drove, resulting in either easy buckets or free throws. Love it.

Oddly enough, he was a game time decision.

Tonight was obviously Tyreke’s night, but the rest of the gang played well also. I want to run through the lineup and say one nice thing about everyone, just because that game was awesome and they all deserve it for contributing to such a great experience.

I would take Austin Rivers in a fight against Nick Collison any day.

Ajinca had a great first half. Without him, I don’t think the Pelicans would have played the Thunder roughly even in the second quarter.

Aminu managed to snag 5 of the Pelicans 10 offensive rebounds even though he played only 21 minutes.

Babbitt’s three pointer late in the fourth extinguished the spark that Kevin Durant had finally managed to create. That shot was huge.

Darius Miller did a lot of things right, but containing Kevin Durant was the most impressive. His late three ball was key but it was on the defensive end that he really made an impact.

You have to give Melvin Ely credit. He doesn’t miss a beat. It’s been years since he’s been here and he’s still throwing up air balls like it’s his job. In all seriousness the airball wasn’t his fault…this time. He used to frustrate me so much, but for some reason I was happy to see him out there again.

Anthony Morrow was pretty cold all game, but when he and Miller connected for back to back threes it was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Jeff Withey played a hell of a game on both ends. He’s never going to be a star, but to see this much improvement in only his first season is a good sign that he can be a contributor for years to come. He had four blocks, none bigger than his swat of Serge Ibaka with 2:57 left in the fourth. He his a really nice hook shot earlier in the game that I would love to see substantially more of going forward.

James Southerland made a free throw. It’s true.



One thing I want to mention is that in the pregame I said that the Thunder had clinched the second seed already. That was in fact not the case. My only excuse is that the blood moon (1 am for those in New Orleans) has destroyed my brain

I kid.

It was actually widely reported by the AP and others that they clinched the second seed against us a few days ago. See?  My pregame search of “Thunder” and “clinch” led me to the false headlines, and the rest is history.


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Game On: Thunder @ Pelicans Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:30:57 +0000 Tonight the Pelicans take on the Thunder in the second to last game of the year for both teams. If the Pelicans are to avoid a 50 loss season, they’ll need to get a win either tonight or on Wednesday against the Rockets.

If we’re to believe in certain aspects of Multiverse theory, there very well be a healthy Pelicans team heading into the second last game of the regular season with a roster of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson, each of whom has remained healthy throughout the year and as a result have grown not only as individuals, but as a cohesive unit intent on one thing– making the postseason.

It’s no guarantee that a healthy Pelicans squad would have made the playoffs this year in the Wild West, but it sure would have been nice to have found out at least a little bit more about where we are as a team. As it is we’re stuck concluding our season watching four or five players in the starting lineup who wouldn’t be in the first seven for any playoff team in the West.

As the most disappointing season in Pelicans history (also the greatest) winds down, we’re left to enjoy the little things– Jeff Withey leading the team in scoring against the Suns, Austin Rivers putting up 20 points to go with 10 boards and 6 assists against the Rockets, Tyreke Evans sort of figuring his game out, a late eight point lead against the Rockets, Jeff Southerland seeing some time, and of course Eric Gordon not playing at all.

Tonight, against a Thunder team which has already clinched the number two spot out West and with nothing meaningful left to play for this regular season (but still intent to let Durant keep crushing it), the Pelicans will attempt to break an eight game losing streak in which they’ve been outscored by an average of 12 a game. Will they do it? Probably not, but during this losing streak the remaining healthy roster has shown that they’re capable of upsetting a superior opponent.

Mike Pellissier dissected this matchup just a few days ago, so I’ll direct you to his preview and recap for further insight into what’s to come. If Roberts and Evans don’t play, as I suspect they won’t, we may be in even more trouble than we were a few days ago.

The key to tonight’s game?

Don’t expect too much.

Pregame Update: Greg Stiemsma is finally gone. Replacing him on the roster is the immortal Melvin Ely. You may remember Ely from his days with the Hornets from 2007-2009.

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In the NO Podcast Episode 178: Things fall apart fast Mon, 14 Apr 2014 04:15:56 +0000 Michael and I don’t spend too much time talking about the games and all the missing players. Instead we talk about line-ups the team fielded this season, (and how few minutes any of them got) how best to stretch Eric Gordon, what to do with Morrow, what makes Stiemsma great, and what could make us want Dell Demps gone.

Plus, we talk about the Hornets/Pelicans all annoying team! Yay!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

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Pelicans M.A.S.H. Unit Can’t Close Out Rockets Sun, 13 Apr 2014 03:12:27 +0000 With 2:47 left, the Pelicans led the Rockets 104-96. When the horn sounded, the Rockets looked up and the scoreboard read 111-104 Houston. The 15-0 run was part Pelicans collapse, part Rockets clutch offense, and a whole lot of questionable decisions by the zebras.

After Dwight Howard split two free throws to bring the Rockets to within seven, the refs swallowed the whistle on strong drives by Rivers and Withey. Each time it led to turnovers, which led to wide open three-pointers in transition, which Patrick Beverley calmly nailed. Then, on the next two Pelicans possessions, we went to a video review to see who the ball was out on. Each time it was admittedly debatable. Both times it went to Houston. All this followed another questionable sequence in the fourth quarter that saw Alexis Ajinca’s face foul Dwight Howard’s hand amongst other things.

But, it is what it is and the refs only played a part in the meltdown. The Pelicans led since the midway point in the second quarter, and were up double digits most of the way, but they just couldn’t put Houston away. And to their credit, Houston hit huge shots late, scoring 39 in the fourth quarter after putting up 22, 24, and 26 in the previous three. They could have packed it in, but they did what they needed to do to get a much needed win. And that’s why they are a playoff team.

Other Notes and Observations

- Austin Rivers made three mid-range jumpers tonight. THREE. Coming into this game, he had made six off-the-dribble jumpers from 16-23 feet out. Six. Made three tonight. Teams keep going under the screens to keep him from getting to the rim. If he can add that weapon, it opens up so much.

