It’s been a rough 2014 for the New Orleans Pelicans. The NBA’s newest bird had their wings clipped in January when Ryan Anderson went down with a herniated disc, Jrue Holiday developed a stress fracture in his right leg and Jason Smith was lost for the season after knee surgery. On Monday they will visit the Toronto Raptors on the back-to-back after a game in Brooklyn.
The Pelicans were 14-15 at the end of December, but started the New Year on a 1-9 run that took them out of the playoff picture in the tough Western Conference. Since then, they have gone 7-3, starting to figure out how to win without 3 of their best players. Looking past the Pelicans at this point would be a huge mistake.
A big part of the Pelicans recent resurgence has been the play of All-Star replacement Anthony Davis. Davis has averaged better than 20 points and 10 rebounds in 2014 and is playing over 40 minutes per game in February. Eric Gordon has stepped up his game to average over 16.5 points in the New Year and 28-year-old sophomore point guard Brian Roberts has more than doubled his production since being inserted into the starting lineup on January 10th.
The Pelicans are 22-27 and no one would have blamed them if they had decided to pack things in after what happened in January and that is what makes these injured birds such a dangerous opponent.
The Raptors have enjoyed a relatively injury-free season after several years in a row of watching multiple key players go down for extended periods of time. They are returning home on 2 days rest after a tough 2-3 Western conference road trip.
This team gelled after a major trade and they now sit atop of the Atlantic Division with a 26-24 record. The Raptors may have the easiest schedule in the entire NBA the rest of the way, but they know it’s still played one game at a time.
First-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan leads the Raptors in scoring and All-Star snub Kyle Lowry leads them on the court. Toronto has been a tough team for opponents to put away this season and that is reflected in their 14-14 road record.
Head Coach Dwane Casey has insisted from the start that this season has been all about the development of DeRozan and the sophomores Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas and with all 3 players participating in All-Star Weekend, it would be hard to argue that he hasn’t fulfilled the team’s expectations and then some.
“We want to compete every time we walk out, but the main thing is we are building,” Casey said. “We are getting better in small areas and in some areas we are not. My thing is competing. You go out – compete and fight physically – and then you let the chips fall where they may. Only time and maturity is going to help certain situations.
“Everyone is talking about success and we are still a growing team, a developing team. Again, we got to keep that in mind. We get upset when we get a chance to put ourselves in a position to win, but we are still a young team, a team that is still learning.”
After losing in Los Angeles to the Clippers, Casey made it clear what the goals were heading into the All-Star break – look after home court.
“I just told the guys, we got to go back and take care of home,” Casey said.
Also check out:
Raptors Coach Casey Wins With All-Star Selections
This season started with speculation that Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey wasn’t new President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri’s guy and therefore, his tenure in Toronto would be short-lived. Now with 3 Raptors players selected to represent Toronto in headline events on each day of All-Star Weekend, perhaps it’s time to stop wondering about Coach Casey’s future.