New Orleans Pelicans

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We let the news of Monty Williams’ exit sink in for a day before writing this post. I wanted to get the feelings and opinions around the league before diving into this topic. I have never been a hater of Monty Williams, but he has sometimes struggled in late-game situations and got swept in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs this season. However, I’m not entirely on board with the latest decision from the Pelicans organization. In this post, we’ll briefly cover the career Monty had in New Orleans, discuss this past season, how the organization’s been plagued with injuries and what the future holds for the birds from the Crescent City.

The move to fire Monty Williams came somewhat of a surprise around the league but it has always been a looming possibility around New Orleans. Monty brought the Pelicans to the playoffs for the first time since they drafted Anthony Davis four years ago. For the first time in its young franchise’s history, the Pelicans had made the postseason. You may be thinking that it was all Anthony Davis, and Monty had nothing to do with it, but you’d be wrong. Kinda.

Obviously, Anthony Davis had an absolute breakout season and is now widely regarded as the world of basketball’s next big thing but Monty had a lot to do with it. Pelicans went 45-37 this season, which is the best in franchise history, and they did it with guys missing games due to injuries (more on that later). The season ultimately ended after a 20 point deficit was quickly erased in Game 3 against the No. 1 seeded Golden State Warriors. It was a flat out embarrassment in front of a spirited New Orleans crowd. That game in particular could’ve been Monty’s undoing, and I think that is completely unfair. You cannot place blame on a coach for allowing 14 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter alone. That’s on the toughness of the players on the court and just a pure lack of tenacity and postseason experience. I believe Monty’s future is bright wherever he goes because it seems that every ex-Hornet/Pelican sees greener pastures when they leave (cough cough Austin Rivers). Monty has coached with Team USA, San Antonio Spurs and will now be looking towards leading the Orlando Magic or Denver Nuggets this offseason.

Injuries have been the constant thorn in Monty’s tenure as the head coach. In five seasons, he has never truly had a lineup at full strength for the duration of the season. We all know the history of Eric Gordon. Recently we have seen Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday catch the injury bug and sidelined them for most of both last season and this season. This year alone, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon missed a combined 98 games. Jrue missed 42 games this season. Injuries have been an unfortunate trend for the Pelicans and who knows how good this young squad could’ve been at full strength? I know that they wouldn’t have had to play the Warriors in the first round at least.

There are many coaches on the horizon and the youthful talent is abundant in the Big Easy. Offseason moves should only involve finding a new coaching staff because I truly believe that the Pelicans should build from within and try to form a nucleus of young talent and gain experience together. Staying healthy will ultimately bring success to this up-and-coming franchise and I’m very excited to see the progression of Anthony Davis unfold right before our eyes. First, we need to sign that man and get him the coach he wants.

Here are the possibilities:

Tom Thibodeau

This is the choice that makes the most sense to everyone around the league on paper. Thibodeau has coached Anthony Davis in the Team USA circuit and has brought great success to the Chicago Bulls. Thibodeau preaches toughness both offensively and defensively and will play his guys upwards of 40 minutes a game. He is currently down 3-2 against the LeBron James-led Cavs and I believe he sees the light at the end of the tunnel with the Bulls. He would be a good fit with the Pelicans and could bring valuable postseason experience to the young squad.

John Calipari

John Calipari has solidified himself as the greatest recruiter in college basketball history. He had the most talented Kentucky team maybe ever in the realm of college basketball and gathers talent annually. He has also coached Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans during their college careers. Not sure if Cal has the X’s and O’s yet for the NBA but he would sure bring excitement and a completely new identity to New Orleans.

Mark Jackson

I think Mark Jackson is an exceptional players’ coach. What I mean by that is that he would be completely adored by the players and organization. He is a fun guy to be around on and off the court but is in the same ballpark as Monty when it comes to calling set plays and running a fluid offense.