- Luke Babbitt didn’t hesitate in the first half, and in the second half he took James Harden to the hole and got some easy buckets. His points were needed tonight, and it will be interesting to see if Dell keeps him and what Monty has him work on this summer if he does.

- Nothing great from James Southerland tonight, but I like his fearlessness. He doesn’t hesitate like Miller tends to do. If he has the shot, he rises up and takes it.

- Ajnca and Withey were just terrible in pick and roll defense tonight. They are so slow and they constantly came out way too high. The result was several wide open layups, including the two biggest ones down the stretch to give Houston the lead, and then extend it to three.

- Rivers had an up and down game, as he put up some good numbers early. He would have had a triple double, but he didn’t register an assist in the second half. Not because he didn’t pass, but because his teammates wouldn’t shoot. Just tons of pump fakes instead of rising and shooting. Ryan Anderson would have had a field day tonight, but nobody else on this team can get a shot off like him.

The issues with Rivers tonight was the free throw shooting (2-6) and the inability to make big shots late. He had an open three with just over a minute left that could have been the dagger. Still, he is a backup guard, not a guy who should be getting 45 minutes against a playoff team. He did fine tonight, all things considered, and if he grows as much this summer as last summer, we have a very good rotation player in Rivers.

- Anthony Morrow was fantastic again offensively, but the Rockets keyed on him late and he couldn’t get free. Gonna be much easier for him when he is the 5th guy on the court that the opposition has to worry about and not the first. Hope we get to see him in that role next year.

- Greg Stiemsma did not play tonight. If we are all lucky, we have hopefully seen the last of Da Steamer. I enjoyed the experience in one respect – He brought us all closer together. Normally there is arguing and disagreement, but we all bonded over our desire to see Stiemsma permanently benched. A round of applause for the man who created Unity!

- I went into this game not knowing who I would root for in a Houston/Portland series, but now there is no question in my mind. I dislike Houston WAY more. People give the Clippers grief, but Houston flops and whines and complains just as much, if not more. Go Blazers!

- I often see people say that Monty never shows he cares; that he just sits on the bench looking lost. I call BS. He was so into this game that I was afraid he was gonna get a tech for being on the court during gameplay. He was pacing up and down, constantly talking to players and the refs. Animated at the bad calls, and on and on. He cares and he made these players care about a meaningless game.

A lot to critique about Monty, heck I do plenty of that myself. But that one criticism doesn’t hold up in my opinion.

- Two games left; Home against OKC and these same Rockets. Then, a long offseason full of upgrades, recovery, and if we are really lucky, maybe some lotto magic. Go to at least one of these last two games and show your support for these second and third stringers playing their freaking heart out.

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Poking the Bear Sat, 12 Apr 2014 20:38:04 +0000

And I know it’s my own damn fault

– Jimmy Buffett, Margaritaville

With just a few games left of the season, I’ve been looking at some of the season stats for the New Orleans Pelicans. Yes, I know there are some games left. Yes, I know I’m still recapping games from a month ago on top of that. I’ll worry about the latter, and some things about the former can easily be addressed right now.

Among the myriad of positive and negative things to discuss, I’m picking what I see as the most glaring statistical negative. It just so happens that it is highly correctable.

As of April 10th, the Pelicans allow the highest FT/FGA in the NBA, allowing 1549 free throws compared to 6253 field goal attempts (0.2477). The NBA average is 1394 FT compared to 6503 FGA (0.2144). 17 teams are below this average, with the Knicks (0.244) and 76′ers (0.243) joining the Pelicans at the bottom rungs. The Timberwolves (0.174), Spurs (0.183), and Bobcats (0.184) are at the upper echelon. Each of those teams are below and above NBA-average in DRtg, respectively. DRtg is an estimate of the number of points allowed per 100 possessions.

The Pelicans will likely remain at the bottom rung, but even if they do not, they will remain near the bottom of the NBA in this important category: FT/FGA and DRtg have a correlation of 0.48. As a measure of the Pelicans’ “lead,” the Knicks would have need to out-allow the Pelicans by at least 26 free throws over their last 3 games, 32 for the Sixers over their 4 games. This is ignoring FGA effects, but it’s just one illustration.

Let’s now look at If this rate were replaced with the NBA-average rate, then based on the Pelicans allowed FGA, then about 209 points are taken off of the board. Across 78 games (when these figures were run), this translates into 2.67 points per game.

Now, if we take the Pelicans’ ORtg (107.2) and sutract their DRtg (110.1), this yields a difference of -2.9, which is an estimate of the number of net points per 100 possessions from the Pelicans’ perspective (ORtg is an estimate of points scored per 100 possessions). Factoring in Pace (92.1), which is an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes, or one typical game, this expected difference is 2.9 * 0.921 = 2.67.


Sure, the fact that the numbers happened to be equal at that precision is coincidence. The fact that this statistic is a big influence on how games have turned out this year is not. The number of free throws made by opposing teams is not only high compared to the NBA-normal, but it is having a meaningful effect on the team’s record, even with all the man-games lost to injury by very talented and very paid players. Also, this analysis does not account for overtime, for limited availability of these players (Ajinca joined late, for example), or high foul rate players who have departed (e.g. Sweet Lou). These variables are relatively insignificant to the overall point.

Now we get to the improvable part. Of players remaining on the roster, the biggest offenders in terms of fouls per 36 minutes are Ajinca (7.1!) and Stiemsma (6.1!), and they combine for 34.6 minutes per game. The next group are Miller (4.7), Smith (4.3), and Babbitt (4.1). Withey (3.9) and Rivers (3.7) round out the upper half of the team. For comparison, the next highest is Davis at 3.1 per 36 minutes. As noted before, much of these fouls are due to front court (4 at least) and lack of experience (all but Smith have no more than 3 seasons of experience, and 5 have no more than 1 prior season or have played overseas this season). The concentration of inexperience and poor defense in the front court was noted early on, so the general theme is no surprise. Also, Coach has said in no uncertain terms that he does not mind fouling early and often, particularly if it sets a tone. These fouls fail to set a tone, so it’s the worst of both worlds.

No matter where you place the blame, the result is clear, and it is clear that time and roster changes in favor of merely-average-foul-rate players will greatly improve this team’s defense, at least in terms of this one important statistic.

