By Frank McLean
We are just 3-weeks into the 2015-2016 NBA’s regular season schedule and one of the big surprises is the New Orleans Pelicans. 10-games into the campaign the team is sitting dead last in Western Conference at 1-9!
Getting behind the 8-ball is a recipe for disaster in most competitive conference in the league. They are already 4-full games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and last playoff spot in the group.
When the Pelicans took on the Raptors Friday night at the Air Canada Centre they were missing the first string. Kendrick Perkins (pectoral), Quincy Pondexter (knee), Tyreke Evans (knee), Norris Cole (ankle sprain) and superstar Anthony Davis (hip). Playing an NBA game without this group of quality talent is like taking a knife to a gunfight.
Friday night the junior varsity hung in there going to the locker room at half-time tied 40-40, but in the end they couldn’t last and lost by 19 points, 100-81. Then on Sunday they headed to New York’s Madison Square Garden to take on a rebuilding Knicks team and lost a close one 95-87. Davis was back after a 2-game absence and scored 36-points and added 11-boards, but this is a team game and the man they call “Unibrow” can’t do it by himself.
“It feels great to be back but that doesn’t mean anything,” Davis said after Sunday’s game. “We still lost. I just want to win. I can score-42, 2-points, zero points, 1-point, I just want to win. Right now we just have to find a way to do that.”
No coach ever admits that injuries are a factor to a team’s lack of success, but in this case the ever growing Pelican sick bay is the problem.
After Sunday’s game in New York, Pelican’s head coach Alvin Gentry’s post game comments were pretty much word for word the same thing he said after Friday’s game in Toronto.
“We’re the only ones that can dig us out of this,” Gentry said. “We don’t have any excuses. As I said, we can play hard and we can compete and do what we’re supposed to do and if it works out, then fine. If it doesn’t work out, then fine also. But we’re not doing that. We’re not competing at the highest level that we can from the standpoint that you get the game back workable.”
Gentry did not say the dreaded “I” word. But it’s hard to compete when four starters are gone from your line-up in the NBA on a nightly basis. It’s star driven league and when you don’t have your stars you start 1-9.
Denver has the 8th spot in the West right now. Then you have to add Memphis, Houston, Minnesota and Portland sitting 10-thru-13 as teams good enough to have a shot at a playoff spot.
Time is running out for the Pelicans to get back in the mix for a chance to play playoff basketball and the longer it takes to get a full line-up back, the more likely they can pretty well write off the 2015-2016 season.
And that’s a shame because, when healthy, this is a talented and fun team to watch.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.