Looking for light at end of darkening Pelicans tunnel
The promise of October is quickly turning into the despair of December. Perhaps there will be a jolt in January.
The New Orleans Pelicans 2018-2019 season is in bad need of a boost after the team suffered its fifth consecutive loss, 122-119 at Dallas Wednesday night.
It was a familiar script.
The Pelicans once again held a lead in the fourth quarter and could not hold it. The awful “clutch” time performance and record continues to be dismal.
It is hard to point fingers but the problems are obvious.
There is little depth. There is little defense. There is little execution when it matters most.
You can always count on Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle to stuff the stat sheet. You cannot count on anyone else on a nightly basis.
After a great start to the season, E’Twaun Moore has virtually disappeared. He no longer starts and no longer produces.
Since scoring 17 points in a home win over Dallas on Dec. 5, Moore has scored just 48 points in his last nine games. He is just 6-of-23 (26%) from 3-point range in that span and that is his primary value to the team.
Solomon Hill has done little. Wesley Johnson has not left the bench in seven of the last nine games. Cheick Diallo has not played in the last three games. Ian Clark is a fading memory. Andrew Harrison has done little. Kenrich Williams is in watch mode when with the team.
Frank Jackson is getting time now and showed flashes in Dallas, scoring 10 points in just 14 minutes. Jahlil Okafor has put together four solid performances in succession off the bench while Darius Miller and Tim Frazier have been decent.
When Elfrid Payton and Nikola Mirotic return, it will be a better team but will it be too late?
Of the 15 teams in the Western Conference, 14 are genuine playoff contenders and the Pelicans currently reside in the 14th spot.
To be fair, Alvin Gentry has been snake-bit.
He had his full complement of players for the first four games of the season. Not surprisingly, New Orleans started 4-0. It appeared that the momentum from the end of last season had carried over. Davis, Holiday, Moore, Mirotic, Payton and Randle were playing superbly.
Then came an injury to Payton.
Then came the injury to Mirotic.
Then came losing.
Davis carried the Pelicans in the fourth quarter of last night’s loss at Dallas and he has do be the alpha dog on this team at all times. That is what is expected of superstars, which Davis is.
He had two shots a 3-pointers in the final minute which he missed but at least he took the initiative.
Davis was doing most of his damage down low, dominating for much of the game.
That is where he is best suited to play, though he must step out and gain the respect of defenders by hitting mid-range jumpers.
Davis is shooting just under 32 percent from 3-point range. He shot a career-best 34 percent from beyond the arc a year ago. He has that as part of his arsenal and has to, though it should be a small sample-size.
The roster simply isn’t good enough around Davis, Holiday and Randle with the injuries to Payton and Mirotic.
Can Gentry do a better job inn scheming down the stretch of games? That is most certainly the case.
Can Davis do a better job of demanding the ball and making plays with the game on the line? That is most certainly the case.
Can the team make more of a concerted effort to defend better at all times? That is most certainly the case.
What is most certain, at this point, is that the season is slipping away. The team has already played nearly 43 percent of its games. When will Payton and Mirotic return and how effective will they be?
Now comes three straight home games, including a rematch with Dallas, facing a hot Houston team and taking on another team ahead of the Pelicans in Minnesota.
It is time to flip the switch and escape the darkening tunnel.
Otherwise, the 2018-19 season will fade into the oblivion of darkness, severely clouding the future of Davis in the Big Easy. With a losing team and no playoff appearance, it will not be easy to convince Davis to stay but you already knew that.
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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…