New Orleans Pelicans News

In the first full week of March, the New Orleans Pelicans broke their losing streak after first extending it to 8 (again), bringing their record to 26-37.

The loss of the week brought the losing streak to 8 as the Pelicans fell to the Kings, 96-89. It was a game of extremes that was actually very close except for a run in the third. The Pelicans sent the Kings to the line 41 times and had 3 players with at least 5 fouls, 2 of whom fouled out. The Kings also heavily out-rebounded the Pelicans, but the Pelicans countered by getting turnovers (18 v 9). In the last 2 minutes, the Kings went on an 11-2 run . . . 11 points in 2 minutes, people . . . right after the game was tied at 57. Rivers took the lone shot (a 3 for all you who are obsessed with efficiency) and missed it, nailing 2 of 6 free throws. Meanwhile, the Kings went 3 of 3 from the line and nailed 2′s at the rim and in the midrange (for all you who are obsessed with efficiency). The game never got closer than 5 after that.

The win over the Lakers was a convincing one, despite the potentially worrisome score of 132-125. The Pelicans were pretty dangerous from the left half of the floor, rebounded well, and got to the line more than they sent the Lakers there. They had a nice mix of shots from the perimeter and at the rim, and this success kept them from feeling the pressure by the inevitable late push by the Lakers. A 21 point lead early in the third was systematically eroded to 4 in just a quarter, but the Pelicans never gave up the lead and held on to win. The pace of the game in the second half led to quick scoring which seemed to confuse Pelicans defenders and temp then younger players into taking poor shots. The Lakers were very successful at the rim in the second half, and this is why.

The winning streak was not too hard to extend against the nearly hapless Bucks. The 112-104 final score says the Pelicans were slightly better than the Bucks in a game of poor defense, and that would be correct. Both teams shot efficiently, and both team fouled, but the Bucks did the latter far worse than the Pelicans, at least in terms of timing. The Pelicans took a lead early it the fourth and did not relinquish it, but the Bucks were just 5 back after an Evans substitution with 123 seconds left to play. From that point on, the Bucks scored 7, but the Pelicans scored 10. 8 of the 10 were from the line, and all 8 were from Evans. Davis got the other 2. This is the time when checks are earned, and those guys earned it that night.

The final win of the week was nice for a few reasons. First, it was just nice to win, this time over the Nuggets, 111-107 in overtime. Second, it was a comeback victory. Third, there were some exciting changes to substitution patterns. Down as many as 16 in the first half, the Pelicans managed to tie the game in the third in large part to the efforts of Davis and Gordon. The Pelicans built a small lead, the lost it thanks to sending the Nuggets to the line and giving up baskets at the rim. Then, Roberts hit 2 from the line and Morrow hit a late 2 to force overtime. In overtime, each player contributed, and Davis was playing as the primary big with Aminu, Evans, Roberts, and Gordon.

Around Bourbon Street Shots

There were three podcasts this weeks. Gerry V joined Ryan and Michael on In the NO to discuss youth and Eric Gordon. In the second episode, Anthony Davis was the topic of conversation. The third was a new podcast hosted by Chris Trew, this time joined by Mason.

Mason also gave a report of his second day at the Sloan conference and added a look at analytics and the Pelicans specifically.

`Voices’ of the People

During pregame, it was reported that B.Roberts gathered the troops for a pep talk….Well guys, if anyone was wondering I think this is the leader of this team…and it makes sense…older,well traveled and he’s the point guard…….so, what does this mean going forward ? hopefully more wins and also for next years bench players….will Pierre Jackson or Austin Rivers be here next seasons ?..Also it was great to see Whitey get some good run last night………It’ll be interesting down the stretch to see who plays more, which may give an insight to who’ll be back next year….Right now I think Miller,Stemsma,Babbit and Aminu are on the outside…Aminu probably has a better chance to return,but only at the veteran min………..


lost by 7, Rivers missed 4 straight and AD missed 2 straight. Ballgame.Edit


I enjoy the back and forth with Gerry V.

I think that sometimes if I get too set in my own stance, he shakes things up a bit and allows me to see things from a different perspective.

It appears that’s how it is with Ryan as well.

Good show.


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Game On: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets Sat, 12 Apr 2014 17:15:59 +0000 Are you ready for some defense? No? Good, because you won’t see any tonight. The Pelicans defense has been terrible all season, but the Rockets have come along lately and made this Pelicans D look like the 2004 Pistons.

118, 105, 107, 107, 125, 130, 123, 112

Those aren’t the coordinates to some island near Fiji, those are the number of points that the Rockets have given up in thier last eight – six of which were losses. Without Dwight Howard down low, they are having trouble protecting the rim and their perimeter players just seem unwilling to get back in transition. Of Corey Brewer’s 51 points last night against Houston, 27 came in transition. He’s not exactly Lebron James in the open court, but it didn’t matter because nobody got in front of him.

The Pelicans defense, meanwhile, is bad because they are young and… oh yeah, everyone is injured! They will likely be without Tyreke Evans and Brian Roberts tonight, after both left the game last night with injuries. If you are counting, that means the Pelicans will be without top 7 scorers. So, even with them facing a terrible defense, they might struggle to crack 100 points.

At this point, giving you ‘Keys to Victory’ would just insult your intelligence. Instead, let’s look at some things to watch for that have nothing to do with wins or losses.

1. Austin Rivers at the Point

With Tyreke and Roberts likely out, Austin might get 42-48 minutes at point guard. The only other guy who could play there is Darius Miller, so look for a lot of Austin tonight. He played 39 minutes last night, and fared well early as a scorer, but I want to see him get his teammates more involved. When he gets to the hole, I want to see a lob to a center once in a while when the big comes over to help. I want to see more drive and kicks as well.

2. Jeff Withey’s Conditioning

Withey has looked winded at times this year, so tonight would be a good time to push him to his limits. The Rockets play at the 5th highest pace overall, and the third highest pace at home. Give Withey 30+ minutes and see how he fares, so he knows just how much work he has to do this summer.

