Is it time to believe? The New Orleans Pelicans have clinched the playoffs, and tonight they play the San Antonio Spurs in a battle for seeding. Despite this enviable position, Pelicans fans have experienced a season filled with doubt. Everyone from national talking heads to local bloggers to the fans themselves have been cautious about the Pelicans’ chances this year.
Would the pairing of Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins work in the small ball era? Will Jrue Holiday ever live up to his contract? Is General Manager Dell Demps surrounding the two elite big men with enough shooting talent to properly spread the floor? Will this team rid itself of mental lapses and live up to its full potential? Is there any version of reality where Omer Asik’s contract is remotely tradeable?
Time and time again, we all doubted. Time and time again, we were all proven wrong.
So here the Pelicans sit, the first playoff berth in three years locked in, vying for the best possible seeding. With a win tonight, the Pelicans will land either fifth or sixth with their opponent being either the Portland Trailblazers or Utah Jazz. With a loss, the Pelicans drop to eighth and face the Houston Rockets. Pelicans fans are generally hoping for whichever seeding yields a first round series against Portland, wishing to avoid Utah’s stifling defense and Houston’s offensive explosiveness.
While those fears are certainly warranted, we must ask ourselves if it is finally time to believe. The Pelicans are in the pack of teams below Houston and Golden State where a legitimate argument can be made for either side. Yes, Portland can, at times, drop buckets seemingly at will. Yes, Utah is a defensive powerhouse. But short of anyone on the Rockets or Warriors, the Pelicans have a distinct advantage: they will have the best player on the floor at all times. The Pelicans play with a breakneck pace and get significant contributions from Davis’s supporting cast. Head coach Alvin Gentry has finally figured out how to motivate his players to perform at their best level, and the team has yet to unleash Playoff Rondo. Yes, a series against Houston would likely not go the Pelicans’ way. But if I were a fan of Utah or Portland, there are plenty reasons why a potential matchup with New Orleans would keep me up at night.
This Pelicans team has been doubted by pretty much everyone (myself included) all year. They have beaten the odds each time, most notably coming back from the devastating Cousins injury. Whatever happens tonight against San Antonio, playoff basketball is back in New Orleans, and the Pelicans are finally coming together as a fearful unit. Maybe it’s finally time to believe.