Dig Baton Rouge

The End for Monty Williams?

By Casey Gisclair
@casey_gisclair

When the New Orleans Pelicans won just 21 games in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season, we all gave head coach Monty Williams a pass because it was the team’s “rebuilding season” – it’s first without Chris Paul.

When the team finished well below .500 in each of the next two seasons after that, we gave Williams a free ride because we said the team was injury-riddled and depleted in the murderer’s row that is the NBA Western Conference.

When the now-fully healthy Pelicans started this year 8-10, Williams got no blame because we said the team didn’t have experience playing together and needed time to mesh.

And now today, 18 games later with the Pelicans sitting at 18-18 at press-time, I am officially tired of making excuses.

Williams is not the right fit to coach this Pelicans team. It’s nothing against the guy – he’s just not the right fit.

With the season nearing its halfway point, I think that right now is as good of a time as any to pull the plug on the coach and hit the reset button in an effort to revitalize what little hope this team has to make it to the playoffs.

It’s just time to move on.

Williams has been with the Pelicans since Chris Paul’s final season in New Orleans. Since that time, the team’s roster has been completely turned upside-down and inside out. With Paul gone, the team was able to be bad enough to win the NBA Draft lottery and snatch up Anthony Davis.

With Paul’s contract off the books, the team was able to secure above-average NBA players like Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Omer Asik.

Of course, the team also has that Gordon fella’ – you know that guy who plays too little, earns too much and doesn’t have much of an impact on the team either way?

More about him in another column – we’re sure.

Eric Gordon jokes aside, the Pelicans have enough talent to be a team above .500. It’s a crutch that’s too frequently leaned upon to say that this is a team who’s roster is flawed. That they consistently lose to Eastern Conference foes on the road, while beating the best of the best out-West shows a lack of focus and attention to detail – both things fall at the feet of the team’s coach. If you can beat the Thunder, Spurs and Rockets repeatedly in one half of an NBA season, you have plenty talent.

If you can do all that and still not be .500, you don’t have a coach.

The Portland Trail Blazers are one of the best teams in the NBA to-date, owning a 30-8 record out West. They employ an elite power forward, a borderline elite point guard and a slew of playmaking role players all around them to make plays.

Doesn’t that roster makeup sound familiar to what’s happening in New Orleans? Sure, the Pels have no one near Damian Lillard on their roster, but isn’t Lillard’s advantage over Jrue Holiday about the same width of the advantage AD has over Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge down low?

Or what about the supporting cast? Isn’t it fair to say that Anderson, Evans, Gordon and Asik are pretty close to a wash over Portland’s top guys like Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Steve Blake?

So why is Portland 20 games above .500 while the Pelicans struggle to breathe above the .500 line?

Coaching.

Williams’ style isn’t up to par with what works in today’s NBA – a league now heavily influenced by fast-paced offense and long-distance shooting.

New Orleans is 23rd in the league in three-pointers attempted, shooting 19.4 3-balls a game. Their pace is too slow. They shoot too many long 2-point jump shots and it all equates to an offense full of explosion, but that lacks efficiency.

Want a stat that’ll blow your mind?

Of every team in the bottom-half of the NBA in 3-pointers attempted, just three (Washington, Memphis and Chicago) have winning records.

The rest are some of the worst of the worst in the league – like the Lakers, Knicks and Timberwolves. Metrics don’t lie. The NBA is now a 3-point shooting game.

The reasoning behind the lack of commitment to the up-tempo game is supposedly Williams’ defense-first mantra.

But if that’s the case, then why are the Pelicans No. 20 in the NBA in total defense with 100.8 points per game allowed?

And this is occurring with a lineup that includes plus-defenders like Holiday, Davis and especially Asik – one of the best defensive big men in the NBA.

Somewhere, somehow, the math doesn’t add up.

Of course, because the team’s win total continues to increase bit by bit, the Pelicans’ brass (which is comprised of guys who are employed by the New Orleans Saints) will keep giving Williams the benefit of the doubt and will not make a move.

But you can’t fool me – this isn’t my first rodeo.

The team’s better record of-late is because of Davis’ ascent to NBA superstardom, not brilliant X’s and O’s from the bench.

If he had brilliant X’s and O’s from the bench, he’d be like Portland – a leader in NBA excellence.

Instead, he’s the epitome of Monty Williams’ tenure with this team – a leader in NBA mediocrity.

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