3. More Minutes for King James

James Southerland was a beast in garbage time last night, going off for 10 points and 3 rebounds in 9 minutes and 31 seconds. The guys’ career per 36 minutes are off the charts! We wanna see more of a guy who looks like a fearless shooter with a smooth stroke. If Corey Brewer can get 51 against this defense, King James could go for 60!

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Thunder Beat Pelicans, Basketball Gods are Merciless Sat, 12 Apr 2014 02:41:53 +0000 The most important things that happened tonight were unfortunately injuries to Brian Roberts (ankle) and Tyreke Evans (bone bruise in knee). Each player did not return to the game after his injury. Their statuses will be monitored and we will keep you up to date. More importantly: what in the world did New Orleans do to deserve this? 

The Game

You can only go so far when your entire offense is being created with tough jumpers and the other team is getting to the foul line and to the rim.

Darius Miller and Alexis Ajinca got off to sizzling starts with their shots, but the Pelicans just could not match the scoring ability of the Thunder. It was an impossible task to beat a team who simply had an advantage at virtually every position. And on offense, the jumpers the Pelicans were making helped obscure how little they were doing on offense, because the Thunder weren’t giving them any easy looks.  Sooner or later, it was apparent that the jumpers were going to stop falling and OKC would draw away.. and that’s exactly what happened.

But the Thunder’s starters came onto the court in the 2nd quarter and gave the Pelicans 11 points as they lazily rotated and left some shooters wide open from 3 point land. But that run would also be temporary and inconsequential, as the Thunder turned on their effort for a spurt and once again drew away with the lead. They are a frighteningly athletic unit and some of their fast breaks were just awesome to watch, even as a Pelicans fan. And the Thunder burst out the gates in the 3rd quarter and the game was over.

But there is no shame in losing to a far superior team, and like I mentioned in the preview, I was watching the Pelicans players more than I was watching the team.. and there were some positive takeaways from tonight.

Box Score

Player Notes

  • Austin Rivers had one of his best outings of the season and got the start in order to mitigate the damage Westbrook could do. Of course, Westbrook had a fine game despite Rivers’ best efforts.. there is only so much you can do when he’s hitting that pull up J from midrange. Anyway, Rivers showcased solid control handling the ball, hit a midrange shot, got his teammates involved, hit his 2 looks from deep, and finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.
  • Darius Miller once again showed us what he can do when his shot is falling and finished with a career-high 18 points in 30 minutes. However, he also finished with 0 rebounds, and it continually perplexes me how he manages to play so many minutes without rebounding more. But it was a good game for Darius, who I thought Monty would start on the bench in favor of Aminu. At one point, Durant (who was not interested in defending tonight) slumped his shoulders after Darius made a tough shot, as if to say, “who the hell is this guy?” Keep shooting, buddy.
  • James Southerland made his debut for the Pelicans and had a solid night. He’s tall, his jumper looks good, and most importantly, he was poised tonight- didn’t rush any opportunities, didn’t look nervous out there. He did get caught cheating WAY too far on a Butler corner 3, but I don’t want to pick on him too much for that. He also blocked a shot and gathered a few rebounds. It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not in garbage time (where he got all of his minutes), but I came away feeling positive about Southerland. It’s another storyline to watch to close the season.
  • Jeff Withey had an inefficient 4-12 night, but continues to show glimpses of skill. He put the ball on the floor a couple of times and took it to the rack, with one trip earning a basket + foul and the other shot rattling out off the glass. But he played against Serge Ibaka most of the night and just couldn’t match Ibaka.. which, of course, is understandable.
  • Alexis Ajinca had a hot start but cooled off as the game progressed. He struggles to finish in traffic, even among smaller players.
  • Anthony Morrow had an off night, but wasn’t getting much room to operate. Oklahoma City was keenly aware of where he was at all times.
  • Luke Babbitt made a couple of shots tonight, but it is becoming more and more evident that his flat-footed release will be a problem against hard closeouts. He is not quick enough to do damage off the dribble and teams fly out at his shot with that knowledge in mind: they have no fear of what will happen if he pump-fakes them.
  • Al Farouq Aminu played limited minutes tonight and didn’t really make much of an impact. As I said earlier, I was surprised Monty didn’t start him.

There are only 3 games left, so break out your rabbit’s feet and hope that no one else gets hurt! Almost there, peeps.


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Game On: Pelicans @ Thunder Fri, 11 Apr 2014 16:41:55 +0000 “4 games left, 4 games left..” I mutter to myself as I write this game preview.

The 32-46 New Orleans Pelicans travel to OKC to face the playoff-bound Thunder, who are fresh off of a road win against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Thunder are unequivocally one of the best teams in basketball: they are 7th in Offensive Rating, 5th in Defensive Rating, and have the 3rd best Net Rating in the league. They are the best rebounding team in basketball. They get to the foul line often and they are among the best in the league at defending the rim.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, just announced that Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis will be shut down for the rest of the year. This means that the Pelicans will be severely limited in what they can do against what is undoubtedly a better team. The Thunder are not without weaknesses and do have a habit of turning the ball over often, but the best chance the Pelicans have tonight is for the Thunder to come out flat/lazy. However, the Thunder are in good position to lock up the 2 seed and a win in tonight’s game could allow them to get some rest for their big players before the playoffs. Hell, they can put the game away by halftime if they want to. With that in mind, I’m more focused on watching individual things.

