Lack of key player availability catching up with Pelicans

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New Orleans Pelicans head coach Willie Green
(Photo: Stephen Lew)

This will seem obvious to most observers but it is to obviously factual.

It was just a matter of time.

The lack of star players has caught up with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Yes, the New Orleans Pelicans have a deep roster and yes, the franchise has mitigated a slew of key injuries as well as any team in the league could have.

Yes, Willie Green is a good young coach and speaks honestly while never tearing his players down.

The home loss to Miami was an exception in the sense that the effort and proper preparation were not there from start to finish, a constant of this season for New Orleans.

The road loss at Orlando was more of an indication of where this team is.

As Green has stated on more than one occasion of late, his team ran out of gas.

Orlando dominated the fourth quarter to pull away for a 123-110 victory Friday night.

Yes, the Magic are not a good team, though they have young talent, play hard and have a promising future. A 17-28 record speaks to who Orlando is, at least at this stage of its development.

This was a winnable game for New Orleans and one thing Green and his team have done consistently well, to this point of the season, is to win the winnable games.

That was not the case Friday.

Despite having Herb Jones back, the defense was not there as Orlando shot 52 percent from the field and New Orleans could not get a stop when needed.

The firepower was simply not there on the other end of the floor.

CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas have stepped up to carry a heavier offensive load in the absence of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

Of course, Naji Marshall, who has also stepped up, missed the game with a toe injury, adding to the woes of the team.

Trey Murphy shot the ball well and scored 18 points which is what the Pelicans need out of him nightly.

Jones contributed 10 points.

Rookie Dyson Daniels has been thrust into the starting lineup and he is not a scoring option at this infantile stage of his promising career. Daniels did not score, though he defends and handed out eight assists.

Jose Alvarado and Jaxson Hayes were very good off the bench.

Maybe it is time to consider minutes for Kira Lewis at the expense of Devonte Graham.

The effort was better but the execution in the fourth quarter simply was not there.

Is there fault to be assessed?

The fault is simple.

The lack of star power has finally caught up with the Pelicans.

Jones has missed 16 games.

Williamson has missed 17 games.

Ingram has missed 31 games.

Williamson and Ingram combined are averaging 46.8 points, 12.1 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game this season.

When you add Jones, those numbers grow to 56.8 points, 15.7 rebounds and 10.6 assists per game.

The analysis is not difficult.

The law of averages and the sheer numbers have caught up with the Pelicans.

Jones is back.

Hopefully, Marshall returns soon.

Ingram is said to be getting closer.

Williamson will be re-evaluated this coming week.

We continue to salivate about the possibilities when all players are available, if or when that occurs.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans have slipped to fourth, now trailing Sacramento, while Denver and Memphis continue to pull away from the rest of the pack.

New Orleans has dropped three straight and eight of 11 with others closing in on the Pelicans, who face a rematch with the Heat, who dismantled the Pelicans 124-98 in New Orleans this past Wednesday.

Until then, we watch and wait impatiently for the star power to return and the expectations rise as high as the stars.

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Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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