Scott Brooks

Brooks did a fine job with the Oklahoma City Thunder. You can always tell that he had his players’ backs on and off the court. He struggled with injuries all year which ultimately cost him his job. The Thunder failed to make the postseason this year and it was simply because Kevin Durant was sidelined for most of the year. He falls into the same category as Mark Jackson. Brooks had exceptional talent but couldn’t exactly wrangle them in to play his style of ball.

Alvin Gentry

Alvin Gentry currently is being courted by the Chicago Bulls but that doesn’t mean anything at this point in time. Gentry is currently assisting under Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors and has seen tremendous success this season. He runs an uptempo style offensively which would go swimmingly for the New Orleans Pelicans. He has had some postseason success and has miles of coaching experience as he is nearing the age of 60. I believe Gentry is the dark-horse candidate for the New Orleans Pelicans and I think he would do wonders for the organization.

Whichever way the Pelicans decide to go, I hope it makes Anthony Davis happy. He is the true future of the franchise and management should make their decision based off his opinions.

But for now, farewell Monty. You are a classy man on and off the court and you will be sorely missed. Watch an interview from WWL below:

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It was a heartbreaking finish last night in the Smoothie King Center for the raucous crowd in New Orleans. The Pelicans blew a 20 point fourth quarter lead to fall from cloud nine 123 – 119 in overtime against the Steph Curry-led Warriors. The first round playoff series 3-0.

MVP front runner Curry scored 40 points, including an insane and possible and-one three pointer with two seconds remaining in the final moments of the game. I am still dumbfounded that the Pelicans failed to foul Curry and force him to go to the line instead of letting a three pointer fly and tie the game. But that’s not what ultimately lost the game for the inexperienced Pelicans. Allowing offensive rebounds on almost every possession in the fourth quarter was the complete back breaker.

The Pelicans went into the fourth quarter on a major high as they led 89-69. An incredible offensive and defensive showing for the first three quarters that included a 19-0 run that spanded through the first and second quarters. Then, the fourth started and it was a swift yet long and agonizing crumble that will haunt fans and players alike as they enter Jazz Fest weekend.

Klay Thompson finished with 28 points, hitting big time shots throughout the entire night. The Pelicans did an average job of stopping everyone else on the Warriors except for Thompson and Curry. Draymond Green didn’t win the Defensive Player of The Year but deserves an Oscar for his childish flop during the game. Harrison Barnes followed suit as he too was hit with a phantom elbow, let’s see if the NBA grows a pair and fines the two thespians for their acting jobs.

Anthony Davis had 29 points and 15 rebounds but missed a pivotal free throw that could’ve put the Pelicans up four with under ten seconds remaining. This led to the Curry-like three to put the game into overtime.

The overtime period was deflating. The crowd was stunned, the players were stunned and Golden State kept pushing tempo and running the show. Pelicans were gifted a shot late but a worn down Davis failed to connect on a Bogut-contested runner that ultimately ended the dreadful night.

I’ll close this depressing piece with stat lines for the Pelicans. Eric Gordon finally went cold going 2-10 from the field with an abysmal six points. Tyreke Evans finished with 19 points but had four turnovers and was torched at times defensively. Ryan “Flamethrower” Anderson was one of the few bright spots shooting 10-14 from the field and hit huge jumpers over defenders like they weren’t even there. Norris Cole played great again scoring 16 off the bench and Jrue Holiday had 10. Quincy Pondexter needs to be like Stella and get his groove back. The swingman’s +/- last night was -31. That can’t happen, that’s inexcusable for such a good basketball player like QPon. We’ll see how the birds from the Crescent City respond Saturday night.

Pelicans will host the Warriors in a do-or-die opportunity Saturday night 7pm at the Smoothie King Center. A loss Saturday marks the end of a roller coaster like year for the Pelicans.