  1. Does Darius Miller get the start tonight?
    Miller has started the last few games but is not nearly long enough to defend Kevin Durant. Al-Farouq Aminu, who is longer and more athletic than Miller, started last game at power forward against the Phoenix Suns.. will that hold tonight, or will Monty slide two of the centers into the starting lineup and move Aminu to 3 to defend Durant? My guess is that Monty will not want Aminu defending Serge Ibaka, so I’d expect Aminu to slide to 3. Unfortunately, Roberts-Reke-Aminu-Withey/Ajinca-Stiemsma would a horrifyingly bad offensive lineup.
  2. Does Roberts go under screens to defend Westbrook?
    Russell Westbrook is the most explosive guard in the league and is a terror getting to the rim. Ideally, Roberts will just give Westbrook the midrange jumper and go far enough under the screen to limit Westbrook’s penetration. I’m guessing the Pelicans bigs will sag on Westbrook P/Rs. Westbrook can also post up and could do serious damage versus Brian Roberts. Will they attack Roberts in the post early on, and will Monty counter with switching Roberts onto Thabo and Tyreke onto Westbrook? Or will he sub in Rivers to mitigate the damage?
  3. How does Tyreke play with little to no firepower around him?
    As good as Tyreke is getting to the rim, he has struggled when teams have no respect for the options around him and just form a shell around the paint. This is partially not his fault, but this is something he will continually deal with until he becomes moderately dangerous from the outside. Tonight, I’d expect the same, as the Thunder have both the athleticism to stay in front of Tyreke and the rim protection to alter his shot should he get there. Doing damage in transition off of Thunder turnovers will likely be of paramount importance for Tyreke tonight.

I expect it to be really, really ugly tonight, so look for the small glimpses of light from individual players. Can Rivers or Tyreke stay in front of Westbrook? Can Aminu limit Durant? Can Morrow continue his blazing hot shooting? Can Withey produce during meaningful minutes against a good team? Does James Southerland, the new Pelican, get any playing time?

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Stretching Eric Gordon Part Two: The Michael Beasley Model Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:08:49 +0000 Yesterday, I took a look at the basics of the stretch provision and how the Pelicans could use this CBA loophole on Eric Gordon next summer if they can not trade him. But what if they want to take that step this year? Is there a way they could part with Gordon sooner and take even less of a cap hit? Well, if you look to how the Suns used this provision on Michael Beasley, they just might.

The Beasley Contract

When the Suns decided that they wanted to part ways with Michael Beasley, he had two years on his contract, each worth $6 million. The second year, however, was only partially guaranteed ($3 mil was guaranteed). So, in total, they owed him $9 million. They negotiated a buyout with Beasley for $7 million, and when you prorate that savings, the first year now became worth $4.67 million and the second year became worth $2.33 million. The Suns left that entire first year cap hit on their books and chose to just stretch the $2.33 million dollar cap hit. Since you are able to stretch one year remaining over three years, the Suns will experience just a $776K cap hit over these next three seasons.

The Right of Set-Off

The Pelicans could benefit from something that the Suns could not in the Beasley buyout – something called the ‘right of set-off’. This clause reads as follows

If another team signs a player who has cleared waivers, the player’s original team is allowed to reduce the amount of money it still owes the player (and lower their team salary) by a commensurate amount. This is called the right of set-off. This is true if the player signs with any professional team — it does not have to be an NBA team. The amount the original team gets to set off is limited to one-half the difference between the player’s new salary and the minimum salary for a one-year veteran (if the player is a rookie, then the rookie minimum is used instead).

Basically, if another team were to sign Gordon after he was waived for more than the vet minimum, some money would come off the cap hit. Let’s say the Pelicans agree to a buyout and another team signs him for 2 years and $12 million. It would reduce his cap hit by 2.45 million each of the next two years. [Quick math: $6 million (his new salary) - $1.1 million (the vet minimum) divided by 2 = $2.45 million]

A Game of Hypotheticals

Let’s say that the Pelicans go to Eric Gordon this summer and say they will buy him out of his final two years for $20 million. Might he bite? Heck, he might consider opting out after this season, and he would only get $14.9 mil from the Pelicans in that scenario. Let’s assume he takes the $20 million and gets his freedom. Five million would come off each year, meaning he would be a $10.4 million hit this year and $10.9 million next year. Now, let’s assume, he finds that two-year, $12 million contract elsewhere. The cap hit goes down to $7.5 million this year and $8.1 million next year.

They can keep the entire first year on the books, and then stretch the final year over three years, meaning his cap hits would be reduced to about $2.7 million over those next three years. You save about $7.5 million in cap room this year, $12.5 million the following year, and just have to add $2.7 million over the following two years in order to do that.

Sunk Cost

When people first learn about sunk cost, their instinct is to fight against it’s extremely logical principles. Without getting too Economics 101, a sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Therefore, you don’t factor it in to your decision moving forward. As an example: You reserve a hotel room in a city for $100 a night, with half of that being non-refundable. The day before you travel to that city, a friend calls and says he will be out of town in that city, and you can use his house for free.

The sunk cost here is $50 – you are going to pay that regardless of whether you stay at the hotel or not. Many people say, “I’ve already spent $50, I might as well spend the other $50 and I can use the house or the hotel room when I get there.” Instead, a person should ask themselves, “If my plan all along was to stay at the friends’ house, and then I had the opportunity to get a hotel room for $50, would I do it?”

When you frame it that way, almost nobody would choose to also get the hotel room, but when people factor in that they already spent money, they seek a way to get that value back. You can’t, it’s gone. That should not factor into the decision at all. The question should always be framed the second way. Forget what is behind you; move forward.

Putting It All Together

Let’s say that the hypothetical scenario is a viable option. Now, let’s think about sunk cost. Imagine this roster without Eric Gordon. Now, you have two choices:

A) You can sign Eric Gordon to your team for two years and you will pay him $7.5 million dollars this year and $12.5 million next year

B) You choose not to sign Gordon, and in 2016-17 season you will have a $2.7 million dollar cap hit, and the same will happen in 2017-18

Which would you choose?

Is it even a debate? Anybody want to make an argument for Option A?

At some point, you have to stare your sunk costs in the face and swallow hard. You got to look at it a different way. If this team didn’t have Eric Gordon and he was a free agent this summer, they would not offer him a 2 year/$16 million contract, would they? So why do it now just because he is on your roster?

Demps has to admit this mistake. It was a terrible decision, and that’s fine. The immortal Sam Presti traded for Kendrick Perkins and then extended him a terrible contract, let Harden go over $6 million spread out over four years, and drafted Cole Aldrich with a lotto pick. Every GM makes mistakes, but you kill yourself when you continue to let that mistake haunt you. This is the chance for Dell to climb out from under this mistake and give this franchise the flexibility it so desperately needs. They could attack free agency this year or next year, and find the right guy to complete the puzzle. They can define roles, putting Tyreke at shooting guard permanently, while securing a second unit backcourt of Rivers and Morrow. If Gordon comes back, they have to give him 25-30 minutes, even if that is off the bench and those minutes would come from somewhere.

