By Casey Gisclair
In my last column, I was upbeat and enthusiastic, detailing all of the different things I wanted to see out of the New Orleans Pelicans in the second half of the season.
That sound you just heard was me crumpling that column into a tightly wound ball. That swoosh and thud you just heard was that ball of paper hitting the bottom of the trash can.
Throw it all away.
All it took were two games of the Post-All-Star break cycle to convince me that the Pelicans were done for in this season.
That’s it – just two games.
I’m not a flip-flopper, but just hear me out. This past week has brought so much bad news to New Orleans’ NBA franchise that I’m now convinced that the team’s best option is to accept the reality, which is that they are not capable of making the playoffs. With that reality sunk in, I am fully willing to slide into tank mode to try and keep the team’s 2015 First Round Draft Pick – something that can only happen if the team has a terrible close to the season.
Hear me out.
The trade deadline was a nightmare for the Pelicans. It was the worst 15-20-minute stretch of the team’s season. I’m not talking about anything the team did. Norris Cole is a nice piece and will help. But I’m talking about what the Oklahoma City Thunder did – firmly establishing themselves as the final playoff team out-West.
By getting Kevin Durant healthy (or maybe not) and hauling in Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler and Steve Novak at the trade deadline, the Thunder have become a completely different basketball team. They now have shooters to free up the driving lanes for Kevin Durant and especially Russell Westbrook. They also have a post player with a pulse in Enes Kanter – something they’ve literally never had in the KD/Westbrook era.
With the Thunder’s recent surge, they are already ahead of the Pelicans in the standings. With their recent trades, there is absolutely, positively no way possible that New Orleans can win more games than this team down the stretch.
The Thunder WILL be the eighth playoff team in the West, barring catastrophic injury problems down the stretch. They know it, and it’s time New Orleans knows it, too.
Just look at the week this team’s had on the floor itself.
Before the All-Star break even ended, the Pels were slapped in the face with the bad news that point guard Jrue Holiday will likely miss the lion’s share of the second half after reinjuring his lower right leg.
They took the floor on Friday night and didn’t exactly look inspired with their point guard out, even despite the game marking Anthony Davis’ return from injury.
The loss to Orlando was putrid. That’s a game that no NBA Playoff team will ever lose. That’s a game Oklahoma City wins 99 times out of 100. That’s a game that Monty Williams loses 60 times out of 100. (See also: losses to Philly, Boston, Indiana, Sacramento and many others).
The next night was even worse – even in victory over the Heat. Anthony Davis re-hurt his shoulder, and Ryan Anderson had to be taken off the floor after suffering a substantial injury to his right knee, he could miss as much as a month.
With Davis, who will be out for 1-2 weeks, the franchise needs to look out for the young man’s safety and future. Sit him indefinitely and don’t play him again until that shoulder is fully healed – even if it means that the next game he plays is opening night next season.
What else is there to lose?
The No. 8 seed is seemingly off the table, and the only way to get a first round pick that could help your roster is to lose games. And a lot of games at that. The only way the Pelicans keep their first round pick from the Omer Asik trad with Houston is if they get a top 5 lottery pick.
So do that – lose.
It’s what the team needs right now.
You’re not catching Oklahoma City. Trying to do that is wasted effort at this point.
You know it. I know it. And Monty knows it, too.
He just can’t do it because he needs wins down the stretch to save his job.