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Pelicans Make The Playoffs!

by Jordan McGuire on April 16, 2015

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In front of a red and sold out Smoothie King Center, the Anthony Davis-led Pelicans achieved an incredible playoff berth against all odds. The New Orleans Pelicans punched their playoff party ticket on the final day of the NBA regular season with a 108-103 against the San Antonio Spurs. Pelicans will match-up against the No. 1 seeded Golden State Warriors in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

In the biggest game of the Pelicans’ young franchise they played with emotion, energy, togetherness and mental toughness. They had a 23 point led at one point during the game and held on to win by a mere five points. It was without a doubt the biggest win of Anthony Davis and Monty Williams’ career as Pelicans. “We went to AD down the stretch and he came through on both ends of the floor,” Monty Williams said. The two were emotional after the victory and Davis expressed his love for his head coach.

Tony Parker had an outstanding first half and scored a team high 23 points and Boris Diaw finished with 20 points. The loss for the Spurs dropped them to the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoff standings. If they would’ve won last night, they would’ve knocked the Pelicans out of playoff contention and secured the No. 2 seed.

Anthony Davis finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds. Tyreke Evans played well down the stretch scoring 19 points and dishing out 11 assists. A huge second half shooting performance helped Eric Gordon scoring 14 points. Also, big performance from the energetic Norris Cole both offensively and defensively. The flat-top Cleveland State alum scored a quick 10 points off the bench making his first 5-6 shots. He also did an outstanding job defending San Antonio’s backcourt.

And I’d like to thank Jrue Holiday for coming back and guarding, scoring and ultimately leading on the court. Jrue did a phenomenal job shutting down Tony Parker in the second half limiting him to tough driving lanes and forcing him to pick up his dribble.

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I’ll close with the greatest quote I’ve ever heard from future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, who added 15 points and 10 rebounds, reprinted here from an ESPN interview:

“We’re happy for him, very happy for him,” Tim Duncan said about Monty Williams. “He’s worked his butt off over these past couple years. Obviously, I wanted to win and that didn’t change anything, but I guess I get some solace in the fact that he made the playoffs.”

Actually I’ll close with this:

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Spurs are favored by five points tonight at the Smoothie King Center. They are also fighting for the two seed in the Western Conference. They are also the reigning champs of the basketball world. They have also won 11 games in a row.

But they aren’t fighting for their lives and aren’t one win away from making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The complexity of the Western Conference Playoff standings is so difficult that I had to run to Reddit to gather all the scenarios. Simplified, Pels advance with a victory against the Spurs, which is possible, or an OKC loss to the Timberwolves, which is incredibly unlikely.

The Pelicans won Monday night in Minnesota 100-88. Anthony Davis went for 24 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks in the victory. With that win the Pelicans were one step closer to paradise, yet the Thunder managed to beat Portland causing the fate of the playoff dream to come down to one final game.

With a win, the Spurs will finish as the No. 2 seed. With a loss, the Spurs could drop as far as the No. 6 seed. This isn’t necessarily a “must-win” scenario for the Spurs, but this game definitely garners significant weight.

The New Orleans Pelicans have won two out of three meetings with the Spurs this year and the lone loss was when Omer Asik inadvertently tipped in the winning basket in his own basket. In these three meetings, Anthony Davis has averaged 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks per game.

This could very well be a “make-or-break” game for perennial hot seat head coach Monty Williams. In an interview with ESPN, Williams said, “We get to play the champs on our home floor, our crowd should be crazy and our guys should have a good time with it.”

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Keys to the Game:

Out rebound and out hustle the Spurs. Pelicans front court of Davis and Asik need to grab both offensive and defensive boards and limit the Spurs to one and done possessions in order to win this game. Limit Duncan’s touches and keep San Antonio big men off of the offensive glass.

Keep Tony Parker out of the lane. Tony Parker will get the likes of Quincy Pondexter, Tyreke Evans, Norris Cole and hopefully Jrue Holiday tonight. Monty Williams does a good job of rotating able defenders to neutralize opposing stars. Pels must create physical match-ups with Tony Parker and keep him from getting our bigs in foul trouble or slicing through the lane for easy layups.