Be done with it, Dell. Hone up to your mistake and move on. Do whatever it takes to get this contract off your books. Follow the Suns’ Beasley model. Worked out pretty well for them, didn’t it?

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The Beauty of Gray Fri, 11 Apr 2014 12:25:31 +0000

This is not a black and white world
To be alive, I say that the colors must swirl
And I believe that maybe today
We will all get to appreciate
The beauty of gray

– Live, The Beauty of Gray

As many have noticed, the next phase of renovations of the Smoothie King Center have begun. Immediately following the All-Star Weekend, demolition began on the exterior of the Center, with a large staircase being removed and part of the main entrance being blocked off.

The planned renovations, like all plans, have changed since they were made.

The main element of the renovations is a new entryway. The current plan is for one smaller than originally drawn up. This will still re-situate the entrance so that it faces those walking up from Dixon Drive rather than the loading dock of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The entryway will house ticket services, so patrons will not have to walk to the far side of the Center for purchases, will-call, etc. The team store will also be expanded, and there will be better parking along Dixon Drive for those stopping at the store away from game time. Some of the area currently used by the team store, ticket services, and more will be converted in to pre-function space (e.g. green rooms) and other areas that are used to help put on events and keep things running smoothly.

The subtraction comes with two main additions. The first is a coat of paint on the exterior of the Center. We have not been able to confirm the color choice or how final it is, but indications are that it will be something like gray. The second is the addition of a sports bar in the corner of the Center near the entryway. The bar will have a view down Dixon Drive rather than be behind the gray walls.

It’s unclear at this time how the sports bar will function, but you can bet that it will eventually have a sponsor and will allow a view of the game in the bowl and more. Revenue generation plus fan experience equals, in this case, sports bar. I can’t disagree at this point.

The new staircase on the Dome side of Dixon Drive leading to the upper walkway is still in the plans, and security will be moved farther on the walkways, which should allow for an easier experience with lines and perhaps more room to mill about outside from a functional perspective.

I can take or leave the color changes, but a smaller entryway in exchange for a sports bar is a good trade. This is why I love both plans and the gray area left in improving them. The Smoothie King Center will have much more personality and verve than its earlier incarnation, and that counts for something with fans.

For those wanting sources (and you should want them!):

The above snippet shows the call out for paint . . .

And here for the sports bar. Those seem unambiguous in general nature, but very nebulous in term of specifics . . . so . . . fun.

New Orleans Pelicans News

The New Orleans Pelicans had 4 games in the last week of February, lost all 4, and extended their losing streak to 7. They finished that week 23-36.

The first of the four losses was to the Los Angeles Clippers. The 123-110 loss was due largely to the Clippers’ 3-point barrage, but a bad run early in the third helped to seal it. The Pelicans offensive rebounding (40%) and free throw shooting advantage (29 of 35 v 21 of 26) partially masked the walloping they got at the arc (16 of 28 v 7 of 18). Early in the third, the Clippers when on a 12-0 run over the course of 2:32: a three from Crawford then 9 straight from Griffin (3 from the line, 3 shots at the rim).

The second loss was to the hated Dallas Mavericks, and it was a 108-89 gift to the home team. The Pelicans rebounded well (88.2 ORB%), but they turned the ball over 19 times compared to 9 takeaways. Again, the early part of the fourth quarter was not kind to the Pelicans. In the first 6 minutes of the quarter, the Pelicans were outscored 15-7, allowing the lead to grow to 19, which was the final margin. During this stretch, the Pelicans had 5 turnovers (one was a shot clock violation) and Rivers missed both free throws for a pseudo-sixth. The second quarter was a bigger loss for the Pelicans, but there were only 5 turnovers in the whole quarter. Also, Davis left this game in the eighth minute into the second quarter.

Though I had the pleasure of watching this game with Nick Lewellen over some wings, there was only so much a wing can do to substitute for a win. The 116-104 loss was largely determined by the Suns’ execution in the fourth compared to the opposite for the Pelicans. Again, it was a late run, this time courtesy of a 17-1 run by the Suns over the course of less than 5 minutes. The Suns failed to score on just a single possession in that stretch, losing a single rebound off a close shot to Davis. The Pelicans, of course, failed on all but one, and then Evans left a free throw at the line to boot.

The last loss was similar to the first, just worse. The 108-76 loss was to the Los Angeles Clippers, and it was an unbridled drubbing. Davis played just 3:07 seconds before sitting with foul trouble. The Pelicans never led and were down 7 at this point, and it did not improve other than Ajinca nailing a free throw during the substitution. The Clippers went on a 12-2 run in the next 4 minutes and change, and it the game managed to give up an additional 16 points in the balance of the game.

Around Bourbon Street Shots

With Chris Paul coming to town, Joe assets that his jersey will hang in the rafters in New Orleans.

Nick Lewellen took a look at the Pierre Jackson situation, and Michael McNamara takes and early look at potential offseason moves for the Pelicans.

Mason Ginsberg was at MIT’s Sloan Conference on sports analytics and gave his day 1 report.

`Voices’ of the People

I think the biggest offseason questions for the Pelicans is whether Dell should be making these decisions and whether Monty should continue to be the coach. My view is that both should go. Just two years ago, the Hornets/Pelicans future seemed bright.: They had a lot of cap room and draft choices. Since then Dell has drafted Austin Rivers, gave up our number 1 pick in a deep draft for a good but not great player, signed a shooting guard who can’t shoot, and traded our center. He also failed to address the team’s biggest need, which was and continues to be small forward. The only good decision he made was drafting AD which was a no brainer. With a record like that, does he really deserve to keep his job? As for Monty, the best evidence of the poor job he has done is the team’s defense. The Pelicans have been terrible defensively. I recognize that they have had injuries but so does every team. For instance, no team has had as many injuries as the Bulls yet they have remained competitive and a top defensive team. There is no reason why the team’s defense should be this bad.


