Pelicans already falling behind in Western Conference

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DeMarcus Cousins, Brook Lopez

If the New Orleans Pelicans truly are NBA playoff contenders, they have yet to show it through the first eight games of the regular season.

The Pelicans have wins over Cleveland, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers. Those clubs have won a combined total of seven games.

New Orleans has a 3-5 record despite a superb start by DeMarcus Cousins and a good one by the other twin tower, Anthony Davis.

Cousins, averaging 30.1 points and 13.0 rebounds, has scored the second-most points in the NBA and also averaged 37.6 minutes a game. That amount of playing time is likely unsustainable.

Meanwhile, Davis plays 35 minutes a game.

Lack of depth, thought to be an issue this season, has been an even bigger one. In back-to-back home losses, the Pelicans bench has been outscored a staggering 89-38.

So, after eight games, here’s a Pelicans thumbnail. They lost a game they should have, at home to Golden State and won two games on the road that they were expected to take against the Lakers and Kings.

Finally, in five jump-ball games, the Pelicans are 1-4.

If New Orleans harbors any real playoff hopes, they have to find wins over teams such as Memphis, Portland, Orlando, and Minnesota. The Pels fell to all four.

In the words of the late football coach Denny Green, “They are who we thought they are.”

That is, a team that has two of the best big men in the game, one solid guard (Jrue Holiday) and a shopping cart full of question marks otherwise.

Maybe the return of point guard Rajon Rondo in the next few weeks will give the Pelicans a huge boost.

Rondo, already a leader in the locker room, also is on his fourth team in four seasons and turns 32 in February.

Through Wednesday night’s games in the NBA, 12 teams in the Western Conference had more victories than the New Orleans Pelicans. Eight conference teams make the postseason.

A four-game road trip that starts Friday night will say a lot about the future for the Pelicans. Games at Dallas, Chicago, Indiana, and Toronto present good opportunities for success. None are world beaters.

But, neither is New Orleans.

In the hyper-competitive West, no team can afford to lose much ground early in the season.

So, despite two stars who combine for 57 points and 25 rebounds a game, the Pelicans are already looking up in the Western Conference.

It is not a good look for a franchise whose Twitter hashtag is “#DoItBig.”

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Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

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Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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