Start Kira

Rookie point guard Kira Lewis Jr. is the future of the New Orleans Pelicans that future should start now.

During the postgame show with David Wesley and Erin Hartigan on Fox Sports New Orleans, Wesley joked that watching the Pelicans was like being Bill Murray’s character in the 1993 film Groundhog Day in which he experiences the same day over and over again with the same results in a continuous loop.

I’ve compared this team to that movie for a long time on this blog and on Twitter. The thing about this comparison is that you can’t blame David Griffin or Stan Van Gundy because we made this joke throughout the Anthony Davis era and under the watches of Alvin Gentry and Dell Demps.

Two different management styles under the same ownership can’t both be wrong, right? So what gives?

When I think about this Pelicans team in year two of Zion Williamson, it very much reminds me of year two of Anthony Davis. In 2013, Jrue Holiday was acquired at the price of players and a first-round pick. Tyreke Evans was acquired via sign-and-trade for way too big a cap hit. That team had moments but they could not defend or stay consistent enough to win their way into relevancy.

This is a pattern I’m noticing with this current Pels team in 2021. We have a budding elite Zion unfolding in front of our eyes and he is surrounded by a squad of talent and potential talent.

The difference between year two of Davis and year two of Zion is that the cost to surrounding Davis with Holiday, Evans, and Eric Gordon put the franchise in major debt. Year two of Zion features a squad of young players that have to prove they deserve serious time in the NBA. This is an evaluation year. There’s enough investment in the current squad to give everyone surrounding Zion the opportunity to sink or swim. The difference is that these players, even if they don’t work out, either depart at no cost or become assets in acquiring bigger pieces.

If things aren’t happy in New Orleans, the front office is in great position to shake this all up with their load of young players and future picks. Let’s watch the organization to see if they will be willing to dive into the stockpile or be gun-shy when trade periods are on.

In my last blog, I wrote about how patience was paying off for the Pelicans following their four-game win-streak. I was buying in and believed that maybe the turning point had arrived.

However, the four-game win streak followed by a three-game losing streak is a symptom we have seen far too often with this core. In the aftermath of Sunday’s 123-112 loss to Detroit, Van Gundy said that the time has arrived for him to make changes in the player rotation, signaling that anything could be fair game.

As each day passes and we wake up to the sound of Sonny & Cher performing “I’ve Got You, Babe” while an analog alarm clock buzzes at 6 a.m. sharp over and over again, there is one hope emerging that could break the cycle.

Lewis is the change that the Pelicans need.

The only knock on Lewis I’ve seen is that he’s undersized by weight for NBA standards and it hurts his chances at finishing at the rim. Even still, Lewis still penetrates on offense and attacks. He can still power through and even if he misses, every drive opens up positive opportunities for the teammates around him.

Lewis is the only true point guard on this team and his court vision, passing, and basketball IQ is undeniable. He’s also the best defensive guard on the team, utilizing his speed and alert hands, disrupting passing lanes and picking the pockets of ball handlers.

Lewis also isn’t a scrub off of the street. He was selected 13th overall in this season’s draft out of Alabama, a high-level college program in the SEC. He was personally recruited by Crimson Tide head coach Avery Johnson, a legendary NBA point guard.

The makings of a future great floor general appear to be possessed by Lewis. It says something when a player is 19 years old and the commentary surrounding the player is a desire that his slightly older teammates would show as much competitive tenacity, engagement, and leadership as he has.

Why prolong the inevitable? Why get bogged down in other guys that aren’t showing that they can be invested in. Considering all players and picks can be used to land a bigger fish, is it safe to say that the only future cornerstones of this franchise that are set in stone are Lewis and Zion?

Perhaps that thought is a far too aggressive one. Regardless, the one thing I’ve already decided about when the season will be evaluated is that I want to see Lewis and Zion be the second coming of the “Crescent City Connection” for many years to come.

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