Pierre Jackson played his first game for Fenerbahce last Friday. He started on the bench and only played 3 minutes in the first half. He did not play in the second half.

Here is a photo from the game:

3 minutes is not long enough for any kind of judgement. But here is what I thought while watching. He looked really fast, He can jump! He pulled a defensive rebound and I was impressed by the way he reached to the ball in the crowd. He got blocked once and got into traffic while trying to attach the basket in his second attempt.

He played in front of approximately 13000 fans and against the last champion of the Euroleague. It is not the d-league for sure…

Here is what his new coach, Obradovic, said after the game:

“Pierre Jackson needs time to adjust as a newcomer. It’s normal. He understands the way we play. He is going to have more minutes in the near future.” Obradovic also said that Jackson were in practice for only 4 times before he played in his first game. He said PJ will adapt with more practice and game-play.

By the way, Ex-Raptor Lithuanian Linas Kleiza plays for Fenerbahce and he led his team with 21 points and 8 rebounds.

I will try to post more here as I hear more from Pierre Jackson.

PS. Fenerbahce plays a league game at the moment but PJ is not on the roster because the Turkish basketball federation has a rule to have minimum 7 Turkish players on the squad of 12 players. That means only 5 non-Turkish players can play at league games. Fenerbahce plays Bo McCalebb (USA-G), Linas Kleiza(Lthuania-F), Nemanja Bjelica(Serbia-F), Luka Zoric(Croatia-C), Blagola Sekulic(Montenegro-F). Jackson has to prove that he’s really good to replace any of them.

PS#2. The starting PG for Fenerbahce is Bo McCalebb from New Orleans!


Rivers defense is nice. His offense is slowly coming along too. Withey is also looking good. I noticed him boxing out DeAndre Jordan for a rebound which is something nobody else could do. We say it every week, but once they get some PT, I think they will be good players for the Pels. I’m just hoping that when Jrue gets back, we don’t just forget about Rivers again.

Steven J

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Afternoon Roundup: Davis, Gordon, A New Player, and More Thu, 10 Apr 2014 21:02:51 +0000 Couple of Pelicans related stories with just less than a week to go in the season.

Davis and Gordon Done for the Season

The Pelicans have shut down both Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon for the final four games of the season. Davis is still having issues with back spasms, but nothing to worry about here long-term in all likelihood. Just requires a little rest and he should be fine. Expect him to be 100% well before Team USA training camp.

Gordon, on the other hand, will have another surgery. He will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. It should be noted that this is not the same knee he has had troubles with the last three years. It is a fairly common procedure that usually requires a 4-6 week recovery time, so it won’t effect next season, but it will probably make moving him this summer impossible (if it wasn’t already).

Another Shooter Added

To help fill out the roster for these final four games, the Pelicans will sign James Southerland for the rest of the season. They can do this without releasing anybody because the exception that the Pelicans got from the NBA for the Ryno injury also allows them an extra roster spot.

Southerland is a shooter and nothing but a shooter. In his final season at Syracuse, 214 of the 280 shots he took in his half court possessions were jumpers. He took more than 6 three’s per game and shot 40% from deep. He couldn’t quite find his range in the D-League this year, shooting just over 42% from deep, but he is a nice prospect to get a look at, as he is incredibly long as well – 7’1″ wingspan. This is a Spurs-like move; find a fringe prospect who is known for his shooting and see if you can get a specialist on the cheap. Spurs did this exact thing with Gary Neal and Danny Green. Not saying Pelicans get that lucky, but it’s worth a try.

Need A Center?

The Rockets waived Center Greg Smith today, and teams have 48 hours to put in a waiver claim. Smith is out for the rest of the year, but the team who claims him will have the opportunity to give him a $1.15 million qualifying offer to become a restricted free agent and would also have his Bird Rights.

Smith is an energy guy on the offensive end who does well on the pick and roll and in transition. He also is very good at crashing the offensive glass and finishing after he grabs the board. But it is on the defensive end that the Pelicans might have some interest. Yes, he does foul a lot (though not as much as Da Steamer or Ajinca), but he has the strength to bang with the big boys. I watched a lot of clips with him defending Cousins and Z-Bo these past two years and he pushes those guys out 4 or 5 feet further than anybody currently on this team does. Wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have Jason Smith, Ajinca, Withey, and Smith all battling for minutes at center when AD isn’t there. That 4-man center by committee would only cost about $5 million and would give Monty a bevy of options not named Stiemsma. Then, Dell can concentrate on a SF in free agency.

The Pelicans can put a claim in on Smith and still not get him. If multiple teams put in a claim, it is the team with the worst record that gets him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a smart team like Philly or Boston put in a claim. Would be nice if the Pels get him, however.

In the NO

Next podcast will tape on Sunday. Sorry we did not have one last week, but I took a much need vacation. Back to it this weekend!

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Stretching Eric Gordon Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:24:17 +0000 At this point, there is no more debate. It was fun going back and forth with readers about whether Eric Gordon would ever live up to the contract or whether he was a key ingredient for the future of this Pelicans team. But now, it’s just boring. There is literally nobody on the other side of the fence, and there is no joy in saying “I told you so,” when the end result is just so depressing. On a team with so many bright spots, there is one dark cloud hanging over the franchise – Eric Gordon’s contract.

Gordon is due $30.4 million over the next two years and that severely limits what Dell Demps can do to improve his roster around the Core Four. You can’t feel too bad for Dell, though, because matching the contract that Phoenix gave Gordon was his decision, and now he has to try to crawl out from under the one terrible move he has made on an otherwise impressive resume. As I showed you last week, getting out from under this deal is imperative as the 2015 free agent class looms, and with it, a chance to put the final piece into the championship puzzle.

I laid out possible trades, but with Gordon hurt yet again, that seems unlikely. You can also hope that Gordon opts out of his final year of his contract to secure a long-term deal elsewhere. That is more likely than moving him for an expiring, but still requires too many factors to be considered likely. But, even if neither of those things pan out, there is still a third option — The Stretch Provision.

