A 4-2 start had the Pels flying high in the West. Then a 1-8 plummet turned them into pallid zombies in the darkness. Is this season a horror show or an origin story? Dodson reports on the team he knows best and in true MMH fashion dives into the Pelicans movie culture.
The New Orleans Pelicans started a new era this season. The stench of the Anthony Davis trade demands were aired out of the building and franchise stalwart Jrue Holiday was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. Zion Williamson was free to play without restrictions and Stan Van Gundy was hired to bring in a level of accountability and defense that Alvin Gentry never really provided. Yes, this year was supposed to be a playoff season; it was to be the origin story of a championship contender.
Sadly, the summer dreams of glory turned into a winter tale of horror during the team’s most recent West Coast swing. They let the Utah Jazz rally from a 16-point deficit and then dropped their next game to the last-place Minnesota Timberwolves (who were missing stars Karl Anthony-Towns and D’Angelo Russell). Thankfully for the team’s fans, the Pelicans have turned things around the past two weeks, and the genre of the season is starting to tilt back into the light.
A 4-2 start had New Orleans flirting with first place in the West and optimism circulating like beads at Mardi Gras. However, the 1-8 nosedive that followed found the Pelicans one loss away from dead last in the standings. The Twitter community turned toxic quickly and SVG’s seat started to look more like the Iron Throne after being flamed by the dragon.
But hope rises. The Pelicans have now won 5 of their last 7 including impressive wins against the Suns, Pacers, and Bucks, the last of which included a f**k you game from cast out Eric Bledsoe who torched his old team for 7 threes and 25 PTS. Today, the Pelicans sit just shy of a playoff spot and Van Gundy believes the team has turned a developmental corner.
The team has shown a bit more urgency and motivation on the court. Maintaining consistent play comes down to shoring up the mistakes. Williamson has looked like a star but continues to slip up on defense. Brandon Ingram has elevated his game but as was the case last season, BI can only carry this team so far. The rest of the squad needs more time to develop chemistry with a few possible casting changes for the roster.
Several players have commented after these tough losses that the team is trying to get back on the same page. This year’s team seems to be collectively enjoying the ride through this pandemic affected season more so than last year’s group. Despite the tough season, this edition of the New Orleans Pelicans seem to be enjoying their time building and learning together. The locker room was quiet all too often last season, with little in the way of music, movies, or banter.
While reporters are not allowed in the locker room anymore, it is obvious this team has more of an off the court connection. Just check out the Twitter engagements and you’ll see the friendly banter. Josh Hart, JJ Redick, and Stan Van Gundy all gave some insight into how they would run a team movie night. It also showed the disconnect between the veteran coach and one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
The players and coaching staff have all been working off of different pages of the script, possibly even different drafts. Off the court, their movie tastes are all over the map. Hart and Redick jumped off the conversation by throwing out some best movie ever nominations. Josh went with Gladiator while JJ is more of an Interstellar fan. Hart lists Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction in his Top 3 behind Gladiator. He also puts Harlem Nights in his Top 5, per a podcast with Kendrick Perkins. JJ was hyping Tenet and then Stan Van Gundy came in with the question: Best movie or the best cinematic production? The question remains without a direct answer, though I would argue it is not in the top 10 all-time.
There was no arguing with Stan Van Gundy once he entered the chat. Coach says Shawshank Redemption and The Godfather are the two best films ever, showing his experience and taste are well developed. JJ and Josh are more into wine than movies apparently. Josh especially, as he watched Shawshank Redemption for the first time last week.
That level of disconnect on movie tastes and experiences is also present on the court. However, the team and coaching staff are closing the gap. Now Hart can relate with Van Gundy and appreciate the perspectives being brought to the hardwood and the home movie theaters. The team is getting on the same page of the script. It will just take a bit more time.
This will not be a flawless origin story season, but it will not stretch out into an M. Night Shyamalan horror show with loose ends on the plot either. Much like a first draft of a movie list, this first season with Williamson and Van Gundy working together will be remembered fondly in a few years. Think of this season as that handheld short your favorite director made in film school before they hit the big screen with a blockbuster.