After nearly a year of debating Demarcus Cousins’ fit, Jrue Holiday’s contract, and Rajon Rondo’s three point percentage. After growing frustrated with the team’s mental lapses and lack of effort. After doubting head coach Alvin Gentry and Dell Demps. After the excitement of seeing the team start to turn the corner was ruptured along with Cousins’ Achilles. After the disbelief that Demps not only moved Omer Asik’s albatross of a contract, but brought in legitimate talent in Nikola Mirotic. After the exhilaration of a 10-game win streak. After the all-too-familiar despair of nearly missing the playoffs altogether. After watching the team rally to end the season and secure a sixth seed. After the euphoria of defeating the third-seeded Portland Trailblazers in a four-game sweep. After the team hit its ceiling and came back down to earth against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
After all the highs and lows and highs again and lows again, the New Orleans Pelicans’ improbable 2017-18 season is finally over.
Between the 4-1 series loss to the Warriors and the brutal national television schedule for West Coast games, many bleary-eyed New Orleans Pelicans fans are not in the mood for fond reflection today. That’s understandable. Fans just watched the same team that looked unstoppable against the Trailblazers crash and burn against the Warriors. The fever-pitch excitement around the city has abruptly ended, and now the Pelicans enter an uncertain offseason where huge, Demarcus Cousins-sized questions loom over the franchise.
However, tough losses and fear of the unknown should not overshadow how far this team has come. In a single season, the team went from 34 wins to 48. From regularly ending its season in time for Jazz Fest to going toe-to-toe with the defending champions in the second round of the playoffs. From having serious questions about its mental toughness and effort to displaying an overwhelming amount of heart and “no quit” attitude, as shown in last night’s late fourth-quarter push to save the season. From doubting Demarcus Cousins’ role on the team to feeling like he could have been the difference between starting the offseason and a trip to the Western Conference Finals. From dreading the inevitability of Anthony Davis’ departure to the suddenly-not-ridiculous hope that he is already on the team that will provide him the best possible basketball situation.
Every year, 29 NBA teams end their season with some feeling of disappointment. In 2018, the Pelicans are once again among them. But the team gave fans plenty to be excited about, with no reason to believe the future won’t be even better.
So keep your heads high, Pelicans fans. Grab an extra cup of coffee and reflect on the most memorable season of New Orleans basketball in a decade. But don’t linger too long; the next season has already started. For the first time in a long time, fans can greet it with genuine excitement.