In short, the Stretch Provision allows a team to take the money owed to a player and stretch the cap hit out over an alloted number of seasons. Per the new CBA, the team can stretch it out for twice as many years remaining plus an additional year. So, if the Pelicans were to stretch Eric Gordon this summer, they could stretch that $30.4 million over five seasons (2 x 2 +1) or if they stretch him next summer, they could stretch his final year that he is owed $15.5 million over three seasons.

With a weak free agent class in 2014, it probably would not be worth giving him the entire $30.4 million to not play for the team. You go into the season hoping that he is healthy and playing well so that you can move him the way that the Raptors moved Rudy Gay with a similar contract this year (one year guaranteed, one year player option). If you can’t move him by the deadline, you hope against hope that he opts out of the final year before 2015 free agency hits. If neither of those things happen, you can use the stretch provision, and all of a sudden his 2015-16 cap number plummets from $15.5 million to $5.17 million.

This gives you the ability to go into the 2015 free agent class and target anybody you want, knowing that if that free agent agrees to a contract in the moratorium period, you have the Stretch ace up your sleeve. You can essentially head into free agent that year assuming that you can stretch him if you get a big fish to bite. If not, no harm, no foul – you just let the contract expire or use him as a valuable trade chip at the 2016 trade deadline.

Depending on what the Pelicans do this summer, they can head into the 2015 summer with 12-15 million dollars in cap space, even with Gordon’s $5.17 million in dead money hanging on their books. As I stated last week, the summer of 2015 would likely be the last chance you would have to add a major piece to the Core Four, because Anthony Davis’s max contract would kick in the following year. And again, that free agent class is full of guys that fit exactly what this team is looking for, as the names include: DeAndre Jordan, Omer Asik, Jeff Green, Kawhi Leonard, Thaddeus Young, Nikola Vucevic, and Marc Gasol.

The next two seasons would be admittedly tough for the Pelicans, as they would have the Core Four plus whatever guy they plucked from the 2015 free agent class making about $56 million dollars. Add Gordon’s dead money and that takes you right up to the cap. They would have to draft well in 2015 and 2016, getting rotation players on cheap deals. Also, finding some more Brian Roberts or Alexis Ajinca type talents on minimum contracts wouldn’t hurt. Jeff Withey and Pierre Jackson would still be pretty cheap at that point as well.

Dell has shown in the past that he can get solid rotation players on minimum contracts (Anthony Morrow, anyone?), so that should not be an issue. If stretching Gordon can help Demps put a stud Center next to Anthony Davis or an elite three-and-D wing, then he would be foolish not to do it. It is just another alternative that Dell has – a worst case scenario one might say – if nothing else could be done about this singular black cloud that hangs over this organization.

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Pelicans go small, can’t handle Suns Thu, 10 Apr 2014 04:26:01 +0000 Down three and under a minute to go, I certainly wouldn’t have drawn up a pull-up three pointer from Tyreke Evans tonight.  Of course, neither did Monty as the Pelicans had a little bit of Hero Ball going at the end as each guy tried something that maybe wasn’t their best skill to win the game.  Honestly, I don’t care.  The team fought gamely all night long without Davis in the line-up.  They overcame multiple bad stretches of play to fight back into it – and they were continuously getting into the paint and getting easy shots.(that they missed more than they should)

I did appreciate Monty’s gameplan tonight.  Faced with a bunch of guys who like perimeter shots, he played only one big most of the night, with Stiemsma and Withey only playing together for a few short minutes.   That kept the Suns from being able to unload from deep like they usually do – and if although  Gerald Green got hot on a series of pull-ups,  I thought the extended defense was solid tonight.

Perhaps the weirdest part of the game tonight was that both teams typically hand out fouls and free throws like candy.  Tonight the two teams combined for 27 free throws.  That’s normally the number of free throws attempted by a Pelican opponent in the first quarter!   Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating.  But it doesn’t feel like I am sometimes.

Other Observations

  • Babbitt had a huge impact defensively tonight.   Not because he’s a major force or anything, but because the Morris Brothers were certain they could take that dude.  They kept catching, stopping the ball, taking Luke to the Mid post and since neither of them are much of anything off the dribble . . . took contested fadeaways.  They finished 7-20 for 16 points.  Thanks to Luke for looking exploitable.
  • Aminu’s whole game tonight was a brain fart.  They were running sets like he was Anthony Davis, but his off the dribble game was sloppy, his energy was low, defensively he didn’t get back well, and several times he wouldn’t come meet the ball on passes to him, leaving it exposed.   In the second half, he had three anticipation bounce passes where he assumed some player would be.   Maybe he’s used to Davis being there – or Ajinca – but Stiemsma was the only other big, and he’s hardly the master of cutting to the open space.  After the third bad pass, Monty pulled him for good.
  • For a lot of the game I felt like the Pelicans did a good job slowing Dragic.  Of course, he finished with 20 points on 14 shots and nine assists, so clearly I don’t know what I’m talking about.
  • Rivers is too frequently intent on pounding the ball in semi-transition.  A lot of the time he has to finish the successful advance of the ball up the floor with some sort of dribble flourish – behind the back, two dribbles between the legs.  Etc.   Sometimes, it causes him to miss open looks for multiple teammates.  This is why it’s hard to convert a lifelong scoring guard to a point.
  • Withey made himself available all night long and showed a knack fading back from the paint when a guard drove.  That little fade gave him multiple opportunities to be in an open spot when his man moved to protect the paint.  Those opportunities turned into a lot of nice dunks.  Withey’s defense and ability around the basket is very nice.  Let’s hope added strength adds rebounding prowess as well.
  • The energy was so dead in the first quarter.  Tyreke was barely jumping on his layups.  Aminu was playing, fast, loose, and sloppy.  And then Morrow checked in – and he was shouting at teammates, jumping around, competing – and it was infectious.  I love Morrow.
  • I liked Monty Williams starting the game with Darius Miller on Dragic.  I was confused that Bledsoe didn’t see that Roberts was guarding him and waited until the third quarter to start torching the smaller guy.
  • I like that Anthony Davis won’t let the team declare him out for the rest of the season.  What do you think?

Next game is Friday in OKC!

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