Dig Baton Rouge

Hot Cole

By Casey Gisclair

It’s no secret that New Orleans Pelicans’ coach Monty Williams is on the hot seat. The argument can be made that the reason he’s always standing throughout the game is because his chair’s temperature is absolute en fuego.

But for as tense as things are for the Pelicans’ embattled head coach, they are equally important for the man calling the shots – general manager Dell Demps. If ownership decides to make a change at season’s end, there is a pretty good chance that Williams and Demps will be graded as one. If one goes, they both may go. That’s just the reality of the situation for an NBA franchise that has now struggled for a half-decade.

But with the team needing a shot in the arm in the absolute worst way, Demps picked up his phone a few weeks ago and dialed the 305 – hooking up with Miami Heat general manager Pat Riley.

The result was a minor deal for Miami, but one that was more significant for the Pelicans – a move that just might save the team’s season.

Simply put: Norris Cole has been an absolute breath of fresh air to New Orleans. He’s been a guy that has jolted the Pels at a time when they’ve needed energy the most – a time when All-Star forward Anthony Davis and point guard Jrue Holiday are both on the shelf.

Norris Cole is a guy that has never been afraid of the big moment. A staple of the Heat during the LeBron James Era, Cole both attempted and made countless big shots throughout his career. He was a regular rotation player for the Heat in his four seasons with the team, often playing the final minutes of the game for his offensive versatility. He can play two-guard when needed in a small lineup, and he’s an adequate defender for a reserve player.

In the playoffs, Cole wasn’t afraid of the big moment, often showing a willingness to make plays when the Heat desperately needed offense. In the 2012-13 NBA Playoffs, Cole shot a ridiculous 53 percent from behind the 3-point line – several of those shots helped the team win their second-straight NBA Championship.

With Goran Dragic now in Miami, Cole became expendable for the Heat, who shipped the 26-year-old guard to New Orleans as part of the three-team trade.

Since arriving in New Orleans, Cole has been an instant impact guy – a guy who has helped swing a couple key games that the Pelicans have needed to stay on pace in their current playoff chase.

With Cole, the Pelicans have a patchwork starting point guard while Holiday recovers from his injuries – something that the team arguably hasn’t had since Holiday has been a Pelican. When Holiday comes back, the team will have a lights-out shooter off the bench that can contribute big minutes from either guard position – a leader on a team that doesn’t necessarily thrive in its leadership roles.

Norris Cole is an NBA Champion. A two-time NBA Champion. Even though he wasn’t one of the top players on either of those two teams, the fact that he’s been on the biggest stages and has experienced success is something that this team doesn’t currently have, but desperately needs.

Tyreke Evans has never won games before, nor has Eric Gordon.

Anthony Davis reached the pinnacle of the college level, but his NBA experiences have been room temperature in terms of success on the floor.

To have a guy with a lifetime record over .500 is something that this team didn’t have much of before the trade, but it’s something that the team could certainly use down the stretch run of the season.

At the end of the day, it may not matter because we’ve been on the record in this column as saying that we think the Oklahoma City Thunder will do the work necessary to win the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. But with Kevin Durant aching and Russell Westbrook’s cheek smashed in, all bets are off.

Maybe, just maybe, the Pelicans can do the unthinkable and prove me wrong to become the No. 8 seed.

If they do, there’s no doubt that Norris Cole will be a big part of the plans.

And with every big 3-pointer or defensive stand the guard makes, Demps seat gets just a few degrees cooler.

He was just what the doctor ordered for this team at a time when it needed good news more than ever.


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