Ryan Anderson needs to hit shots early. The Flamethrower has been in somewhat of a shooting slump since his return. He has all the right offensive moves and footwork but needs to cash in with big buckets early to gain confidence. Also, Ryno, if you’re reading this, take a step closer and toe the three point line. There has been way too many opportunities wasted when a wide open three pointer comes up short simply because it is shot from four feet beyond the arc.

The crowd must be in every possession and supporting the Pelicans for the entirety of the game. Don’t get too low, don’t get too high. Know that the Spurs are one of the best teams in basketball. The crowd must have a playoff like atmosphere and will hopefully be close to full capacity.

Come support the Pelicans for their final game of the regular season. They will take on the San Antonio Spurs at 7pm.

 

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Pelicans Fall To Grizzlies

by Jordan McGuire on April 9, 2015

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After an amazing victory at the Smoothie King Center on Tuesday night, the Pelicans fall hard to the Grizzlies 110-74. The Pelicans now sit tied at the eighth spot with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Luckily for the Pels, they own the tiebreaker against the Thunder, which means they can finish the season tied with the Thunder and they will still advance.

Memphis had control of the game from the tip off. It honestly never looked in doubt for the hard-nose Grizzlies. They defend, they battle, the hit shots and they looked fresh and played with energy all game.

Zach Randolph finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, he actually had a double double going into halftime. Jeff Green and Marc Gasol each had 15 points to match Randolph’s output. The Grizzlies literally dominated in every facet of the game and took advantage of the worn down Pelicans.

Anthony Davis scored a team high 12 points. Only three Pelicans scored in double figures, Tyreke Evans with 10, Quincy Pondexter with 11 and Davis with 12. Eric Gordon struggled putting the ball in the basket going 4-13 (31%) finishing with nine points.

This by no means is the end of the world for the Pelicans. Are we inching closer to the Panic Button? Maybe. Is it time to push said button? No way. The Pelicans now get a day of rest and a day of preparation for the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are on their way out of the Western Conference playoffs as they sit 3.5 games behind the eighth spot.

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The Thunder are currently on a four game slide and will play Sacramento Friday night. The Pelicans will host the Suns in a must win scenario. Pelicans finish the season playing at home against Phoenix, on the road at Houston and Minnesota then come home to finish out the year against the reigning champs, the San Antonio Spurs.

The Thunder’s last four remaining games is an easier path as they’ll finish with a home game with Sacramento, travel to Indiana to play the Pacers, come back home to host Portland and then travel to Minnesota to close out the year.

The Pelicans will likely have to go 3-1 in this final four game stretch to make the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history. Support the Pelicans Friday night at 7pm at the Smoothie King Center.

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Pelicans Hold on to Beat the Top-Seeded Warriors

by Jordan McGuire

The spirit of Jackie Moon and the Flint Michigan Tropics were upon us at the Smoothie King Center last night. The race for eighth place has a new front runner and its the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans score 60 points in the second frame to erase a twelve point deficit going into halftime and […]

PREVIEW: Pelicans Host The Warriors

by Jordan McGuire

“Her life is in your hands, Dude. Mr. Lebowski asked me to repeat that: Her life is in your hands, Dude.” That’s what Coach Monty Williams is telling Anthony Davis about the Pelicans’ season-ending stretch. Every game counts as the Pelicans control their own destiny to make that coveted eighth spot in the Western Conference […]

Pelicans Fall Short To The Houston Rockets

by Jordan McGuire

Last night, Anthony Davis went for 24 points and 14 rebounds but missed a dreadful eight free throws on route to the 95 – 93 loss to the Houston Rockets. The team as a whole shot a disappointing 20-32 (62.5%) from the charity stripe and gave up too many open looks from in the paint […]

Pelicans Snap Hawks’ Nineteen Game Win Streak

by Jordan McGuire

Mondays aren’t always dreadful. The Pelicans had six players score in double figures to end the Atlanta Hawks’ franchise best nineteen game winning streak Monday night 115-100. It looked as if Anthony Davis’ left groin was doing just fine as he had another MVP-like performance with 29 points and 13 rebounds with multiple explosive dunks that whipped […]