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Nothing But a Good Time

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Published: April 15, 2015

In just under 20 hours, the New Orleans Pelicans will be in the 2015 NBA Playoffs, or the New Orleans Pelicans will not be in the 2015 NBA Playoffs. In either case, there’s plenty of time to discuss why the one that will happen actually happened. I’m sure it will be wonderful when those articles come out and we all discuss (you guys, too) the finer points.

For the next just under 20 hours, I’m focused on the play in to the Playoffs. Other people are going to talk about the subtleties of who is and is not playing, matchup, where the AC systems causes turbulent flow in the arc of a free throw, some overstatement of the importance of a three-point shot, some understatement of the value of rebounding with two hands (preferably both one player’s), and more.

I’m going to talk about the stakes.

First, in case you are just hearing about the game, let’s lay this out clearly. There are 3 cases (and 2 games):

  • The Pelicans make the playoffs in spectacular fashion if they beat the San Antonio Spurs, something that they are not favored to do at this time.
  • The Pelicans make the playoffs in less spectacular fashion if they lose to the Spurs, but the Minnesota Timberwolves defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder, something they are not favored to do at this time.
  • The Pelicans do not make the playoffs if they lose to the Spurs and the Thunder win. This is the most likely scenario, it seems.

Still, this is why they play the games. New Orleans’ chances at this time may not be over 50%, but that does not mean the chances are negligible. No. This team seems to be as healthy as it can be right now. It has all the players it counts on available at least in some capacity, and one of them is Anthony Davis. As such, the stakes actually matter, as the outcome is in play.

Not at Stake

  • A title this season. This was never going to happen this season.
  • A title in Davis’ time in New Orleans. Everything has to be run through the Davis filter, or it’s not complete. This team has made the progress that was reasonable to make this season, maybe more. They are on the path with or without this game win or making the playoffs.
  • Monty’s job. I could be wrong about this, but, in my opinion, this man has done more than enough to keep his job. More than half of the criticism levied against him is from those unfit to judge. He has his limitations and flaws, and I have posted and commented on these myself. Many smart people question aspects of his coaching, but coaching is more complex than most give it credit for being. Many quotes of Monty’s also come from protecting his players. If it makes him look bad, he takes that. This leads those not reading only the words, understandably, to irrelevant conclusions. He’s highly thought of outside the organization, and though I do not have specific knowledge I can trust fully of how he’s thought of inside the organization, I do think he should be brought back.
  • Dell’s job. Again, I could be wrong about this, but, in my opinion, this man has done far more than enough to keep his job. I have written extensively on his deals individually (which is not easy, Dell, you sneaky fella) and collectively, and his work is far above average. When you factor in the starting point, the esteem rises. When you factor in his innovations in trades, success in restricted free agency, and the need to go against the prevailing winds in the NBA to react to the leaping paradigm shift that is Anthony Davis, you have to commend him. It appears to me that there is a clear plan threaded through the moves, and this plan is not complete. He needs a season to complete it. Therefore, I think he’ll be back regardless of the outcome of this game or the playoffs.
  • Any player’s job in New Orleans. The Pelicans are facing a superior team. The key pieces are the team that won 7 finals games in the past 2 seasons, including pantsing the Heat last season and losing the season before likely because of one of the greatest shots of all time (a title-worthy shot, make no mistake about it). They are supposed to lose. Barring sports treason, these player’s evaluations are for the most part done. This is not some extra credit game.
  • Big game experience. This is a big game. It’s not the biggest game, but for a team trying to break through and TAKE respect, this is the moment and stage all athletes at this level welcome. They dream about it. These moments may be part of the reason they dedicate their lives to this well before they can sniff a paycheck. They are going to experience the hell out of this big game against an entire Wall in the Hall.
  • Fun. I’m enjoying this regardless. I’m going to Tracey’s after regardless. THIS . . . THIS . . . THIS is why we sit through so many games for so many seasons . . . through relocation threats . . . through the prevailing national ignorance and dismissal of the team . . . through the gaffes and missteps and disasters . . . for the few games, if they ever come, where what you have been working for as a team and as a fan matters. No, this is not at stake. We have that NOW.

At Stake

  • More fun. What is at stake is MORE FUN. The playoff series the New Orleans Hornets played against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011 was one they were doomed to lose, but it was fun to watch. Game 1 and Game 4 were fantastic wins. I watched one at a bar, and I still have picture from it, and I still remember talking to John a few times and seeing him at Saints games. I watched Game 4 from my seats and McNamara was in town watching, staying at my house. I was actually out of town for Game 3, and he’d decorated my lawn with playoff signs he picked up. We ate downtown before the game. It was just fun. I want more of those moments that sit on the shelf in your mind that never gets dusty, that never has a cat leap up to it and knock stuff over, that’s lit just so with those fancy hidden lights.
  • Playoff Experience. Big game experience they’ll get, but being in the playoffs is a little different. A team has to pace itself against you. It can study and focus on your for a much longer time. The schedule is different, the media is different. It’s also a fun experience, and one that for this team can represent a renewal. Facing the Warriors is a tough task, but with nothing to lose, the pressure may not be there. They can play to send a message. If you know you aren’t going to win a fight, you can get some satisfaction from bleeding on the guys shoes, at least, and make sure everyone watching is surprised at what it took to take you down.
  • More money. Make no mistake about it, the biggest thing at stake for this team is more money. Making the playoffs in itself is worth a little coin, but the returns next season will be amplified. Every sales pitch will say “playoffs.” Fans and businesses will hear about the improvement, how Davis is an MVP candidate. They’ve been telling us for years, and they were right. Now’s your chance to get in or be left out like many Saints fans are shut out from the Dome and sponsors missed their chance to be sponsors when the rates were lower. And they are 100% right. Ticket sales will increase. Sponsors will be added. Merchandise will flow from the Smoothie King Center to the streets, and that image to the minds of more consumers. If it does not happen, it’ll happen following next season with a smaller bump this coming season, but the sooner, the better.
  • Additional pride. Players, fans, the city, and the franchise can all walk a little taller if this team makes the playoffs, particularly if they knock of the Spurs to do it. They can be proud of their work to this point, especially under the circumstances, but it’ll be more if they make it in. Pride matters, especially when there’s been so much drama with this team and the completely baseless claim that Louisiana is just a place for basketball. Well, the NBA, the NBA Draft, and the Hall of Fame all beg to differ with the idiot spinning that lazy yarn. We bring some fine football to the world, some fine baseball, and we deliver some fine basketball. Hockey, you’re next.

There’s some important stuff on the line, but not nearly as much as it may seem. In fact, it’s all pretty clearly lagniappe that’s on the line.

I talked to a few members of the community today and a few people from Bensonia. The mood was pretty much universal: This is going to be fun. It wasn’t a sales job. That sort of thing has not been attempted on the doctor in a long time. No, in each case, it was just two people looking forward to this game. It was very refreshing.

All of you readers, all you writers, everyone in the organization: Set aside the thoughts, agenda, stories, narratives, incentives, etc. and just try to enjoy the game as it happens and enjoy the opportunity we thought may not come.

Players, coaches, staff: Get ’em!

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